The Pittsburgh Pirates decided to tender a contract to their 2021 starting shortstop. Does that mean he is guaranteed to start the year with the Bucs?
Kevin Newman is one of the more polarizing players for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He had a really good rookie season, a bad sophomore one, and somewhere in between this year. Newman is a valuable player, he provided Gold Glove-caliber defense for the Bucs in 2021. However, should he really be a part of this team’s future?
While things went better for Newman in 2021 than they did in 2020, he still struggled at times. Furthermore, he has not developed offensively the way many had hoped when he was a first-round pick in the 2015 Draft. While the defense is good, the team desperately needs to find players who can make an impact on both sides of the ball.
Last year, Newman posted a meager.226/.269/.309 line with a .249 wOBA, and 54 wRC+. Newman was arguably the league’s worst batter. Among qualified hitters, he was last in wRC+ by a margin of 16%, last in wOBA by a .021 difference, and last in OPS by a .040 difference. On the plus side, he only struck out 7.4% of the time, the lowest in the sport (among qualified hitters). Though this did come with a 4.9% walk rate.
Newman has been a poor hitter since making his debut back in 2018. In 1354 plate appearances, Newman is only hitting .257/.300/.353 with a .282 wOBA, and 72 wRC+. Newman’s 2019 season is seeming like more and more of an outlander. During his rookie season, Neman’s wRC+ has hast well below 50 since his 2019 mark in 2019.
While Kevin Newman was in the running for a Gold Glove, he should not be a part of this team going forward. The Pittsburgh Pirates have too many other talented middle infielders who provide way more offensively. Plus, he is one of the last remnants of the previous regime.
This Front Office does not need Kevin Newman to have success here because they did not draft him. There has been talk that potential contenders could make a player for Newman if they miss out on the top free-agent shortstops. Newman has 3 years of contractual control left, so this could be a similar situation to the Stallings trade, with the idea that a specific player may not be part of this team’s true window of contending. While the Bucs tendered Newman a contract, that does not mean he cannot be traded before Opening Day.