Pittsburgh Pirates: Four Minor League Deals to Consider

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24: Tony Watson #44 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the New York Mets during the game at PNC Park on May 24, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24: Tony Watson #44 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the New York Mets during the game at PNC Park on May 24, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /
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Aug 26, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; St. Louis Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter (13) gestures at the batting cage before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 26, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; St. Louis Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter (13) gestures at the batting cage before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Due to the current work stoppage players sign major league deals they can only sign minor league deals. So let’s take a look a four players the Pittsburgh Pirates could sign.

Baseball transactions are currently in a freeze. Due to the work stoppage no players are allowed to sign major league deals. However, non-guarenteed minor league deals are still being made. A handful of teams have signed players to minor league deals to add to their organizational depth. This is something the Pittsburgh Pirates could do.

The Pirates have many holes on the roster, and while they’re not going to be able to fix them all with trades or the free-agent market, the team should see a noticeable amount of improvement throughout the 2022 season. Many of those holes have potential answers awaiting in the minor leagues. But the team could sign some minor league deals to at least add some depth to the organization

Because teams can’t make major league signings right now, I want to take a look at a few minor league deals the Pittsburgh Pirates should consider. This wouldn’t guarantee them much more than an invitation to Spring Training but could end up being solid under-the-radar signings.

Matt Carpenter

Pirate fans should be more than familiar with Matt Carpenter. The infielder has long been a staple of the division rival St. Louis Cardinal  line-up. From 2012 up through 2018, Carpenter was a high-quality hitter. He posted a .275/.377/.471 slash with a .366 wOBA, and 133 wRC+.

Carp had excellent plate discipline, walking at a 13.4% rate, but also had a sub-20% strikeout rate. Plus he was a slugger, posting a .196 isolated slugging percentage and blasting 20 or more home runs for four years straight from 2015 through 2018.

However, Carpenter has fallen on some hard times lately. Since 2019, his numbers have steadily fallen. Throughout these three seasons, Carpenter is batting just .203/.325/.346 with a .298 wOBA, and 87 wRC+. He hit rock-bottom in 2021 when he hit .169/.305/.275 with a 70 wRC+. He was still walking at a strong 14.1% rate but struck out over 30% of the time.

But there is some hope that there’s more left in the tank for the three-time all-star. First, Carpenter posted the lowest batting average on balls in play of his career at just .250. His career average is .310. He still had a healthy 23.4% line drive rate, 49.2% fly ball rate, and ground ball rate of just 27.3%. He still hits the ball hard, and hard frequently. He had a 90 MPH exit velocity and a 42% hard hit rate. Both of which are well above the league average.

Carpenter’s expected stats are also well above average. He had a .341 xwOBA compared to his actual .269 mark. His expected batting line was a very solid .225/.352/.427, which would come out to a .779 OPS and .202 ISO.

Carpenter wouldn’t be the worst minor league gamble. His underlying numbers suggest a player who ran into some bad luck. Will he ever be the player that fans saw in 2012-2018? Probably not. But could he be a solid lefty-platoon power bat who can play first base, second base, and third base? Well if he can play anything like he was expected to, I don’t see why not.

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