A trade involving Pittsburgh Pirates middle infielder Kevin Newman may be completed this off-season, which could help add depth to a poor position in need of depth.
Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Kevin Newman is coming off a mediocre season but much improved from what he did in the two years prior. In 302 plate appearances, Newman batted .274/.316/.372 with a .303 wOBA, and 94 wRC+. It was a massive step up from what he did in 2020 and 2021 when he batted just .226/.268/.302 with a .250 wOBA and 53 wRC+.
Much of Newman’s value comes from his average defense up the middle. Between second base and shortstop, Newman had -2 Defensive Runs Saved, 0 Outs Above Average, but a positive UZR/150. Those might not win him a Gold Glove Award, but they’re more than playable numbers.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have plenty of young middle infielders like Tucupita Marcano, Ji-Hwan Bae, Diego Castillo, Rodolfo Castro, and Oneil Cruz on the active roster. They may also look to add Jared Triolo to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Triolo can play shortstop and could slide over to second base if necessary.
Let’s also not forget Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero. With that much middle infield talent, Newman doesn’t do much for the Pirates at this point, especially considering he doesn’t provide more than Bae, Castillo, Castro, or Triolo.
But just because he might not be super valuable to the Pirates doesn’t mean he has no value. The second base market is thin, with the only starting caliber second baseman capable player being Brandon Drury. If Newman were to hit the free agent market, he would have the best wRC+ among all second base free agents who are not Drury.
Newman is a non-essential luxury, but the Pirates have weaknesses they need to fill. If the Pittsburgh Pirates trade Newman, could he potentially fill some of these weaknesses? Possibly so.
The Pittsburgh Pirates most significant weaknesses right now are first base and relief pitching. Newman isn’t going to bring back the next Albert Pujols or Mariano Rivera. Still, there are definitely some change-of-scenery candidates or prospects who will be in the Rule 5 draft that teams aren’t going to protect and may be willing to sell a bit low on. The Boston Red Sox will be a team on the lookout for middle infield depth, considering they could lose Xander Bogaerts in free agency. One player the Red Sox may be willing to trade is Bobby Dalbec. Dalbec could fill-in at first base and designated hitter. Between 2020 and 2021, Dalbec hit 33 home runs in 545 plate appearances and posted a .819 OPS. A Newman-for-Dalbec swap would be a change-of-scenery type trade for both players.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are a team that might also be on the lookout for a backup/platoon infield option. Trea Turner is hitting free agency, and so might Justin Turner if they choose to buy out the last year of his contract. The Dodgers might be willing to swap first baseman/corner outfielder Ryan Noda for Newman. Noda had a .870 OPS, .382 wOBA, and 120 wRC+ for the Dodger Triple-A affiliate last season. But he’ll be Rule 5 eligible and probably won’t find many regular chances behind Freddie Freeman. They also have Edwin Rios, who provides a similar profile to Noda.
Some other teams could use help up the middle. The Chicago White Sox may also be a team that would fit a potential Kevin Newman trade. The Seattle Mariners have already stated they are on the lookout for middle infield help. There will definitely be a handful of potential second base needy teams on the market this off-season. With such a thin 2B free agent class, the Pirates could fix a position of need and get the most out of Newman in terms of trade value.