Pittsburgh Pirates: Free Agent Targets at Three Positions of Need

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 29: Mike Zunino #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws to the pitcher against the New York Yankees during a baseball game at Tropicana Field on May 29, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 29: Mike Zunino #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws to the pitcher against the New York Yankees during a baseball game at Tropicana Field on May 29, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 01: Roberto Perez #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the San Diego Padres at PNC Park on May 1, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 01: Roberto Perez #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the San Diego Padres at PNC Park on May 1, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates still have holes to fill, and in order to fill those holes, should target these nine free agents

The Pittsburgh Pirates are not a complete team. They have plenty of top prospects coming up through the minor league system that could help complete the team, but they should still target some free agents to help sure things up on the roster. Overall, they’re getting better and solved their first base issues this past month, but there are more areas they need to figure out before the 2023 season kicks off.

Some glaring holes still need to be patched, and I want to point out a few free agents the Pirates could target to fill those holes. In total, these nine free agents should be on the Pirates’ radar, and they could all provide decent value for the team next season, even if they aren’t the best free agents available.

Catcher

Roberto Perez

A Roberto Perez reunion would give the Pittsburgh Pirates the defense they need behind the dish and a great clubhouse veteran for young backstops like Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis when they eventually reach the majors this year. Before suffering a season-ending injury in early May, Perez looked on his way to a solid campaign. He batted .233/.333/.367 with a .315 wOBA, and 102 wRC+. However, in just over 150 innings, he already had +3 Defensive Runs Saved and +1.8 framing runs.

There are major injury concerns with Perez. 2022 isn’t the only season he’s missed a good chunk of the season. In 2021, he played just 44 games, but the Pirates could preserve his health by letting him take on a lesser role once Rodriguez is promoted. Moving him into a semi-regular or back-up role could help Perez last longer.

Mike Zunino

It was only 2021 that Mike Zunino posted some of the best power numbers for a catcher in recent baseball history. In 2021, his 33 home runs were the 7th most in a single season since the turn of the millennium, and his .342 ISO is the third best among backstops in a single season (min. 300 plate appearances). Overall, Zunino provided the Rays with a .216/.301/.556, 134 wRC+ bat, along with a glove that produced +7 DRS and +8.0 framing runs.

But Zunino was limited to just 36 games this year. The prodigious offense he showed in 2021 dissipated with a meager 43 wRC+. He still was worth +2.2 framing runs, but -2 defensive runs saved. But Zunino is known for his defensive ability and power. He doesn’t need to crush 30+ home runs a year to be productive. He can provide great defense and 20-25 home runs and be a highly valuable member of any roster.

Omar Narvaez

Omar Narvaez has come a long way defensively and is a prime rebound candidate for 2023. Narvaez had a solid 2021 season in which he slashed .266/.342/.402 with a .322 wOBA and 100 wRC+. Along with league-average offense, he also had +3 DRS and +8.8 framing runs. Overall, he had a +2.8 fWAR in just 123 games.

However, Narvaez was limited to about a half season, appearing in 84 contests. When he was healthy, he had the worst offensive season of his career with a .206/.292/.305 triple-slash, .269 wOBA, and 71 wRC+. But on the bright side, he still had +1 defensive runs saved, and an impressive +7.5 framing runs in less than 800 innings.

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