Pittsburgh Pirates News: Team Signs Catcher Austin Hedges

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Cleveland Guardians v Chicago White Sox / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates and defensive specialist backstop Austin Hedges have agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal for the 2023 season

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed veteran backstop Austin Hedges to a one-year, $5 million deal. Hedges is renowned for his outstanding defense and is likely going to be the team's starting cathcer until the Pirates feel Endy Rodriguez is ready for the big leagues. 

No team signing Hedges is getting him for his bat. Last season Heges had a historically bad season at the plate, slashing just .163/.241/.248 with a .225 wOBA, and 42 wRC+, making him about 38% worse than the league-average batter. His 42 wRC+ places him in the bottom 100 of single-season marks in at least 300 plate appearances since integration. Overall the last four seasons, he owns a .493 OPS, .232 wOBA, and 44 wRC+.

But what Hedges lacks in offense he makes up for with defense that likely ranks top 3 in this generation of backstops. Last season, he was worth +8 defensive runs saved and +4.4 framing runs. Throughout 4677.1 innings, Hedges has +75 DRS and +64.7 framing runs. Despite having fewer than 5000 innings played, he has the seventh most DRS and 14th most framing runs of all time.

Another positive is that Hedges does not allow passed balls. He’s let just 18 get behind him and never has let up more than four in a season. Although stolen bases are much less frequent, he has a career 30% caught stealing rate and was only slightly below average last year at 22%. Hedges had the 25th best pop time as well, so he was pretty quick on the draw. His arm strength was slightly above average, sitting at 82.1 MPH. 

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Hedges is the best framing catcher currently in the sport. He has the most framing runs by a margin of +2.1 runs. The Pirate pitching staff is extremely young, with the likes of Roansy Contreras, Johan Oviedo, Yerry De Los Santos, Colin Holderman making up key roles, and top prospects like Luis Ortiz, Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, and Kyle Nicolas on the rise. The duo of Hedges and Tyler Heineman gives the Pirates what is one of the best defensive duos in Major League Baseball, However, the Pirates are essentially forgoing any offensive value.