The Pirates signed Chris Owings this past off-season to a minor league pact. Not expecting to play a significant role, injuries have forced the Pirates to promote the former long-time Arizona Diamondback utility man. Despite being promoted right after the first week of May, Owings has played extremely sparingly and has performed poorly when given the opportunity.
Ownings has just 21 plate appearances across eight games. He has only appeared in three contests after May 15th. In this very short amount of time, Owings has just four hits, all of which are singles. He has yet to draw a walk and has struck out nine times in 21 plate appearances. This comes to an OPS of just .380.
Even though the sample size is way too small to make any definitive conclusions, it’s not as if Ownings was a silver slugger candidate in previous campaigns. From 2018-2022, Ownings batted just .190/.266/.300 with a .249 wOBA and 48 wRC+. His -2.2 fWAR in this five-season stretch was the eighth lowest among position players. -2.2 is pretty impressive, considering that he only had 667 plate appearances, basically a full season.
The only thing of value that Ownings brings is his defensive versatility. He has mostly manned shortstop for the Bucs but can also play second base, third base, and all three outfield positions. But defensive versatility doesn’t always mean a good defensive player. Owings is a career-negative defensive shortstop while grading out around average at second and third base, and his outfield defense has also been about average.
Now, granted, Owings hasn’t played nearly enough for his negative value to make a significant impact. He’s only played in 52.9% of the Pirates’ contests since his arrival. He’s a once-a-week starter, and you’ll never find a superstar to fill that role. But you’re still talking about a guy who was essentially a -2 WAR player on average per season. At that point, you might as well see if Aaron Shackelford's Triple-A success can carry over to the majors.