Pittsburgh Pirates: Will Austin Hedges be the Starting Catcher?

Cleveland Guardians v Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Guardians v Chicago White Sox / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates only had one catcher on their 40-man roster entering the weekend. Now the team is adding a veteran backstop.

One of the biggest holes that the Pittsburgh Pirates had entering the offseason was behind the plate. The team has had a lot of trouble at the catching position in 2022. This of course was bound to happen after the team traded away veteran backstop Jacob Stallings. However, no one expected Roberto Perez to blow out his hamstring and lose two-thirds of the season.

Through a series of moves over the last month or so, the Pittsburgh Pirates currently only have one player on their 40-man roster. This is prospect Endy Rodriguez, who had such a good season he propelled himself into the Top 50 prospects in all of Baseball. Rodriguez had to be added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule V Draft.

That is it, just one catcher on the 40-man roster, a prospect who should start the year on the Pittsburgh Pirates but will not. So the team finally made a move to add a veteran backstop. The Bucs have reportedly struck a deal with former Padres and Guardian catcher Austin Hedges. It will be a 1-year deal that will pay out $5 million.

If you have looked into Austin Hedges you know the script on him. He is one of the most elite catchers in terms of defense across the League. Yet, he is one of the worst hitters in all of Baseball. In 105 games with Cleveland in 2022, Hedges hit .161 with a .489 OPS. There are players who have a slugging percentage higher than Hedges OPS.

However, that is what $5 million will buy you in todays' market. Omar Narvaez, who signed with the Mets a few days back, is earning just $3 million dollars more in 2022. Now Navareaz is coming off one his worst seasons of his career, but still posted an OPS of .592, over .100 points higher than Hedges. The point is that the Pittsburgh Pirates once again are shopping in the bargain bin instead of going out and signing a legitimate established veteran.

So is this it for the Pittsburgh Pirates behind the plate? Absolutely not. The team still needs to bring in another catcher. Many expect that to be Roberto Perez, but that has yet to come to fruition. If the plan is to bring in another veteran backstop to pair with Hedges then this move can be justified more. It is also glaring that the Pittsburgh Pirates will continue to use Super-2 as a reason to start prospects like Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis in the minors.

However, if Hedges is going to be the primary backstop with a rotating door for the backup catching spot, then once again the Pittsburgh Pirates are showing they are not serious about getting this team to compete sooner rather than later. Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates dealt with this last year as we endured another 100-loss season. Add another solid veteran catcher and quit messing around with the position.