Good morning, everybody. I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was good, travels were safe, etc. We've got three full weeks ahead of us before Christmas week and I suspect that they're going to be a bit more full of Pirate news than the first portion of this off-season has been. We can start Monday off with a small move that will at least have some interesting ramifications:
The Pirates are on the verge of acquiring catcher Chris Stewart from the Yankees.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 2, 2013
Stewart can't hit at all (his career line at the plate over 734 plate appearances is .214/.287/.288), but he's got a beyond-excellent reputation as a pitch-framer and defensive catcher. It seems unlikely that the Yankees would want much of anything in return for Stewart.
As a result, Mike McKenry will be designated for assignment. He was due for arbitration in 2014, but he did have an option left which would've given the Pirates some flexibility that they don't have with Stewart, but with the uncertainty around McKenry after his knee injury and his bad season last year, it makes sense that they'd want a guy with a proven defensive skillset like Stewart for a similar price. I already wrote something of a eulogy for McKenry's Pirate career here; I thought he'd bounce between Indy and Pittsburgh this year, but I'm not really all that surprised that this is the end.
Of course, if Stewart is Russell Martin's backup this year (and it seems like a fair guess from here that he will be), that means that Tony Sanchez will again head to Triple-A. It seemed logical to guess that Sanchez would get to spend a year with the Pirates learning from Martin before taking over the starting job. That seemed like a logical course of action since Martin seemed to wear down over the season last year even though he only played 127 games. Spelling him any more than that would leave plenty of playing time for a backup. You can read this a number of ways from this point in time; either the Pirates want Sanchez playing every single day at Indianapolis to keep hitting, or they don't trust him with regular big league playing time. I've always thought that the Pirates were higher on Sanchez than most people, but given that they put John Buck on the playoff roster over him and now this trade, I'm starting to wonder.
I have read this conversation before - that the Pirates sign players instead of trusting their inernal options. But, I suppose waiting is okay. Like you say a lot, wait to evaluate an offseason of work once all the moves are in instead of evaluating them one by one.
But, something I saw in a comment on Pirate Prospects, do you think this could have been done with an eye towards carrying three catchers and using Russell Martin to play 3B against left handers? Sanchez could start when Martin rests or plays 3B, and Stewart could be the third-in-line. Then, this move could mean that the Pirates figured Stewart as a backup catcher is cheaper than getting a platoon partner for Alvarez.