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2022 Pirates Roster Analysis and Spring Training Home Stretch Preview

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, we round out of the 2022 NL Central series with the Pirates, the club that no one ever thinks has a chance.

TRANSACTIONS

*The Pirates started the offseason with a full 40-man roster and 8 players on the 60-day IL

10/13/21: IF Erik Gonzalez elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment.

11/3/21: RHP Trevor Cahill and RHP Shelby Miller declared Article XX-B free agents. OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo declared a free agent by virtue of the contract he signed coming out of Japan. Claimed RHP Eric Hanhold on outright assignment waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. 40-man roster at 39.

11/5/21: Claimed OF Greg Allen on outright assignment waivers from the New York Yankees. Outrighted RHP Chase De Jong, RHP Enyel De Los Santos, RHP Kyle Keller, RHP Connor Overton, RHP Shea Spitzbarth and IF Wilmer Difo to AAA Indianapolis. LHP Chasen Shreve elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment. 40-man roster at 34.

11/6/21: IF Wilmer Difo elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment. Activated LHP Steven Brault, RHP Blake Cederlind, LHP Dillon Peters, RHP Jose Soriano, RHP Duane Underwood, Jr. and RHP Bryse Wilson from the 60-day IL. 40-man roster full.

11/7/21: RHP Enyel De Los Santos elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment. Selected the contract of IF Diego Castillo from AAA Indianapolis. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated RHP Jose Soriano for assignment. 40-man roster still full.

11/14/21: Returned RHP Jose Soriano to the Los Angeles Angels organization.

The Pirates picked Soriano first in the major league portion of the December 2020 Rule 5 draft, despite the fact that he had Tommy John surgery in February 2020. It turned out that he didn’t recover in time, because he spent the whole 2021 season on the major league 60-day IL. Because of that, his Rule 5 restrictions would have carried forward to this season, and the Pirates decided not to deal with that.

11/16/21: Released RHP Tanner Anderson, C Taylor Davis and UT Phillip Evans. 40-man roster at 37.

11/19/21: Selected the contract of OF Canaan Smith-Njigba and OF Travis Swaggerty from AAA Indianapolis. Selected the contract of OF Jack Suwinski from AA Altoona. Selected the contract of IF Liover Peguero from High-A Greensboro. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated C Michael Perez for assignment. 40-man roster still full.

11/24/21: Outrighted C Michael Perez to AAA Indianapolis.

11/28/21: Signed RHP Jerad Eickhoff and C Jamie Ritchie to minor league deals and invited them to spring training.

11/29/21: Signed LHP Jose Quintana to a 1-year, $2 million major league contract. Re-signed OF Yoshi Tsutsugo to a 1-year, $4 million major league contract. Traded C Jacob Stallings to the Miami Marlins for RHP Zach Thompson, minor league RHP Kyle Nicolas and minor league OF Connor Scott. To make room on the 40-man roster for Quintana and Tsutsugo, designated LHP Steven Brault and 1B Colin Moran for assignment. 40-man roster still full. Agreed to a 1-year, $1.8 million contract with OF Ben Gamel, avoiding arbitration.

11/30/21: Released RHP Cody Ponce. Non-tendered LHP Steven Brault, RHP Chad Kuhl and 1B Colin Moran. 40-man roster at 38.

12/1/21: Signed C Roberto Perez to a 1-year, $5 million major league contract. 40-man roster at 39.

3/11/22: Signed C Taylor Davis to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. Invited 67 players to spring training, including all 39 40-man roster players and 28 NRIs.

3/13/22: Claimed LHP Aaron Fletcher on outright assignment waivers from the Seattle Mariners. 40-man roster full. 68 players in camp (40 40-man roster players + 28 NRIs).

3/15/22: Signed RHP Heath Hembree to a 1-year, $2.125 million major league contract. Signed 1B Daniel Vogelbach to a 1-year, $1 million major league contract with a 2023 club option. To make room on the 40-man roster, placed RHP Blake Cederlind (recovery from Tommy John surgery) and RHP Nick Mears on the 60-day IL (recovery from right elbow arthroscopic surgery). 40-man roster full, still 68 players in camp.

3/16/22: Claimed RHP Adonis Medina on outright assignment waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated RHP Eric Hanhold for assignment. 40-man roster full, still 68 players in camp.

3/17/22: Signed RHP Austin Brice and RHP Chase De Jong to minor league deals and invited them to spring training. 70 players in camp (40 40-man roster players + 30 NRIs).

3/21/22: Outrighted RHP Eric Hanhold to AAA Indianapolis.

3/22/22: Optioned IF Tucupita Marcano, IF Liover Peguero, OF Jack Suwinski and OF Travis Swaggerty to AAA Indianapolis. Re-assigned RHP Cody Bolton, RHP Mike Burrows, RHP Adrian Florencio, RHP Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP Kyle Nicolas, RHP Quinn Priester, RHP Tahnaj Thomas, C Carter Bins, C Henry Davis, C Endy Rodriguez, IF Ji-hwan Bae, IF Nick Gonzales, IF Jared Triolo and OF Matt Fraizer to minor league camp. 52 players in camp (36 40-man roster players + 16 NRIs). Agreed to a 1-year, $2.7 million contract with RHP Chris Stratton and a 1-year, $1.95 million contract with IF Kevin Newman, avoiding arbitration with both players.

The only remaining arbitration case is OF Bryan Reynolds, who is eligible for arbitration as a Super Two. He has filed for $4.9 million, but the club is offering $4.25 million. Sam Howard missed the Super Two cutoff by one day.

3/26/22: Optioned RHP Roansy Contreras and IF Rodolfo Castro to AAA Indianapolis. Re-assigned RHP Yerry De Los Santos, RHP Enmanuel Mejia, RHP Hunter Stratton and LHP Blake Weiman to minor league camp. 46 players in camp (34 40-man roster players + 12 NRIs).

3/27/22: Optioned OF Jared Oliva and OF Canaan Smith-Njigba to AAA Indianapolis. Re-assigned 1B Mason Martin and OF Cal Mitchell to minor league camp. 42 players in camp (32 40-man roster players + 10 NRIs).

3/29/22: Optioned IF Oneil Cruz to AAA Indianapolis. Re-assigned LHP Cam Alldred and RHP Beau Sulser to minor league camp. 39 players in camp (31 40-man roster players + 8 NRIs).

3/31/22: Traded minor league RHP Listher Sosa to the Arizona Diamondbacks for UT Josh VanMeter. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated OF Jared Oliva for assignment. 40-man roster still full. 40 players in camp (32 40-man roster players + 8 NRIs).

4/2/22: Optioned RHP Aaron Medina to AAA Indianapolis. Re-assigned RHP Austin Brice to minor league camp. 38 players in camp (31 40-man roster players + 7 NRIs).

40-MAN ROSTER (40)

PITCHERS (19)

Anthony Banda (L), David Bednar (R, 2), JT Brubaker (R, 2), Roansy Contreras (R, 2), Wil Crowe (R, 1), Aaron Fletcher (L, 2), Heath Hembree (R), Sam Howard (L, 2), Mitch Keller (R, 1), Max Kranick (R, 2), Adonis Medina (R, 1), Luis Oviedo (R, 3), Dillon Peters (L), Jose Quintana (L, N/A), Chris Stratton (R), Zach Thompson (R, 3), Duane Underwood, Jr. (R), Bryse Wilson (R, 1), Miguel Yajure (R, 1)

CATCHERS (1)

Roberto Perez (N/A)

INFIELDERS (13)

Diego Castillo (3), Rodolfo Castro (2), Michael Chavis (1), Oneil Cruz (1), Ke’Bryan Hayes (2), Tucupita Marcano (2), Kevin Newman (3), Hoy Park (3), Liover Peguero (3), Yoshi Tsutsugo (N/A), Cole Tucker (1), Josh VanMeter, Daniel Vogelbach

OUTFIELDERS (7)

Anthony Alford, Greg Allen, Ben Gamel (N/A), Bryan Reynolds (3), Canaan Smith-Njigba (3), Jack Suwinski (3), Travis Swaggerty (3)

60-DAY IL (2)

RHP Blake Cederlind (2), RHP Nick Mears (1)

NOTES

Wil Crowe, Miguel Yajure, and Oneil Cruz will be eligible for a fourth minor league option in 2023 if their 2022 options are burned this season. Roansy Contreras, Aaron Fletcher and Tucupita Marcano will be eligible for a fourth minor league option in 2024 if their options in 2022 and 2023 are both burned. Liover Peguero and Travis Swaggerty will be eligible for a fourth minor league option in 2025 if their options are burned in 2022, 2023 and 2024.

HOME STRETCH AND FINAL JOBS

The Pittsburgh Pirates will have a very low opening day payroll for 2022. Their highest paid player is catcher Roberto Perez at $5 million. Whether Super Two player Bryan Reynolds wins or loses his arbitration hearing, he will be the 2nd highest paid player at either $4.9 million or $4.25 million. After Yoshi Tsutsugo at $4 million, it goes down to reliever Chris Stratton at $2.7 million. After that only 5 guys are at $1 million or more. No one is signed to a multi-year deal, although there is a club option on Daniel Vogelbach for 2023.

PITCHERS

Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, Wil Crowe, and Jose Quintana look to have rotation jobs. After that, the whole situation is muddy, as the club has described its pitchers as fluid with their roles. Heath Hembree, Dillon Peters, Chris Stratton and Duane Underwood, Jr., should be on the roster, simply because they can’t be optioned. Zach Thompson looks to provide starting and potential long relief depth. David Bednar, Sam Howard and Anthony Banda provided significant appearances last year, so one can guess they would make the roster again. Luis Oviedo pitched over 20 games out of the bullpen last season, but he was a Rule 5 draftee, and now likely be sent down for further seasoning after a rough 2021. That leaves Aaron Fletcher, Max Kranick, Bryse Wilson, Miguel Yajure, and non-roster invitees Jerad Eickhoff and Chase De Jong for what could be four jobs. The club only has two pitchers on the 60-day IL to start the season, so at least you can say they don’t yet have the meme-level pitching injuries they have had the last couple of years.

POSITION PLAYERS

New free agent signee Roberto Perez is the only catcher on the 40-man roster. Non-roster invitees Taylor Davis, Michael Perez and Jamie Ritchie have been fighting it out for the backup job, with the edge going to the second Perez, who has already been outrighted by the club once. The 40-man roster is full, so the club will have to make a trim to add a catcher, and it doesn’t look like there are any 60-day IL moves available.

Yoshi Tsutsugo and Daniel Vogelbach are both first base/DH types, but they both hit lefthanded. Vogelbach is not so hot on defense, but you’ll likely see them both at each position, with Tsutsugo occasionally in a corner outfield spot. Cole Tucker was almost exclusively a shortstop in the minors, but then the club farted around with playing him in center field in the majors in 2020. He spent most of last season in AAA, but he now looks to get most of the time at second base, a position that he has almost never played. With the club deciding to option top prospect Oneil Cruz to start the season, Kevin Newman gets yet another chance to lose the shortstop job. Ke’Bryan Hayes is one of the few bright spots, but his status for opening day is uncertain after he suffered a recent high ankle sprain. If he can’t go, recently acquired Josh VanMeter may get the nod at the hot corner. He would be on the roster anyway not only because he’s also out of options, but because they got him to be a multi-position sub. He has played every position except center, short and catcher in the majors and even had time at short in the minors.

All four designated outfielders will make the roster with Ben Gamel in left, Bryan Reynolds in center and waiver wire pickup Greg Allen in right. Anthony Alford is also out of options and will make the club unless his hand injury prevents him from being ready on opening day. If all these people can go, that makes 12 position players, which includes whoever they add as the backup catcher. That might be all the club takes, because of the uncertainty with the pitching.