The Pirates have acquired utilityman Sean Rodriguez from the Braves in exchange for infield/outfield prospect Connor Joe.
Rodriguez, 32, played with the Pirates in 2015 and 2016 before signing a two-year, $11.5 million contract with Atlanta last offseason. Later he was in a frightening car wreck and did not appear in a game for the Braves until July 17. In 47 plate appearances, Rodriguez posted a .162/.326/.351 line with two home runs.
The Pirates originally acquired Rodriguez from the Rays in December 2014, sending minor-league pitcher Buddy Borden to Tampa Bay. Rodriguez hit a pedestrian .246/.281/.362 line in 2015, though he notably did a number on a Gatorade cooler during that year’s wild-card game.
A free agent, the Pirates brought him back at $2.5 million for 2016, and Rodriguez made that decision look good with career-best offensive season (.270/.349/.510, 18 HR), setting himself up for a better contract with the Braves.
Thus, the Pirates will have Rodriguez for 2018, in addition to the rest of 2017. He’ll bring some useful infield depth, with David Freese’s performance seemingly hurt by playing every day in the absence of Jung-Ho Kang, and the team’s shuffling of ineffective utility infielders in Phil Gosselin, Alen Hanson and Max Moroff. Rodriguez gives the Pirates a useful option for next season, too, given the uncertainty Kang will ever return.
Rodriguez’s contract shouldn’t be a burden to a Major League team in the Pirates’ position, but, given their budgetary stance the last few years, I do wonder if this is the best way to use that money, if money is as tight as their moves sometimes indicate. The loss of Kang and the suspension of Starling Marte did free approximately $5.3 million. Rodriguez will make $5 million in 2018. The Pirates appear to be taking on all of that, in addition to the remainder of this season’s salary.
Joe, 24, has hit .240/.338/.380 with five home runs in 282 plate appearances with Double-A Altoona this season. He wasn’t on Baseball America’s preseason top-30 list for the Pirates. He recently slotted at 35 in the organization in Pirates Prospects’ midseason top 50 (sub).
He was drafted as a competitive-balance pick, 39th overall, out of the University of San Diego in 2014. Injuries kept Joe from regular playing time early in his career. There once a plan to put him at catcher, but that never stuck and he’s mainly played first base, third base and right field.