First baseman Will Craig was drafted four years ago by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Wake Forest University. He projected to be a power hitting first baseman and a potential slugger of the future at PNC Park. In 2019, he played 131 games for the Indianapolis Indians, the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate. He hit 23 home runs. In 2018, he spent his season at Double-A Altoona with the Curve where he hit 20 home runs. In the season prior, he was at Single-A Bradenton and played 123 games, but hit only six home runs.
It’s clear that Craig’s power improved at Altoona and Indianapolis, a seeming positive for the Pirates. But with Josh Bell manning first, it appears the front office didn’t see a fit for Craig on the major league roster. This development was interesting and perhaps premature, in my mind, especially considering the possibility of the permanent designated hitter in the National League.
A week or so ago, we heard that it would likely be Craig or Phillip Evans behind Bell, spending some time at first base and perhaps at DH, if a ruling on the latter is ever passed down. It appears it will be Evans. Craig only played in two games in a Pirates’ uniform, logging four at-bats, and no hits.
As we know, the reason for this writing is because Craig was designated for assignment in order to clear space for pitcher Ashton Goudeau, a former Colorado Rockies’ reliever. The 28-year-old only appeared in four games to pitch 8.1 innings in the Mile High City. Over that short stint, his ERA was 7.56.
Goudeau appears to be a choice to hold the team over until something better comes along. At 28, Goudeau doesn’t figure into the Pirates’ future very much and in order to flex him in on the 40 man roster, someone had to go. Craig was the odd man out.
The Pirates may not have had much of a future for the increasingly aged minor league first baseman, but for him to be expendable for an even further aging reliever that’ll be gone — or likely retired — by the next time the Pirates are competitive seems odd. Normally, it’s been moderately easy to understand what the Pirates are doing. In this instance, it’s a challenge for me to figure out the meaning behind the moves. While the Pirates may not have seen much use for Craig, to use his 40-man spot on a reliever who hasn’t shown much potential (4.81 ERA over eight minor league seasons) doesn’t have an obvious silver lining.
Alas, perhaps there’s something more going on behind the scenes that I’m not privy to, but my guess is the Pirates didn’t see a future with Craig and wanted bullpen flexibility in another bridge year.