The Pirates have made an addition to address their need behind the plate.
Pittsburgh signed free-agent catcher Austin Hedges to a one-year contract totaling $5 million, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.
Hedges, 30, hit only .163 in 105 games for the Cleveland Guardians last season, totaling seven home runs and 30 RBI. Making his MLB debut in 2015, Hedges played four and a half seasons for the San Diego Padres before being dealt to Cleveland.
An under-.200 lifetime hitter, Hedges’ best season was his third. In 2017, the righty batter and thrower recorded career highs in doubles (17), home runs (18), and RBI (55) while hitting .215. He owns a career slash line of .189/.247/.331 with 66 homers and 207 RBI. Hedges holds his own behind the dish defensively, where he contributes his most value.
The Pirates were connected to RHP Kyle Gibson.— Tim Williams (@TimWilliamsP2) December 18, 2022
Gibson signed with the Orioles, and cited the defense behind the plate as a main reason.
Austin Hedges is the best defensive catcher available.
Hedges will make it easier for the Pirates to sign a better starting pitcher.
In 4,677.1 innings including 534 starts, Hedges totaled a .991 fielding percentage and a 30% caught-stealing rate. He has thrown out 102 of 338 stolen-base attempts.
The Pirates shuffled through a plethora of catchers last season including Roberto Perez (another former Cleveland starter), Michael Perez, Jason Delay, and Tyler Heineman. The only catcher on the 40-man roster is top-prospect Endy Rodriguez, who has only played six games above Double-A Altoona. Heineman returned earlier this offseason on a minor-league deal. 2020 No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis could also make his debut this season, if healthy and producing at the plate.