Today, the Pittsburgh Pirates got a little more versatile, picking up recently designated utility player Sean Rodriguez from the Rays for a PTBNL and cash. Rodriguez, 29, has had a very-close-to-league-average bat the last few years, and has done that while playing everywhere on the diamond except pitcher and catcher. That can be a tremendously valuable skill set, particularly if the defense holds up (by the metrics, it slipped last year, but that may have been a mere blip).
The real cost to the Pirates here is the $2ish million Rodriguez is expected to get in arbitration next year, an amount the Rays felt like they should pass on to another team with a handful of cheaper, younger utility options available to them. That cost will be offset by the accompanying move the Pirates made, designating first baseman Gaby Sanchez for assignment.
Sanchez, 31, was solid offensively for the Pirates in 2013 (117 wRC+), but fell back quite a bit in 2014 (93), thanks mostly to a sharp uptick in his strikeout rate and sharp downtick in his walk rate. Those can be bad signs for a guy heading into his 30s. First base for the Pirates will now mostly belong to former third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
All in all, this is a quality set of moves for the Pirates, who might save a little money in the deal, and definitely make themselves for versatile. If they’re able to get a little something in trade for Sanchez, then it’s even better for them. None of this is going to make a dramatic difference for the Pirates next year, but they just helped their bench a fair bit.
Now that we’re hoping to see the Cubs compete in the NL Central, these little moves by other Central teams are all the more notable.