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Pirates Acquire Joey Bart

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9:41PM: Delay is going to be placed on the 10-day injured list, according to MLB.com’s Alex Stumpf (via X).  This will open up room for Bart on the active roster, and while the nature of Delay’s injury isn’t yet known, it now explains the Pirates’ interest in acquiring Bart.

8:32PM: The Pirates have acquired catcher Joey Bart from the Giants for minor league righty Austin Strickland.  FanSided’s Robert Murray (X link) was the first to report Bart’s move to Pittsburgh, while NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic (via X) reported Strickland as the return piece of the deal.  The Pirates announced that right-hander Colin Selby was designated for assignment to open a 40-man roster spot for Bart.

The second overall pick of the 2018 draft, Bart has hit .219/.288/.335 over 503 plate appearances since making his Major League debut in 2020.  Buster Posey’s decision to opt out of the 2020 pandemic-shortened season gave Bart an early look in the bigs, and after playing in only two MLB games in 2021, it seemed like Bart would get a clear shot at becoming the Giants’ next catching stalwart after Posey’s retirement.

However, Bart’s struggles in 2022 resulted in Curt Casali and Austin Wynns getting a good chunk of the playing time behind the plate.  With some injuries also setting Bart back last season, Patrick Bailey (himself a first-round pick in 2020) stepped in and seized the starting catching job, which made it seem like only a matter of time before the Giants moved on from Bart entirely.  That reality came to pass last weekend when Bart was designated for assignment, as San Francisco hadn’t been able to find a trade partner during the offseason.

There is some irony that Bart is now heading to Pittsburgh, as the Bucs seemingly had an overload of “catchers of the future” just a few months ago.  With Henry Davis as the first overall pick of the 2021 draft and Endy Rodriguez emerging as a top-100 prospect, it seemed like the Pirates were considering using Davis in the outfield in order to use Rodriguez behind the plate and get both players into their lineup.  Those plans changed when Rodriguez tore his UCL in winter ball action, and he’ll miss the entire 2024 season recovering from surgery.  Davis has now started most of the Bucs’ games at catcher this season, with Jason Delay working as a backup.

This arrangement comes in the wake of Yasmani Grandal’s season-opening IL stint due to plantar fasciitis, as Grandal was signed to a one-year, $2.5MM deal to assume at least a part-time role behind the plate.  Since Bart is out of minor league options, he’ll have to stay on the Pirates’ active roster or else face the DFA wire again if Pittsburgh wants to send him down to Triple-A via an outright assignment.

Given how Grandal’s return will shake this catching situation up once more, it would seem like there’s plenty of fluidity within what the Pirates might do behind the plate.  Delay could be sent to Triple-A, essentially replacing Ali Sanchez (who elected free agency last weekend) as the top depth option in the minors.  Or, Davis might conceivably go to Triple-A if the Pirates want to let him work on his catching defense in a less-pressurized environment than the big leagues.  There’s even some chance Pittsburgh could also perhaps use Davis, Delay, and Bart on the 26-man roster, with Davis getting work at DH or in the outfield in order to create playing time for the other two catchers.

Selby posted a 9.00 ERA over 24 innings for the Pirates last season, in his first taste of MLB action.  The righty was a 16th-round pick for the Bucs in the 2018 draft, and he has worked almost exclusively as a reliever since the start of the 2021 season.  Scouts regard the hard-throwing Selby as having plenty of stuff but with shaky control, as evidenced with his 30.8% strikeout rate and 16.5% walk rate over 30 1/3 innings with Triple-A Indianapolis last season, en route to a 3.86 ERA.

Over Selby’s 24 Major League frames, he had a 26.3% strikeout rate, but again struggled to limit free passes in posting a 13.2BB%.  It seems like there’s a decent chance Selby might be claimed off waivers by an interested team, as the 26-year-old seems to have some upside if he can limit his walks.

For San Francisco, there’s some obvious disappointment in the official end of the Bart era, as the team ended up getting very little return on a second overall pick.  Hindsight is always 20-20, though it’s easy to wonder what president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi might’ve been able to obtain for Bart had the catcher been traded earlier in his career, though rival executives might’ve also wondered if something was up if Zaidi had been too eager to offer a seeming top prospect.  It is also fair to wonder if Bart’s career path might’ve been different if he hadn’t suffered hand and thumb injuries after being hit by pitches in 2019, or if he’d had the benefit of a smoother minor league development path in a world where either the pandemic doesn’t happen, or if the Giants didn’t move him so quickly to the majors.

The return for Bart is a lottery ticket in Strickland, who was an eighth-round pick for the Pirates in last summer’s draft.  The University of Kentucky product has yet to begin his pro career, and Baseball America’s scouting report cites his three-pitch mix, headlined by a fastball that usually sits in the 93-94mph range.  Strickland generates a lot of grounders and he has mostly worked as a multi-inning reliever, so this might hold appeal to a Giants team that has traditionally been creative with its usage of pitchers.



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