Pirates Acquire Chris Stewart From the Yankees

According to Buster Olney, the Pittsburgh Pirates are close to acquiring New York Yankees catcher Chris Stewart.

Stewart is a 31 year old catcher and is arbitration eligible for the first time this off-season. He doesn’t do much with the bat, hitting for a career .214/.287/.288 line in 645 career major league at-bats. If the transaction goes through, then this should mean the end of Michael McKenry, who is also arbitration eligible.

CBS Sports released a chart a few days ago listing the best pitch framers in 2013. Stewart ranked number two with 22.7 RAA. That was higher than Yadier Molina (19.8) and Russell Martin (17.9). So while the offense is bad for Stewart, the defense is stronger than what McKenry can provide. Stewart is out of options, which means he will probably get the backup catching job over Tony Sanchez, moving Sanchez to Triple-A to start the 2014 season.

UPDATE 9:44 AM: Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates will send cash or a player to be named later for Stewart.

UPDATE 10:22 AM: The Pirates officially announce the move as Stewart for a player to be named. They have designated Michael McKenry for assignment to make room for Stewart on the 40-man roster.

UPDATE 10:32 AM: To go with today’s non-tender deadline article, Stewart is projected by MLBTR to make $1 M in arbitration, and after this trade I would say it’s a guarantee he gets tendered.

UPDATE 10:45 AM: The deal for Stewart was agreed to on Friday, according to Daniel Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal.

Since the deal is final, that means the Pirates have a deal with Stewart for 2014. No word yet on the terms of the deal.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    Who the hell is Chris Stewart?

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo
      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

        So, does this mean that the Fort is gone and Sanchez goes to AAA?

        • https://www.facebook.com/scott.skink Scott Skink

          I was just reading an article on the potential desirability of catchers about to be non-tendered. I don’t know if the article was ordered on desirability, but McKenry was mentioned first, noting that of all the non-tenders out there, he was the best pinch-hitter. Stewart was mentioned next because of his pitch-framing.

          Out of options certainly would imply Stewart goes on the 25-man.

          I don’t get it. Thought for sure Tony would be the backup. Kid can hit a little and so far hasn’t been a drag on defense.

          • CTBucco

            Yeah. I don’t get this at all. If there was some way that Stewart could be stashed at AAA, then OK given catching depth concerns. I suppose the argument will be that Sanchez will be better served to get regular PT at Indy than he will playing sparingly in the bigs. But I think a year of tutelage behind Martin would be good for him plus the exposure to MLB pitching.

            • jon6er

              Unless they are doing a backroom deal to extend Martins’ contract this deal makes no sense to me. At this point they are just jerking Sanchez’ chain.

  • CalipariFan506

    Please carry 3 catchers and let Martin play 3B against lefties.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116366873579930999690 Thom Kay

    What does this mean for Sanchez? I love Stewart’s defense. He’ll be under team control through ’17, so he’ll be a good backup for Sanchez in 2015-16, potentially, but is Sanchez not in the majors this year?

  • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

    I suppose it’s not a bad thing that Sanchez is playing at Indy as opposed to getting moldy on the bench at PNC; the only thing that worries me about this signing (and obviously it’s early in the game) is the composition of the bench. If the Pirates are concentrating on glove-first backups, you run out of viable pinch-hitting options very early in a ball game.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      The backup catcher is usually the last guy off the bench as a pinch hitter.

      • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

        Fully understood, especially since no one keeps three catchers anymore. My concern is not with Stewart per se, but more that the Pirates emphasis on defense may stray over the line into mania, where everyone on the bench is a glove-first-and-last guy.

        • wtm1613

          Seems like an awfully attenuated concern based on trading for a back-up catcher…

  • jon6er

    This is completely opposite of how this should play out. If Martin can’t be signed after 2014 then Sanchez loses that major league experience he would gain from backing up Martin this year. Sanchez did a great job behind the plate when he played this year. I’m no expert but I see nothing gained from this move if he backs up Martin and Sanchez goes back to Indy!

    • CalipariFan506

      Catching Taillon and Kingham is a lot to gain.

    • Jared

      This makes me think another trade could be coming. With the market for catchers this offseason fairly strong (there were a plethora of teams in on McCann and Ruiz) and the Pirates having Sanchez, Martin, and now Stewart…I wonder if there would be interest in Martin. The Pirates would have Sanchez starting and Stewart backing him up and tutoring him on pitch-framing. Not that I would be a huge fan of trading Martin, because I very much appreciate what Martin has brought to this club. Just a possibility. The other possibility is that Sanchez gets to learn and develop again this whole season in AAA and Stewart is his strong-defensive backup next year when Martin moves on.

      • TomBartley

        I like Martin but it’s time to give Tony Sanchez a shot. He deserves the opportunity to be a starter for the pirates, or at the very least the number one back up. There has got to be an underlying reason for this move. Maybe Martin is going to be traded for first base help?

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    Why draft and groom players like Sanchez, if you make a deal like this? What can Sanchez possibly gain from another year in AAA? Isn’t he already 25 or 26? Did the same thing to Mercer, when they traded for that stiff SS last year who could not hit his weight – forget his name now. Did the same with Harrison, by having Inge on the roster last year.

    I don’t get it. Its like they go to their prospects at last resort. Why would you show interest in guys like Furcal and Berkman, when internal options already exist?

  • Hank

    This makes no sense unless you are going to trade Martin. Sanchez must be on the team! He deserves it, as he had a very strong season last year. Everything he did on the Pirates last year indicates he is ready to play in the majors. He needs the 40 or so starts this year to be ready to be the full time starter in 2015. I don’t like the message putting Sanchez to AAA would send to the players…….he has earned that spot with his play last year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.martin.9003 Bob Martin

    First let me say I’m shaking my head because of this move. Neal is weakening the bench with every move he is making and that’s hard to do because they had one of the weakest benches last year.
    Why do you trade for a light hitting catcher when you can find those guys anywhere? I can’t even say their doing it because they want to save a few dollars. Stewart is projected to make at least 1million next year. That’s wasting money that could be spent else ware.

    • buster09

      Bob,from reading you past posts,I kind of get the feeling you think you know more than most MLB GMs. This move makes all the sense in the world,IF one pays attention to the moves of the rest of the League and not just the Pirates. No orginization would want Sanchez being a Sunday only catcher if Martin is there the entire season,and McKenry ‘s defense got progressively worse,and his pitch framing ability was non-existent. Not only that,if McKenry was tendered,he would have made more money than Stewart,which would have been stupid. It looks to me like Jared’s comment is one of the few here who has thought clearly about the deal.

  • IC Bob

    I think this deal makes a lot of sense. Its essentially a Stewart for Mchenry deal. It doesn’t mean Stewart has to make the team out of camp. What it does do is give us two good defensive catchers when Martin gets hurt ( like almost all catchers his age always do). I cringed when I saw Mchenry behind the plate.

    • buster09

      Bucco Joe,are you really that short sighted ? Or just pretending to be ?

  • jschwartz

    Catchers go down all of the time. All three will get at bats in the majors this year. Martin is reliable, but also, what, 32? He most likely won’t be healthy all season. I like this move. A backup catcher with that type of defense for 1 mil. is an under the radar upgrade.

  • Bucco_Joe

    This is obviously the Bucs response to the Cardinals obtaining Peralta and Bourjos. The Cards obviously will feel pressured to make another move to keep ahead of those free spending Buccos.

  • https://www.facebook.com/andyrshaw Andy Shaw

    Tim, the first thought I had on this post was, “I wonder how much over-reaction there will be to a back-up catcher spot/I wonder if anyone read Tim’s post about early offseason over-reaction.”

    I’ll trust Neal on this one. People thought signing Martin was completely dumb. And I’d trust that they know something we don’t know, either about Sanchez needing to work on something, or Martin playing more infield, or some metric we don’t even know about.

    • https://www.facebook.com/andyrshaw Andy Shaw

      * They meaning the Pirates… not the overreactors.

    • jg941

      It’s not an “over-reaction” to Stewart over McKenry – that’s a marginal upgrade. The valid reaction is that of delaying the next logical step in your catcher-of-the-near-future’s progress, by keeping him (Sanchez) down at AAA for “X” more months, where he will gain little or nothing, and keeping him from 40+ MLB starts in 2014 under the guidance of Russell Martin.

      Strategically, this is just a bad move from the perpsective of making sure sure that your catcher of 2015-16+ (and maybe late-2014) is as best-prepared to take over the reins as he should be.

  • Andrew

    Stewart made $.5 million last year was predict to receive $ 1.0 million in arbitration, so assuming the negotiated deal is between that, and the PTBNL is someone who not going to be on the Pirates’ 40 man roster, the financial cost will be between John MacDonald and Brandon Inge.

    This is a defensive depth option at an important defensive position. I do not understand the dismay, neither MacDonald or Inge prevented Mercer from contributing to the team this year, so will Stewart prevent Tony Sanchez? Was not the knock against Sanchez he did not hit well at the upper levels until this spring? Will not some more time in AAA with regular PAs be beneficial?

  • https://www.facebook.com/marty.leap Marty

    Allows Sanchez to catch everyday at AAA, which I like. Stewart’s defense is top notch, but can’t hit worth a lick. So basically The Fort if he could play defense. Not sure who I’d want as my backup more Stewart, or Sanchez.

  • Monkshot

    Pure speculation but I think it’s one of two things. Either they want insurance or they are thinking of moving Martin or Sanchez in a trade. I personally think it’s option 1, they want to make sure thry have 3 adept catchers available if one would go down due to injury.

  • Buccoguy1979

    From Tim’s twitter account regarding Stewart: “He’s been one of the most valuable backup catchers the last few years. > Value than the .290-.300 hitting Dioner Navarro”

    I thought that was interesting. Fangraphs has Erik Kratz at 2.0 WAR for 2011-2013 and Stewart is at 2.1. Given that Martin is also a solid defender, do you think Stewart will see as many innings behind the plate in 2014 as he did in 2011 and 2012 (when he was truly a backup versus 2013 when he was the Yanks primary starter)?

  • swampirate

    This move does make sense. I am so glad that NH is running things and not some of the readers here.