If you followed me on Twitter, then you’ve seen my many rants in the last week about how the Pirates are wasting a roster spot by keeping Corey Hart around.
Hart was originally signed by the Pirates with the intent that he could be the right-handed platoon guy at first base, along with an appearance in right field to get him some extra time. Here we are on June 17th, and Hart has no real role with the team.
On Sunday, Hart started at first base, which was a very significant event. It was significant because it was his only start in the last month, and his first start since May 16th. His other appearances in the last month include eight pinch hit appearances, in which he has gone 1-for-8 with four strikeouts.
Part of the problem early in the year for Hart was that he lacked playing time, due to the low amount of left-handers the Pirates were facing. But they played several left-handers this week, and in most of those cases, he sat in favor of Sean Rodriguez, who has emerged as the top option as the right-handed hitting first baseman and late inning defensive replacement. He’s not a great hitter, but he’s doing better than what the Pirates have with Hart.
Using the same month-long timeframe, Rodriguez has six starts, with five of those coming at first base and all of those coming with lefties on the mound. The first start Rodriguez had at first base came on May 13th, with Cole Hamels on the mound. That probably happened because Corey Hart was slated to start the second game of that double-header.
There has been a change at first base, with Hart making one start and Rodriguez making five starts at first base against lefties in the last month.
As for right field, the last time Hart played the position was on May 13th in that double-header. Prior to that, he played the position twice at the start of the season.
It’s obvious that the Pirates don’t trust Hart in right field. And it’s obvious that they no longer see him as the top option as the backup first baseman. That makes his only role a pinch hitter, and he’s not hitting. Basically, Hart is the backup to a very infrequently used platoon role, he’s not an option in the outfield, and his only useful role is an area where he has struggled this year. In other words, Corey Hart has no role with the Pirates.
This isn’t the same as the situation with someone like Vance Worley, who also hasn’t seen much usage lately. The reason Worley hasn’t been used is because the pitching staff is unreal at the moment. You don’t have much use for a long reliever when your starters are consistently performing as one of the best groups in baseball.
The Pirates do have a need for an extra bat off the bench, which is why carrying Hart hurts them so much. With Rodriguez playing more first base, there is more of a need for an extra outfielder. The Pirates also lack a left-handed hitter off the bench.
It would make all the sense in the world to replace Hart with Jaff Decker right now. Decker is crushing the ball in Triple-A, with a .324/.393/.486 line in 105 at-bats. He’s left-handed. He plays outfield, and can actually provide some value out there. There’s no guarantee he would be better than Hart offensively, but if the Pirates are going to bet on someone, Decker would be the better choice over Hart. Worst case, Decker would struggle just as much as Hart offensively, but would at least give the Pirates a guy who could help on the defensive side of the ball, and who would have an actual role on the roster.