Pirates Prospects has learned that the Pittsburgh Pirates re-signed catcher Jackson Williams to a minor league deal on Tuesday and also signed minor league free agent pitcher John Stilson.

Williams split 2017 between Indianapolis and Altoona, hitting .201/.276/.249 in 55 total games. He has two brief stints in the majors, seeing time with the San Francisco Giants in 2015 and the Colorado Rockies in 2014. The 31-year-old Williams is better known for his defense, especially the last three seasons, where he has topped out at a .591 OPS. He threw out 32% of runners in 2017 and has thrown out 36% of runners in 11 seasons in the pros.

While he isn’t as good as Jacob Stallings in the glove department, his defense makes him a depth option at backup short-term in the majors if the need should arise. He will likely fill the same role he had in 2017, splitting time between Indianapolis and Altoona. Jin-De Jhang is currently getting his elbow checked out for an injury that caused him to leave winter ball in Australia, so that could affect where Williams plays.

Stilson spent most of 2017 in Triple-A for Buffalo (Blue Jays) where he had a 3.14 ERA in 34 relief appearances, posting a 1.25 WHIP, with 46 strikeouts and a .224 BAA in 48.2 innings. The 27-year-old right-hander does not have any Major League experience. He was a third round draft pick in 2011 and was rated as the seventh best prospect for the Blue Jays in 2012. He had a torn labrum in 2014 and missed all but one game in 2015. Before the injury, he sat mid-90s with his fastball and matched it with a changeup and slider that were both plus offerings, though he didn’t have the best command. He should take a spot with Indianapolis in the bullpen, although the Pirates seem to be crowded at the upper levels with pitching options.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. John: Am I correct in thinking the $500K the Pirates used to trade for Nick Burdi does not cost the Pirates anything other than pool money which is just sort of an option to spend that much. The Pirates are very deliberate in how they approach TJ Rehab – he may not even throw bullpens until Jul 2018, then 30 days of rehab in the minors. Then the Pirates can use half of Aug and all of Sep to get him at least 45 days on the roster in 2018 and then they have to keep him 45 days more on the roster in 2019 to fulfill the commitment of Rule 5?

    If so, a pretty smart move overall. Could have just signed a future Closer for pocket change.

    • Yes, the $500,000 is just the ability to spend $500,000 on international picks. The Pirates have that much less available, Phillies have that much more now. I don’t think the Pirates will leave any int’l pool money on the table as you suggested in the other comment. They could trade it if they have no intentions to spend it, but there is still six months left to do something with it.

      Burdi’s time can be split up however they want, he just needs to get to 90 days. Regardless of his big league time this year, he will still be paid the MLB minimum for the season. TJ surgery rehab now gets 60 days, so don’t be surprised if he makes his season debut on July 3rd and is in the majors on September 1st.

      • Thank you – very well played by NH. The Pirates feel no pressure to use him or put pressure on others if he is not used, and Burdi gets the best possible circumstance to rehab thoroughly.

  2. Never hurts to have catching depth. Do you think it’s coincidence though that they signed Williams after the Jhang news came out?

    • Not sure if it’s linked, but they did need some upper catching depth. No Chris Stewart, didn’t have Williams or Tomas Morales, who was in Altoona most of the year, so that was three missing catchers at the top three levels. You’ll have promotions from Bradenton, but that’s really just Christian Kelley because Bormann doesn’t have the bat for AA and Krause doesn’t have the defense to catch full-time.

      • Definitely hoping it’s unrelated.

        Nothing special about Jhang, but I’ve always liked him and have been pulling for him to make it.

        At almost 25 and still not mastering AA, I’ve gotta think an extended recovery time pretty much closes the door on him.

        • With the situation as we knew it before the injury to Jhang, why did we not take a flyer on one of the Atlanta Group, Catcher Abrahan Gutierrez. He hit OK, and had some VG defensive numbers in the GCL – only 3 E’s/3 PB’s and a 38%CS. Not an upper minors guy, but he signed for only $650,000 after getting over $3 mil from Atlanta in 2016.

          • Pirates have invested $250,000+ deals on catchers on the international side a lot recently. Yoel Gonzalez, then Gabriel Brito, Samuel Inoa and Jommer Hernandez this year. Both Gonzalez and Inoa took huge steps this season, so there are young possibilities behind the plate in the system.

            • I liked the work of the Catchers in the DSL, but I thought Brito left a lot to be desired at the GCL level. I saw Gutierrez as a kid who will move fast and possibly skip a level or two along the way. Good chance we will leave a lot on the table of our 2017 Intl Pool

        • Jhang really improved late last year, missing the start of the season due to an oblique injury. He really took a long time to get on track at the plate, but he hit well in the playoffs, batting .333 in the six games, plus a three-hit game right as the season ended. His throwing was as good as you will see and he was moving better behind the plate. He threw out 47% with Altoona and 70% in Australia. Would have been interesting to see how he did with a full season in 2017.

  3. So the Orioles are committed to trading Machado for two MLB ready starting pitchers that can be controlled 4-5 years.
    The pirates may be one of the few teams able to fill that request and they have a history of dealing with the O’s.
    1. Trevor Williams and Ivan Nova. Fits the bill not sexy.
    2. Gerrit Cole and Trevor Williams. Fits the bill sexy and easy sell for O’s – not great for bucs long term.
    3. Trevor Williams Steven Brault/ Nick Kingham.

    Sexy enough and we have the depth and it would be worth the play. Plus if needed flip Machado at trade deadline to contender for more prospects.
    Do it!

    • As a Pirate fan for the past 50+ years and an Oriole Season Ticket holder, I have been considering the same sort of thought that you have had. The Pirates can afford it player wise and financially, and if the Pirates have a dud of a year, he can be traded in July. Machado is the most complete player that I have watched up close and personal since Clemente. Go for it!

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