The Pittsburgh Pirates have traded for 28-year-old infielder/outfielder Mark Mathias from the Texas Rangers in exchange for a player to be named later.
Mathias has 127 plate appearances in the majors in parts of two seasons. In that time, he’s hit for a .256/.307/.462 line with six home runs. Last year in Triple-A, between the Brewers and Rangers systems, he hit for a .322/.422/.518 line with a 24% strikeout rate, and a 13% walk rate.
The right-handed hitter was recently designated for assignment by the Rangers, making this a bit more than a waiver claim, as the Pirates cut the line to get him with the PTBNL.
This move boosts the depth off the bench, with Mathias having one option remaining and 1.153 years of service time to date. He’s played first, second, third, and all three outfield spots. His potential role is similar to the potential role from Ji-Hwan Bae: a super utility bat off the bench.
Bae is off to a slow start this spring, going 1-for-14 in six games. That slow start gives us a reminder that his success in the majors has been brief. At the very least, adding Mathias boosts the depth behind Bae. I think it’s likely that Mathias begins the year in Pittsburgh and Bae starts the year getting daily at-bats in Indianapolis.
To make room on the 40-man roster, Max Kranick was transferred to the 60-day injured list.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
The Pirates want to resemble a team trying to win games and it’s about time. Mathias could be ‘insurance’ against injury and be stashed in Indianapolis or he has a real shot at making the ML roster because he hits right-handed. It’s why they acquired Conner joe, too. The Pirates have put themselves in this position with predominately left-handed hitting position player prospects.
Joe, Mathias, cutch, Catcher2?
Is this a valid group? Is that LH Njigba/Swaggerty/Mitchell spot just not possible? Do they force Owings in? Who gets chopped?
I don’t think they have Mathias as the lone reserve infielder. I think you need to put Bae/Marcano/Owings or someone in either the LH OF spot or over Joe.
Great point. Maybe on the roster I proposed, Bae can take the slot I proposed for “lefty OF”
It’s what I’d do but they’ll do owings
I think the battle for the last 2 spots (after Cutch, Reynolds, Joe, Suwinski, Choi, Santana, Castro, Cruz, Hayes, Hedges & backup C) comes down to
…in no particular order. I don’t think Marcano, Triolo, Smith-Njigba and Vilade are really under consideration.
Just based on the fact that Mathias has played every position but P and C, and has actually hit in both the majors and minors, I think he’s got the inside track to one of those.
The other one is ??? Cutch playing more OF means you don’t NEED that OF, but they are still lacking a true CF, and Swaggerty keeps flagging them down, and even gets on base a bit. But I could make a case for Bae as well, particularly if his bat starts to heat up in the next week or two.
The worst thing Cherington could do – and therefore the most likely thing to happen – is to go north with both Mathias and Owings. And then play Owings in RF. Such a Pirate-y thing to do.
I feel like they signed one too many veterans because Cutch hadn’t been in their plans. My preference is that they find a good landing spot for Joe or Choi to free up a roster spot for one of the guys trying to break in. Mathias might give them the flexibility to do that.
They’ve been collecting AAAA infielders, outfielders and left handed relievers nonstop since December. I have no idea what the plan is. Nothing would surprise me – except maybe finding someone to trade for Choi. That would actually surprise me.
Interesting. He is listed as a pitcher on their 40-man roster. Maybe BC thinks they know something.
The larger lesson here is that Cherington spent much of the last three years acquiring UT IF prospects, yet they’ve brought in this guy, Owings, Leyba and Maggi.
Cherington was very transparent when he was hired, saying that in addition to developing prospects they also need to identify guys like Justin Turner and help them succeed at the major league level. This is just Ben’s latest effort at finding the next Turner. I don’t see it, but then who could have seen it with Turner?
That may explain Mathias (whose signing bothers me only in conjunction with all the others), but hardly explains Owings.
Yeah, Owings is the simple “we need someone to back up SS signing”. Mathias is in the line of Chavis, VanMeter, Evans, and Riddle to go along with a whole host of OFs. I actually like these signings given the situation we’re in, but look forward to the day when we have enough good players that we can’t afford a 40-man spot.
Well he had to fill up the 180-man limit after losing 37 people in the minor league R5 after all.
I think the text has to be wrong – for scooping up this player, the Pirates should get another player, not have to give something up.
If we have to give something, how about the lineup maker who thinks creating different infield lineups every day is a positive approach to building a cohesive unit.
How about a few games where Hayes plays 3B, Cruz SS, Castro 2B, and Choi/Santana 1B/DH. Throw in Bae in at SS/2B/CF almost like a Super Ut player. What a unique approach!
This is The Big Bang Show of MLB!.
Michael Chavis 2.0. Interesting option for the end of the batch.
Someone that is at least an average hitter and maybe more is not as bad as the usual fish found in the Bucco spring fryers.
Far rather have this guy than Owings.
Yes. At least there is some hope for this guy Owings has established what he is.
Maybe you will get your wish. They can easily cut Owings
Looks like they will be shopping all year for a lefty reliever, probably end of the spring waiver claims. Still plenty of cuts on the 40 man
I now know Cherington is truly regarded but can’t help himself.
I know I said this the other 37 times, but this will be Ben’s Justin Turner type success!
There is some other deal pending in my opinion. We have a ton of these jack of all trades guys and DHs and not enough room on the MLB roster or AAA.
Is this another dumpster dive that will keep a young player in the minors and for what?
Quite a bit better than the lot Cherington usually grabs. In fact, I’m mildly shocked the Rangers DFA’d him in the first place – they’re way tilted toward pitchers on the 40-man and their projected AAA lineup is pretty lacking in prospects at the positions he plays.
Oh, and a reminder to us all that Ryan Vilade is STILL on the roster.
You will be saying that next year. Why is Ryan Vilade still on the roster.
There are a few weeks before the roster is set for the opener. Plenty of time to cut Vilade.
FFS, another infielder.
I just don’t get it, if he plays then Bae is in Indy which makes the log jam there even bigger.
The idea that it is “likely” is pure speculation and more recency bias. The pirates make moves and then later decisions are based on the complete picture, not the most recent history or test or, god forbid, spring training sample size. The moves don’t guarantee anything. When we paid Andujar 1.5 million everyone thought he was on the roster for sure. The whole world has assumed Swaggerty will never play in Pittsburgh. It’s all tea leaves and absurd.
Bae still has an excellent shot at starting in Pittsburgh. 14 at bats are not the decision maker. Training camp has lots of other activities that are being judged outside of game action.
That’s a polite and reasoned response to what BC really does…….he throws sh*t up against the wall and sees what sticks with regard to the waiver claims or DFA trades. We really should be moving past that approach.
Every team does this kind of stuff so, unfortunately will never really end.
I don’t see every team doing this kind of stuff 3 weeks before the season starts. Only some of the small markets, small revenue teams, that are also in perpetual rebuild mode. They try to catch lightning in a bottle. I get the strategy, I just wish we were at the point where our GM has his 26-man already carved in stone, with depth pieces incl quality MLB players, rather than perpetual tryouts.
I agree with you in that Bae has a good shot to start in Pittsburgh, which then makes this trade even more of a question mark….WHY get this guy? If he heads north with the team, then he’s taking a chance away from a youngster, and if he doesn’t head north, what was the purpose of trading for him? That’s what I’m saying, I just don’t get the trade, why target this guy? He does nothing for the future of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Maybe they think his bat plays better than Bae’s? And maybe it does.
Or maybe they want to create a competition between Owings, Bae and Mathias for the back up MI position?
IMO, it’s never a bad thing to acquire a player who can hit. Especially if he has an option left, and has 5 years of control remaining.
There will be several guys cut so not as much logjam in reality.
Totally agree with you.
Knee jerk reactions and hot takes….what the InterWebz thrive on!