Key Addition(s) & How Acquired:
C Francisco Cervelli (Acquired in a trade with New York Yankees)
According to Stat Corner, Cervelli was the 17th best pitch framer in baseball a season ago. That number, though, includes approximately 100 catchers. He was credited with 7.4 runs saved in 2014.
In 49 2014 games, Cervelli had an impressive .370 on-base percentage and slugged .432. Assuming he can maintain that clip in more starts in 2015, he will nearly make up for the loss of Russell Martin in free agency.
A conservative projection says those numbers will dip a bit with more playing time. But if Cervelli approaches that same level of production for Pittsburgh, losing Martin will not be such a loss.
OF Corey Hart (Acquired as free agent; 2014 team: Seattle Mariners)
The Pirates struggled to get offensive production in the outfield in 2014, specifically in right field. They hope Corey Hart can rectify that in 2015. The long, lanky 6’6” outfielder had an underrated season in 149 games for Seattle last year, hitting 30 home runs and got on base .334 percent of the time, while slugging .507.
That was playing half his games in the similarly large ballpark that is Safeco Field. There’s no reason to think Hart cannot continue a similar level of success in 2015 with the Pirates. They will benefit from this acquisition. It may even be one of the underrated free agent acquisitions when all is said and done.
SS Jung-ho Kang (Acquired as free agent from Korea)
Over the years, the Pirates have held in their possession some of the most talented shortstops in baseball. Yet they rarely received the kind of production from the position that matched up with the talent. They hope the addition of 27-year-old Korean Jung-ho Kang will take care of that problem.
In 902 professional games in Korea, Kang had a career .383 on-base percentage and slugged .504. Last season, he had a ridiculous 1.198 OPS (.459 OBP and .739 slugging).
It’s unreasonable to think Kang can repeat those numbers in the big leagues, but his career attributes suggest he can become a highly productive major league hitter.
Kang homered in his Spring Training debut, so there’s reason for optimism.
C Russell Martin (Signed with Toronto Blue Jays as free agent)
As already discussed, Russell Martin was not only a great defensive catcher—as one of the game’s best pitch framers, but also one of the Pirates’ best offensive weapons. He was one of two Pirates to put together a .400-plus on-base percentage (.402). His .832 OPS was third on the team, trailing only McCutchen (.952) and Josh Harrison (.837).
Francisco Cervelli should be able to make up for Martin’s loss as a catcher, but others will have to pick up the pace offensively to fully replace Martin.
P Edinson Volquez (Signed with Kansas City Royals as free agent)
Volquez had his best season as a professional in 2014, statistically-speaking. In fact, his 3.04 ERA was by far a career best (only in 2008 did he approach when he had a 3.21 ERA with Cincinnati). He pitched to contact better than in any season, yet had his second best FIP season at 4.15.
The Pirates likely conceded that Volquez could not repeat his 2014 success again, and so decided not to make a serious effort at re-signing him, thus allowing him to seek a higher paying opportunity with Kansas City.
Next: Key players for the Pirates in 2015