Pittsburgh Pirates: One Last Roster Shuffle, What to do With Kevin Newman?

Photo Credit: Chuck Meyers/Altoona Mirror

 I don't generally get too involved when talking about the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are other publications out there who are way more involved with the major league team than I am, that can speak on what is going on better than I can.

At least for this season, I've made the minor league my focus, and it's worked for me and I've enjoyed it. Getting a look at the future when things are so bleak in the majors has been a blast.

That being said, I wanted to weigh in to the Kevin Newman saga currently going on in Pittsburgh. I may be not be in the majority in saying that I feel that keeping Newman on the roster provides some value to the Pirates.

His glove has been that good this year, or at least it was. Newman recorded his third error of the season in Tuesday's night loss against the St. Louis Cardinals and it makes you wonder, how much back down to earth does his fielding need to get to before his horrible offense cancels out the value he was giving defensively?

Because based on his history, Newman is playing way out of his depth when it comes to his glove, and it really isn't close.

The former first round pick has an Outs Above Average (OAA) of +5 this season, good to be one of the better shortstops in that metric. Most of the 'outs saved' has been when he attacked the ball in towards the grass. 

When it comes to his lateral movement, he is actually a -2 moving to the left and an even zero going to the right. His success rate added is just 2%, which is one of the better marks in the league, it doesn't seem like a number that would have crash down on you.

Especially considering his history. From 2018-2020, Newman has a -10 OAA, which is 31st among qualified shortstops in that timeframe. There are 30 teams in baseball. Newman didn't even grade out as a starting shortstop in this metric the first few years of his career.

What Newman has done in 2021 has been great, but goes against the far larger sample size presented to us.

So what do we do with that?

I've been a firm believer that as long as his defense plays, Newman should have a spot on the major league roster. Maybe not as the everyday guy, but the glove definitely plays off of the bench.

He also comes cheap, and is under control through 2025. Seems like an ideal player to keep around. We talk a lot about getting the young guys in to work through things and get the experience needed to become the players we think they can become.

That includes the pitchers as well. We saw what shaky defense can do to young pitchers, just go back to Luis Oviedo's first career start. Granted it was Newman to allow the inning to continue, but the point remains - if that play is made we were looking at a completely different game.

With that being said, I am starting to warm up to the idea of parting ways for Newman at this point in the season, even if that means he gets claimed by another team. And that's not even including the offensive numbers that everyone already has mentioned 1,000 times.

It's more so the one thing that is bringing him value, doesn't seem to be maintainable. 

But I do have a stipulation when it comes to parting ways with Newman. It has to be Cole Tucker that takes his place.

I know how that sounds. Feels like one light hitting former first round pick is being replaced by another, but that's the price the Pirates need to pay if they  move on from Newman. Let Tucker come in and fight it out with Hoy Park to see who has the upper hand at the starting shortstop job next year.

Do I think Tucker is going to win that? Probably not. Tucker doesn't really have any leg to stand on as to why he shouldn't join Newman in the DFA line, except that he is three years younger and has 900 less career plate appearances at the major league level.

In his defense, Tucker has been hitting the ball better at Indianapolis (I'm sure we've all heard that one before) and if the Pirates are really in the 'let's see what everyone got' mode, then why not their first round pick from 2014?

July saw Tucker slug .439 and draw almost as many walks (10) as times he struck out (11). Early on in August he's hitting the ball even harder, with five extra base hits (and a .543 SLG%). That has caused him to strike out more, but even in the last two months you can almost live with the 13:20 BB:K rate.

Isn't this season about finding out one last time what needs to be cleaned out and what maybe they still have? Isn't that why Mitch Keller is still has a spot in the rotation? So why not give Tucker that one last shot? Tucker at least is a former first round pick.

Maybe I'm just biased towards Tucker. I'll admit that, I want to see him succeed, even if it's to flip him in the offseason to a team that could buy into a change of scenery scenario. 

But there's really only one way to find out at this point, and that's to play him. He does fit that mold that it looks like Ben Cherington is going for, and that's the athletic, versatile players that can play multiple positions.

I guess were are going to have to wait and see.

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