10:13am: Plawecki will make $1.5MM if he makes the club, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.
8:25am: The Pirates announced that they have signed catcher Kevin Plawecki to a minor league deal, as well as announcing their previously-reported deal with left-hander Caleb Smith. Both players will be in major league camp as non-roster invitees.
Plawecki, who turns 32 later this month, has appeared in each of the past eight MLB seasons, largely in a backup catcher role. His 79 games played with the Mets in 2018 are the most he’s tallied in a single major league season. He’s been primarily with the Red Sox for the past three seasons, faring quite well in the first two while backing up Christian Vázquez. Over 2020 and 2021, Plawecki got into 88 games and hit .305/.364/.414. His defense and framing were considered to be around league average as well.
Unfortunately, he took a step back in 2022, hitting .217/.287/.287 in 61 games for the Sox. As the season was winding down in September and the club was sliding out of the playoff race, they decided to give their playing time to younger backstops like Reese McGuire and Connor Wong, designating Plawecki for assignment.
Though Plawecki wasn’t having a great season, he appears to have a strong reputation as a veteran leader. It reportedly didn’t go down very well in the Boston clubhouse when he was let go, with players like Rich Hill and Nathan Eovaldi going on the record to comment on Plawecki’s intangible value to the team. After becoming a free agent, he was signed by an out-of-contention Rangers club, with then-interim manager Tony Beasley highlighting those same leadership qualities at the time.
Plawecki and the Pirates make a good pairing on a couple of levels. As a rebuilding team, the roster skews young and those leadership qualities should prove to be useful in spring and perhaps during the regular season as well. Plawecki will be reunited with Hill, who signed with the Pirates earlier this offseason and spoke so highly of Plawecki last year.
Adding a veteran catcher also makes sense for more straightforward baseball reasons, as the club could use some extra depth there. They only have two catchers on their 40-man roster right now, one of whom is prospect Endy Rodriguez. The young backstop reached Triple-A last year, but only for six games and will likely spend a bit more time there, especially at the beginning of the season. The only other catching option on the roster is Austin Hedges, who was signed in December and figures to get the bulk of the playing time in the bigs.
Assuming Rodriguez begins the year in the minors, the Bucs will need another catcher to pair with Hedges. Plawecki will be in camp trying to win that job, alongside other non-roster invitees such as Tyler Heineman and Jason Delay.