Pirates Acquire Josh VanMeter From Diamondbacks

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The Pirates and Diamondbacks announced a deal sending utilityman Josh VanMeter to Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Listher Sosa. To clear space on the 40-man roster, Pittsburgh designated outfielder Jared Oliva for assignment.

Arizona had designated VanMeter for assignment over the weekend. The 27-year-old is out of minor league option years, meaning the D-Backs had to keep him on the active roster all season or bump him from the 40-man. The Arizona front office evidently determined they weren’t prepared to carry him in the majors.

The Bucs will have to keep VanMeter in the bigs themselves. That they parted with a minor leaguer, rather than waiting to try to grab him off waivers, indicates he’s at least likely to break camp with the MLB team. Pittsburgh would’ve been third in waiver priority based on their finish near the bottom of last year’s standings. (The Pirates had the league’s fourth-worst record, but the D-Backs were one of the teams below them). Rather than risk another team trading for VanMeter or the Orioles/Rangers grabbing him on waivers, the Bucs decided to part with a young pitcher to add him.

VanMeter adds a left-handed, multi-positional bat to the mix for skipper Derek Shelton. He has appeared in each of the past three seasons with the Reds and D-Backs, tallying 649 plate appearances. The former fifth-round pick has a career .212/.300/.364 slash line, offense that checks in 25 percentage point below average by measure of wRC+. It was a similar story last year, when VanMeter hit .212/.297/.354 in a personal-high 310 trips to the dish with Arizona.

Those results aren’t great, but VanMeter has shown some promising traits that caught the attention of the Bucs front office. He’s walked in an above-average 10.6% of his plate appearances. Last season, he only chased 21.1% of pitches outside the strike zone, the tenth-lowest mark among 262 hitters with 300+ trips. That’s partially attributable to an overall patience at the plate — he also has one of the lower swing rates on pitches in the zone — but that selectivity has allowed VanMeter to work plenty of deep counts. He also has slightly above-average career marks in hard contact rate and average exit velocity, pairing his measured approach with some raw power.

VanMeter isn’t regarded as a great defender anywhere, but he’s got plenty of experience at each of first, second and third base and in left field. Ke’Bryan Hayes and Yoshi Tsutsugo are going to play most days in the respective corner infield spots, but the Bucs don’t have obvious answers at the keystone or in left. He’ll presumably start off as a bench bat, but there should be a chance to earn more at-bats on a rebuilding Pittsburgh team if his performance warrants.

More to come.

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