Pirates Sign Top Minor-League Free Agent by the Projections

One is generally best advised to regard internet personality Aaron Gleeman’s baseball reportage with due skepticism. This is an individual, for example, who voluntarily records his weekly adventures in tippling around the Minneapolis-St. Paul metroplex. “A ridiculous man,” one is inclined to say.

In this particular instance, however, what Gleeman utters has some foundation in the truth. As actual legitimate sources have confirmed, third baseman Deibinson Romero has signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The acquisition of Romero isn’t notable in the same way that recent signings of Nelson Cruz, Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval are (although he compares more favorably to Cruz than the difference in their contracts might suggest). Not only is he unlikely to begin the season in Pittsburgh’s starting lineup, but it’s far from certain that he’ll have a place even on the 25-man roster. Of note with regard to Romero, however, is what he represents so far as helping the Pirates avoid the awful — a concept explored in some depth by Jeff Sullivan and in less depth by the present author after that. The basic point: a quality almost universally found among good teams is their ability to avoid rostering players who provide negative WAR.

After the signing by St. Louis of infielder Dean Anna (who, coincidentally, was a Pirate at the end of 2014 ), no player who entered minor-league free agency this offseason received a better Steamer projection than Romero.

Here’s Romero’s projection, prorated to 550 plate appearances — i.e. the amount over which an exactly average player would produce a 2.0 WAR:

550 .245 .318 .372 96 -2.4 1.8 1.9

Because measuring defensive runs is difficult and measuring minor-league defensive runs is even more difficult, Steamer relies mostly on WAR’s positional adjustment for Romero’s defensive projection. If one assumes, however, that Romero is a roughly league-average third baseman, that translates to nearly a two-win projection for Romero over 550 plate appearances. Indeed, if one assumes that Romero is something less than league average at third base — that’d he’s likely to record the roughly -8 runs there that Pedro Alvarez has averaged over the past three seasons — then Romero still receives a projection of about 1.0 WAR.

A one-win player isn’t cause for celebration, necessarily. But in the event that Josh Harrison is injured, what the presence of Romero represents is a win (or part of a win) the Pirates won’t lose by having to employ a replacement-level substitute instead. And that’s the sort of preparation common to almost all competitive teams.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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7 years ago

It looks like the Bucs may have learned something after the debacle they ran into this August when they had three complete turds on the 25 man roster at once(Brent Morel, Jayson Nix and Michael Martinez). This, combined with the pickup of Rodriguez, is a good sign.

7 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Part of the issue is not the bucs, it is the yankees running the market of these guys up over the past few seasons. To the yankees, and extra 200k is nothing for a minor league FA, for small time teams it is huge.