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Pirates finalize 1-year deal with OF Heredia

@adamdberry
January 9, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates added to their outfield depth on Thursday, signing free agent Guillermo Heredia to a one-year contract. Super-utility player Pablo Reyes was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the Pirates' 40-man roster for Heredia. Financial terms of Heredia’s deal were not disclosed. Heredia, 28, has

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates added to their outfield depth on Thursday, signing free agent Guillermo Heredia to a one-year contract.

Super-utility player Pablo Reyes was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the Pirates' 40-man roster for Heredia. Financial terms of Heredia’s deal were not disclosed.

Heredia, 28, has played parts of four seasons with the Mariners and Rays. He is known primarily for his defense, as he can capably play all three outfield positions. He should fit in with the Pirates as an extra outfielder -- unless they trade Starling Marte, in which case Heredia could see more regular time in left or center field.

The Cuban outfielder was a popular teammate during his one season in Tampa Bay, highly regarded for his emotional leadership and ability to keep the clubhouse loose. But the Rays non-tendered Heredia last month because he was out of Minor League options and about to enter the salary arbitration process for the first time.

Heredia spent most of last season backing up Kevin Kiermaier in center field, and he hit just .225/.306/.363 with five homers in 231 plate appearances over 89 games. He owns a career .240 batting average, .317 on-base percentage and .342 slugging percentage with 17 homers in 382 games. He’s more productive against left-handed pitchers, putting together a career slash line of .274/.335/.401 against lefties compared to a .212/.303/.293 line against righties.

Heredia totaled four Outs Above Average last season, according to Statcast. His best defensive work throughout his career has come in center field, according to the Outs Above Average metric, but he has shown an ability to play all three spots.

That versatility could come in handy for the Pirates, depending on how the next few months play out.

If the season began today, the Pirates would run out an outfield of Bryan Reynolds in left, Marte in center and Gregory Polanco in right. But Marte’s name has popped up in trade rumors over the last month, and it remains to be seen how Polanco’s surgically repaired left shoulder will hold up this season. Their other outfield options are rehabbing prospect Jason Martin, non-roster invitee Sócrates Brito and utility-type players such as José Osuna and Kevin Kramer.

Reynolds is capable of playing left or center field, but it’s worth noting that the Pirates’ home ballpark essentially requires two center field-caliber defenders to handle those two positions. Heredia, if he cracks the roster, would seem to satisfy that need. As a right-handed hitter, he would also be a natural platoon partner for the lefty-hitting Polanco in right field.

The Pirates are running the risk of losing Reyes on waivers, as another club might be interested in the versatile 26-year-old despite a disappointing follow-up to his promising debut. Reyes hit well in Triple-A Indianapolis the past two years, put together an all-around excellent month in September 2018 then struggled to a .203/.274/.322 slash line in the Majors last season. He has experience at second and third base, shortstop and all three outfield positions.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster and 25-man roster, if he was on that. Within seven days of the transaction, the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.