Who will replace Rodriguez's versatility?

Bucs have internal options to take over super-sub role

November 29th, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' super-sub has moved on to Atlanta.

, Pittsburgh's super-utility man the past two seasons, reportedly agreed last week to a two-year, $11.5 million contract with the Braves. Rodriguez batted .270 with a career-high .859 OPS and 18 homers in 140 games in 2016. It was a career year for the 31-year-old, who hit .228 with a .666 OPS from 2008-15, and that production may have priced out Pittsburgh.

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The Pirates would have liked to re-sign Rodriguez -- either to play the same role or perhaps, as FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported Monday night, to enable a trade of second baseman .

The Bucs will miss Rodriguez's bat, especially if his improvement proves to be sustainable, but it will be more challenging to replicate his remarkable versatility. Rodriguez was average or better at all seven non-battery positions he played.

How can the Bucs replace Rodriguez? From within, using a highly flexible bench.

, INF/OF

Frazier slashed .301/.356/.411 while spending time at second, third, left and right in 66 games this past season. His glove needs some work, but the Pirates expect the 24-year-old will grow into the role.

Rodriguez's natural feel for every position may set an unfair standard for utility players. It's still a work in progress for Frazier, a shortstop who's had to get used to moving around at different positions -- and shifting to different spots at each position.

, INF

It's sink-or-swim time for Hanson, the 24-year-old former top prospect. Hanson is out of Minor League options, so he must prove worthy of a full-time spot on the Pirates' roster. But the switch-hitting speedster doesn't need to pound the ball all over the field to be valuable. General manager Neal Huntington has said Hanson, a former shortstop, was being groomed for a utility role as he spent time at second, third and left field this year.

, 1B/3B/OF

Manager Clint Hurdle said the Bucs will ask Jaso, who made a seamless transition to first base, to work at third and in the outfield. In that way, the lefty-swinging Jaso could serve as a partial replacement for Rodriguez and outfielder .

Jaso could start or step in for late in games at first, like Rodriguez did for Jaso. If he adjusts well, Jaso's newfound flexibility will give Hurdle more in-game maneuverability.

, 1B/3B

Freese will back up at third and factor into the mix at first. The 33-year-old struggled down the stretch but still hit .270 with a .764 OPS last season. Like Jaso, Freese took well to first base, making him another spot-start or late-game option behind Bell. His presence also frees up Kang to occasionally play shortstop.

, 1B/3B

Rogers, 28, didn't have much of a role this year and spent most of it in Triple-A. He can play first and third and serve as a right-handed pinch-hitter, as he did while slashing .296/.367/.441 for Milwaukee in 2015.

Kang, 3B/SS

Kang will start at third base, but he could fill another of Rodriguez's roles: backup shortstop. More than a year removed from serious knee surgery, Kang should see more time at shortstop as he did in 2015, lessening the need for a dedicated backup.

If there's an injury or need for another shortstop, defensive specialist remains on the 40-man roster.