Bucs tender Newman, then deal to Reds for Moreta

November 19th, 2022

The Pirates’ biggest question coming into the non-tender deadline regarded the status of Kevin Newman. Would they tender him, or would they non-tender him and lean into the youth movement? The answer: a tender and a trade.

Pittsburgh tendered Newman a contract for the 2023 season, then subsequently traded the infielder to the Reds in exchange for right-hander Dauri Moreta, the team announced Friday.

"I think we got to a point where we’ve got a young shortstop in [Oneil] Cruz who we want to give opportunity to, and we feel like we have some other players also on the 40-man and off the 40-man who can play that position," said general manager Ben Cherington on Saturday. "We have some depth at that position. As we looked at our needs this offseason and how to strengthen the team for 2023 and beyond, we felt it was possible that we were at a time when considering a trade with Kevin might make sense — and potentially for him as well."

Additionally, Pittsburgh announced that it has agreed to a 2023 contract with outfielder Miguel Andújar, which is worth $1.525 million, a source told Feinsand. The club announced it tendered contracts to infielder Ji-Man Choi and right-handers JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Robert Stephenson and Duane Underwood Jr.

While none of the Pirates’ arbitration-eligible players were non-tendered, Pittsburgh elected to effectively non-tender left-hander Manny Bañuelos and catcher Tyler Heineman, both of whom were designated for assignment on Tuesday.

Cherington said that the Pirates planned on tendering Newman ahead of Friday's non-tender deadline regardless of the team's situation at shortstop, adding that the team was open to Newman being on the team in 2023. 

Moreta, 26, posted a 5.40 ERA and a 5.80 FIP across 38 1/3 innings with the Reds in his first full season. Moreta had a solid strikeout rate (9.16 K/9) and walk rate (3.05 BB/9), but he was bit by the long ball, allowing 10 home runs (2.35 HR/9).

"He's been successful in the Minor Leagues. He's had some success in the Major Leagues. [He's] another in a group of pitchers we have who we believe, we hope are on that verge of taking that one more step to becoming more regular established Major League pitchers," Cherington said.

Moreta experienced his struggles as a rookie, but he features an enticing arsenal. He finished last season in the 84th percentile of fastball velocity and had a 26.0% whiff percentage on his four-seamer. Moreta’s slider generated a 48.9% whiff percentage as well. General manager Ben Cherington and manager Derek Shelton both discussed the need to add more swing-and-miss threats to the bullpen, and the acquisition of Moreta could be a step in that direction.

“We’d like to mix in a little bit more [whiffs] if we can,” Cherington said in October. “Some of that’s just personnel. We think that may naturally improve as the personnel changes and we [have] pitchers coming into the roster.”

Coming into Friday, Newman, who is entering his second year of arbitration, stood out as a non-tender candidate. He bounced back at the plate in 2022 (.688 OPS) after posting the lowest OPS among qualified hitters in '21 (.574), but he lost his starting spot by season’s end to Oneil Cruz and Rodolfo Castro at shortstop and second base, respectively.

Along with Cruz and Castro, Pittsburgh boasts a plethora of middle infielders on its 40-man roster. Diego Castillo and Ji Hwan Bae can play both shortstop and second base, and they will be candidates for the 2023 Opening Day roster. Ke’Bryan Hayes is a full-time third baseman, but he has had cameos at shortstop. Hoy Park, Liover Peguero and Jared Triolo may not make the Opening Day roster, but all three have experience at shortstop. With an abundance of middle-infield depth and Newman due for a raise -- he made $1.95 million last year -- the decision to trade him allows the Pirates to focus on other areas of need.

“I’ve said it before: I love it here. I love playing here. I love my teammates, the staff, everybody,” Newman said in October. “Obviously want to be back here and want to be helping this team win. We’ve been through the lows, so I definitely look forward to being part of the highs.”