The Pirates announced Thursday morning that they’ve signed catcher Tony Wolters to a minor league contract. The longtime Rockies backstop and VC Sports Group client will be in camp as a non-roster invitee this spring. His deal comes with a $1.4MM salary if he makes the Pirates, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic tweets.
Wolters, 28, has been the primary catcher in Colorado for the past five seasons due entirely to his glovework. He’s a career .238/.323/.319 hitter in 1232 plate appearances — a line that checks in at 43 percent below league-average (57 wRC+) when weighting for his hitter-friendly home park. Wolters does have a career 9.9 percent walk rate, although that’s at least partially a function of the fact that 75 percent of his plate appearances have come when batting eighth ahead of the pitcher.
Defensively, Wolters’ track record is quite strong. His career 31 percent caught-stealing rate is above the league average, and he regularly grades out as an above-average to excellent pitch framer. His defensive grades all took a collective step back in 2020, but it’d be a bit rash to judge him harshly on 283 innings in a pandemic-shortened season when his previous 2400 innings behind the dish all suggest him to be capable of top-notch glovework.
Notably, the Rockies thought enough of Wolters’ glove and athleticism to also give him brief looks at second base, shortstop, third base and in left field. If the Pirates also believe that Wolters, who was drafted by the Indians as a shortstop back in 2010, can move around the diamond in that capacity, then he could potentially emerge as a versatile super-utility piece off the bench. Jacob Stallings, a strong defender in his own right, seems likely to get the bulk of the work behind the dish to begin the 2021 season, however.