The Pirates have announced their acquisition of Yu Chang from the Guardians, which was reported yesterday. In order to create space for Chang on the 40-man roster, utility player Cole Tucker has been designated for assignment. A corresponding move on the active roster will be required once Chang reports to the team.
This potentially marks the disappointing end of the Tucker-Pirates relationship that was once so full of hope. Tucker was a first round selection of the Pirates in 2014, 24th overall. As he rose through the ranks of the minors, he was considered by Baseball America to be one of the club’s ten best prospects from 2015 to 2019.
Tucker often impressed with his defense and speed, stealing over 30 bags in the minors in both 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately, his bat never provided enough for him to earn any kind of extended look in the big leagues. This is his fourth season seeing MLB action, yet he’s never played more than the 56 games he got in his 2019 debut.
Tucker exclusively played shortstop that first season, when it was hoped that he could take the position and run with it for years to come. But after a tepid .211/.266/.361 batting line on the year for a wRC+ of just 60, the club tried transitioning him into a super utility type, slotting him in at each infield position as well as center and right field at times. He never really seemed to settle into a good home anywhere on the diamond, and the bat never did anything to justify his roster spot. He’s now played 154 games over the past four seasons with 469 plate appearances, roughly a full season’s worth. His career batting line is .211/.259/.314 for a wRC+ of just 53. He has a 6% walk rate and 27.5% strikeout rate, both of those being a bit worse than league average. Despite his speed, he only has four steals on his ledger.
The Pirates will now have a week to try and trade Tucker or put him on waivers. Despite all those struggles, Tucker is still just 25 years old and is in his final option year. Some rival team could put in a claim and send him to Triple-A for the final few months of the year and see if he can get into any kind of a groove. But he’ll be out of options next year, meaning he’ll need to keep his roster spot or else be designated for assignment again. Should he clear waivers, the Pirates can keep him in the minors without him taking up a spot on the 40-man roster.