The Mets and Pirates have swapped a pair of big leaguers. New York announced they’ve landed designated hitter/first baseman Daniel Vogelbach from the Bucs, trading reliever Colin Holderman in a one-for-one deal.
New York has been on the hunt for another addition to the lineup. Team president Sandy Alderson told the New York Post last week they were seeking an upgrade at designated hitter. Vogelbach had emerged recently as a target, although Jon Heyman of the New York Post reports they’re still looking to add offense over the next ten days even with him in the fold.
Vogelbach had a decent showing over his three months in the Steel City. Pittsburgh signed the burly left-handed hitter to a modest $1MM guarantee during Spring Training. That takes the form of an $800K salary, a little less than half of which remains to be paid out, and at least a $200K buyout on a $1.5MM club option for next season. That option price looks more than reasonable given how Vogelbach has performed, and he’d remain arbitration-eligible for the 2024 campaign as well.
The 29-year-old has tallied 278 plate appearances across 75 games, hitting .228/.338/.430 with 12 home runs. It’s not an impressive batting average, but he’s walking at a massive 14.4% clip and hitting for strong power. By measure of wRC+, Vogelbach’s production has been 18 percentage points above league average after accounting for PNC Park’s pitcher-friendly nature.
Those kinds of numbers are par for the course for Vogelbach. This season’s .228 batting average is a career high, but he’s walked in more than 15% of his career trips to the plate and typically posts above-average slugging output. His 30-homer season in 2019 looks like a a bit of an outlier, but Vogelbach is a career .234/.358/.459 hitter against right-handed pitching. He’s done nothing against southpaws (career .137/.258/.230 line), but he’ll add a left-handed platoon option to the mix for manager Buck Showalter.
The Vogelbach pickup is the firmest indication the Mets plan to move on from at least one of Dominic Smith or J.D. Davis. The former, as a left-handed bat, seems the player most displaced by the Vogelbach addition. New York has already discussed Smith with teams like the Red Sox and Cubs, and Andy Martino of SNY wrote this morning they’re looking to deal him before the August 2 trade deadline. Smith landed on the 10-day injured list yesterday, but he can still be traded even if he doesn’t return to the field before then.
As for the Bucs, they’ll add a controllable arm who can step right into the major league bullpen. Holderman, 26, made his debut earlier this season. He’s tossed 17 2/3 innings of 2.04 ERA ball, striking out an above-average 26.9% of batters faced while inducing whiffs on a solid 12.4% of his offerings. Holderman has doled out a few too many free passes, but he’s averaged nearly 96 MPH on his sinker and gotten strong swinging strike numbers on his mid-80s cutter-slider.
Holderman has also performed well in Triple-A, posting a 2.51 ERA through 14 1/3 frames. The former ninth-round pick has fanned upwards of 30% of opponents in the minors this year, also inducing ground-balls at a huge 63.6% clip. He’s shown far better strike-throwing acumen in Triple-A than he has at the big league level to date, making him an interesting upper-level bullpen add for the Bucs.
Holderman is only in his first of three minor league option years, so the Pirates can freely shuttle him between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis for the next couple seasons. He won’t reach arbitration eligibility until after the 2024 campaign at the earliest, and future optional assignments could push that trajectory back even further.
Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported the Pirates were nearing a deal to send Vogelbach to the Mets. Jon Heyman of the New York Post was first to report the deal was agreed upon, and was first to report the Pirates would receive Holderman in exchange.
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