The Pirates have made a couple of waiver claims today, per Justice delos Santos of MLB.com. They’ve grabbed catcher Zack Collins from the Blue Jays and reliever Junior Fernández from the Cardinals. Both players have been optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The Bucs already opened up one 40-man roster spot earlier today by designating infielder Josh VanMeter for assignment, but have opened another by designating left-hander Cam Vieaux.
Collins, 27, was traded to the Blue Jays in early April, with fellow catcher Reese McGuire going to the White Sox. Part of the appeal of that trade for the Jays was the fact that Collins was still optionable, whereas McGuire wasn’t. As such, Collins has been bounced between the majors and the minors a few times, with Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk getting the bulk of the playing time in the bigs. While in the majors, Collins has added a bit of pop but also his share of strikeouts. He’s hit four home runs in 26 games, slashing .194/.266/.417 for a wRC+ of 93 while going down on strikes in 39.2% of his plate appearances. In 36 Triple-A games, he’s struck out 25.8% of the time but walked at an incredible 20.6% rate, producing a batting line of .195/.361/.398, wRC+ of 107.
For the Pirates, he can be optioned for the remainder of this year but will be out of options next season. The catching job in Pittsburgh is fairly wide open, as Roberto Perez was supposed to be the everyday guy this year until he required season-ending hamstring surgery. There’s apparently mutual interest in a reunion, though he will be a free agent at season’s end. For the time being, rookie Jason Delay and journeyman Tyler Heineman are on the active roster. Collins won’t reach arbitration this winter and can be kept around cheaply as long as he continues to hold his roster spot.
Fernández, 25, joins a new organization for the first time, as he has spent his entire career in the Cardinals’ system until now. He’s logged 50 2/3 innings of MLB action over the past four seasons, producing a 5.51 ERA in that time. Perhaps his best attribute is his ability to get batters to hit the ball into the ground. He has a 49.4% ground ball rate in his time in the majors, including a 60.4% rate this season. For context, the MLB league average is 42.8% this year. Like Collins, he can be optioned for the rest of this season but will be out of options next year. He will also come up short of arbitration this winter and can be kept around for years if the Pirates deem him worthy of a roster spot.
As for Vieaux, 28, this is the second time he has been designated for assignment by the Pirates this season. The first time, he cleared waivers and was outrighted. Since the trade deadline has passed, the Pirates will put him on waivers again in the coming days. If he clears again, he will be eligible to reject an outright assignment and elect free agency, as is the right of any player who has previously been outrighted in their career. He’s only been able to throw 8 2/3 innings in the majors this year, with one especially ugly outing bumping his ERA up to 10.38. In 45 Triple-A innings for the season, he has a 2.80 ERA, 23.7% strikeout rate, 8.3% walk rate and 43.1% ground ball rate.