Andujar, 27, came to the Pirates late in the 2022 season after being designated for assignment by the Yankees and turned in a .250/.279/.389 batting line in 40 plate appearances down the stretch. It wasn’t a particularly robust showing from the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year runner-up, but it was enough for Pittsburgh to tender a contract to the arbitration-eligible Andujar and eventually agree to a $1.525MM salary for the upcoming season.
As the offseason has progressed, however, the Bucs have continued to add players who’ll cut into Andujar’s would-be playing time. First came the acquisition of first baseman Ji-Man Choi in a trade with the Rays — a move that was quickly followed by the signing of Carlos Santana. That pair of pickups pushed Andujar out of the first base/designated hitter mix and, with Ke’Bryan Hayes locked in at third base, left Andujar as either an outfielder or a bench option. Both those roles were further muddied by this week’s reunion with McCutchen, however.
It’s been a long road for Andujar, who hit .297/.328/.527 and blasted 27 home runs when he finished second to Shohei Ohtani in that previously mentioned Rookie of the Year voting. Since that time, he’s undergone shoulder surgery, seen his role with the Yankees filled by free-agent and trade acquisitions, and bounced to the Pirates when the Yankees finally ran out of chances for him.
Andujar has managed only a .230/.257/.324 batting line in 416 big league plate appearances since that brilliant debut campaign, due in part to both injuries and infrequent playing time. He’s remained a productive hitter in Triple-A, however, evidenced by a career .303/.351/.507 batting line at that level — including a .285/.330/.487 output this past season in Scranton. He’s also become a more versatile player in an effort to get back to the big leagues, adding first base and left field to his defensive skill set.
That said, Andujar will soon turn 28, is out of minor league options, and now comes with that $1.525MM salary for any team that wishes to claim him. All of that gives the Pirates a decent chance of passing him through waivers. Andujar has enough service time to reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency if he does indeed clear, but doing so would mean forfeiting that $1.525MM guarantee, which seems unlikely. There’s a good chance the Buccos will be able to retain him in Triple-A Indianapolis and bring him back to the Majors whenever injuries necessitate such a move. For now, however, they’ll have several days to survey the trade market before deciding whether to place him on waivers. We’ll know a resolution to his DFA status within a week’s time.