Earlier today, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington informed Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that several veterans on minor league deals have opt-outs in their contracts. Infielder/outfielder Chris Owings and right-hander Tyler Chatwood can each opt out today if they are not going to make the Opening Day roster, while catcher Tyler Heineman has an upward mobility clause that will let him depart on Monday if another team is willing to give him a spot. Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic now reports that Owings has been informed he won’t make the club. Instead of triggering the opt-out, he will head to minor league camp on Sunday and begin the season in Triple-A. The fates of the other two players aren’t publicly known at this time.
Owings, 31, spent the first few seasons of his career with the Diamondbacks but has become a journeyman in recent years, suiting up for the Royals, Red Sox, Rockies and Orioles over the past few campaigns. His past two seasons form a textbook illustration of the perils of small sample sizes, in both directions. With the Rockies in 2021, he hit .326/.420/.628 while limited by a thumb injury to just 21 games. With the Orioles last year, he hit .107/.254/.143 in 27 games before getting designated for assignment. Overall, his career batting line is .239/.287/.366, wRC+ of 66.
Despite that tepid offense, Owings can provide defensive versatility. In his career, he’s played everywhere on the diamond except first base and catcher. The Pirates will likely have Bryan Reynolds, Jack Suwinski and Andrew McCutchen in the outfield most days, with Ke’Bryan Hayes at third and Oneil Cruz at shortstop. Second base is a bit less clear, with options on the roster including Rodolfo Castro, Ji Hwan Bae, Mark Mathias and Liover Peguero. Owings could have been considered for a bench role, but the club evidently feels they have sufficient coverage from those many infielders, as well as outfielders already on the roster like Connor Joe, Canaan Smith-Njigba and others. Owings could have returned to the open market but seems content to head to Indianapolis to try to work his way into a roster spot later on.
Chatwood, 33, is a veteran starter that has transitioned into a relief role in recent years. He made 32 appearances in 2021 between the Blue Jays and Giants, but with an unsightly 5.63 ERA and 14.5% walk rate. Control has long been an issue for Chatwood but he’s always tantalized with big strikeout totals as well. Last year, he joined the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball but shoulder surgery wiped out his season after just six appearances. This spring, he’s made five appearances, allowing nine earned runs while walking six and striking out four.
Heineman, 32 in June, was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays in May of last year. He hit .211/.277/.254 for the Bucs and was non-tendered at season’s end, but rejoined the club on a minor league deal. He’s hitting .095 here in spring thus far but seems to be in the running for a backup catcher job behind Austin Hedges. The only other backstop currently on the roster is prospect Endy Rodríguez, who has already been optioned to minor league camp. Kevin Plawecki was recently informed he won’t be making the team and he will be triggering his opt out. That seems to leave Heineman and Jason Delay as the frontrunners for the backup job, though the club will have to make a decision on Heineman soon.
Still don’t know why we took a flyer on Owings.
Because you lost like a dozen guys in rule 5 draft and he was willing and still willing to be with you on a minor league contract. Until someone better comes along enjoy.
Must stink to be told you’re not good enough to make the Pirates.
It can’t be a good feeling. But lots of ex pirates get picked up all the time so there is still hope.
Well, Mikey, its like the multitude of times you were told similar things from McDonalds….stings eh?
What would a guy who calls himself “Clepto” know about having a job? Please…..
Well, little one, based on the constant slew of typed stupidity from your keyboard…I really need not have ty say more.
Yeah, I’m still trying to figure out the humor in being cut by an MLB team. Look, I’m the first to criticize a multitude of Pirates moves but laughing because a guy tried to make the roster at the highest level of a sport?
yeah, as if that $200 million dollar payroll has guaranteed WS trophies for the Yankees
Heineman will either get the job or oh well. If you can’t beat Delay it isn’t looking promising for you. Chatwood has a good opportunity to get called up. If no one else wants him he should stay.
I don’t think Owings is one of the best 26 guys on the roster so I’m not by any means upset he didn’t make the team but realistically who is the backup SS? Is Bae gonna be the backup to every position up the middle? Could end up being a very ugly defensive team this year unless opponents only hit grounders to third base.
When was it ever about “the best 26 on the roster?”
Look at the scrap they have
They’ve sent guys like Swaggerty and Gonzalez down despite having solid training camps
They reassigned pitchers like Ortiz and saw that their younger arms displayed a great deal of promise
For every Smith-Njigba or Bae, you have a Mathias or Joe
For every Oviedo, you have a Hill or Velasquez
And the same old questions which have produced the same answers:
-Can Castro hold an average above his weight?
-Is Suwinski still a home run or strikeout scenario?
-Has Cruz refined his defensive play and his plate discipline?
-Just who is the answer at 2nd base?
-Were cast offs like Choi and Santana needed?
-And beyond Keller, is there any semblance of a starting pitcher staff?
Brubaker has looked good. Contreras, too
Can the others show some consistency?
It’s funny that most of the negatives above had answers/alternatives that were sent down
Can’t see them doing better than 70-75 wins
Beats losing over 100
@Corn: 70-75 wins would be amazing, putting them a year away contention.
Though it hasn’t been covered, Swaggerty should have been chosen over Suwinsky who had twice as many strikeouts as he had hits last year.
He’s led the team in strikeouts again this spring while Swaggerty tied for the team lead in RBIs
TheMan3…I agree. I like Suwinsky. But, I don’t understand why they don’t give Swaggerty a chance. He supposedly is a great defensive center fielder and was one of their best hitters this spring.
They brought him up last year and gave him like 6 at bats.
Swaggerty had three weeks of good ST performance, but has had three years of so so minor league performance. If he found something in ST then let’s hope he continues to show it at AAA. If he proves he is for real then he will make it up. He has yet to prove he is a worthy major league candidate.
Agreed Norm. If he stays hot in Indy and Suwinski struggles he’ll be back soon.
I’m hoping they keep Maggi. He’s played every position in the minors except catcher and pitcher.. He has had a good spring batting Plus he has hung around baseball all these years without a call up. Reminds me of Erik Kratz. Keep Maggi even if it is for a cup of coffee.
How does an upward mobility clause work? Who initiates any action on this? This is the first time I’ve heard of it. It’s not uncommon for teams to honour the wishes of players like when guys are traded for $1 because there is an opportunity for them, but I’ve never heard of those situations being contractual clauses.
The language and terms of upward mobility clauses are slightly different for every contract that has one but in effect its basically a player opt out clause. Generally speaking they allow a guy to be released from his contract if he is told he won’t make the team but other teams around the league are willing to give him a roster spot.
Now you know how Nutting made $51.5 million last year, by fielding a team of maybes and never weres. But people will keep drinking the Kool Aid.