The Rangers are acquiring catcher Austin Hedges from the Pirates, reports Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (Twitter link). They’ll send international bonus space to the Pirates in return, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.
Texas has received excellent production from catcher Jonah Heim this year, but Heim was recently diagnosed with a wrist injury that’ll cost him at least a few weeks. Hedges can team with Mitch Garver to provide the Rangers with an elite defensive option behind the plate, though he’s also one of the lightest-hitting players in the game at present. Surgery hasn’t been ruled out for Heim, and if that ultimately ends up proving necessary, the addition of some depth behind the dish will prove all the more important.
Hedges, 31 next month, signed a one-year, $5MM deal with the Pirates in the offseason. He’s turned in just a .180/.237/.230 slash line — disastrous even by his standards — but has continued to rate as the sport’s premier pitch framer and one of its top four pitch blockers, per Statcast. Defensive Runs Saved pegs him at a hefty +8 this season despite logging just 507 innings behind the plate so far. Hedges’ 14% caught-stealing rate is a career-worst mark for him, but he owns a career 28% mark in that regard. As far as defensive-minded backstops go, he’s arguably the best in the game.
Whether that offsets his utter lack of offense is up for debate, but the Rangers clearly felt him a worthwhile addition. Garver figures to see the bulk of the time behind the plate, but Hedges makes for a quality backup who has a reputation for working well with pitchers and prepping as a game-planner.
The Pirates, with top catching prospects Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez both in the Major Leagues, simply didn’t have at-bats for Hedges anymore. Both young backstops have recently raved about the influence Hedges had on them in their short time together, and his departure will now create further opportunities for that pair to continue their development at the MLB level. There’s a chance Hedges might’ve been simply designated for assignment had the Pirates not found a taker for him, so getting even a nominal return in the form of some additional space in their international free agent pool isn’t too bad an outcome.