The Pirates have agreed to a minor league contract with veteran corner infielder Jake Lamb, reports Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The CAA client will head to big league camp this spring and compete for a roster spot.
Now 33 years old, Lamb is a veteran of 10 seasons at the Major League level — most of which came with the Diamondbacks. Earlier in his career, Lamb was a highly touted prospect who enjoyed a few seasons as the D-backs’ everyday third baseman, most notably slugging 59 home runs from 2016-17 combined. However, shoulder injuries have derailed his once-promising trajectory; Lamb underwent surgery to repair his rotator cuff in 2018 and has also dealt with a sprain of the AC joint in his problematic left shoulder.
The operation marked a clear turning point in his career. Prior to the injury and subsequent surgery, Lamb posted a .247/.332/.448 batting line (including a .248/.345/.498 showing in that 2016-17 peak, which included an All-Star nod). In 223 games post-surgery, Lamb is a .199/.306/.363 hitter.
While his recent track record in the big leagues is generally underwhelming, Lamb still hits the ball quite hard when putting it in play (90.6 mph average exit velocity, 44.7% hard-hit rate since 2019). That’s a notable caveat for Lamb, however, given an ugly 28% strikeout rate dating back to 2018. Still, he’s posted outstanding numbers at the Triple-A level both in 2023 (.289/.420/.454) and in 2022 (.290/.395/.537), and the pact in question carries no real risk for the Pirates.
If Lamb has a strong showing in spring training, he could make the club as a left-handed bat off the bench — one with ample experience at both infield corners and a bit of work in the outfield corners as well. If not, he’ll likely open the year in Indianapolis as Triple-A depth, where he could be an option to join the big league roster in the event of an injury to third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes or first baseman Rowdy Tellez.