TODAY: The Pirates have officially added Stephenson to their active roster, with JT Brubaker headed to the paternity list in the corresponding move.
AUGUST 27: The Pirates have claimed right-hander Robert Stephenson off waivers from the Rockies. Infielder Kevin Padlo was designated for assignment in the corresponding 40-man roster move, and the Pirates will make another move on their active roster when Stephenson joins the team.
Stephenson was DFA’ed by Colorado earlier this week, and didn’t last long on the waiver wire before the Pirates snatched him up. It isn’t surprising to see the Bucs take a chance on a live arm who has some of the highest velocity of any pitcher in baseball, and Stephenson was also a former top prospect for the division-rival Reds during his minor league career.
That early promise led to some good results as a reliever in 2019 and 2021, but this season has been a struggle for the right-hander. Stephenson has a 6.04 ERA over 44 2/3 innings, due to a below-average 18.8% strikeout rate and a lot of hard contact allowed. As fast (97mph) as Stephenson’s average four-seamer may be, batters have hit .379 against the pitch.
If Pittsburgh’s coaching staff can get Stephenson back to his 2021 form, he’ll be a nice bullpen addition for the Pirates both for the remainder of this season and in 2023, as Stephenson still has a third and final season of arbitration eligibility remaining. The righty is out of minor league options, so the Pirates would have a DFA decision to make of their own if they wanted to move Stephenson to the minors and off their 40-man roster.
Padlo is no stranger to the DFA carousel, as he has now been designated for assignment for the fifth time in a little over a year. The Mariners claimed Padlo off waivers from the Rays in August 2021, starting a cycle that has been Padlo go from Seattle to the Giants, back to the Mariners, and then to Pittsburgh earlier this month when the Bucs claimed Padlo away from the M’s.
All of the movement has resulted in only 34 Major League plate appearances for Padlo this season (split over the Pirates, Mariners, and Giants), but he has performed well over 278 Triple-A PA. The infielder has hit .270/.345/.484 with 12 homers and 13 doubles at the highest minor league level, continuing what has been a solid set of career Triple-A numbers.
Between that production and Padlo’s versatility as a third baseman who can be moved around the infield and into left field, it isn’t hard to see why teams keep having interest in Padlo, even if that interest has yet to manifest itself into a regular MLB job. As such, it seems quite possible that another club might claim Padlo away from the Pirates.