The Pirates announced a series of roster moves Monday, reinstating utilityman Josh VanMeter from the injured list, recalling righty Miguel Yajure from Triple-A Indianapolis, optioning outfielder Cal Mitchell to Triple-A and designating lefty Anthony Banda for assignment. Pittsburgh also released righty Heath Hembree after he cleared waivers, per Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link) and assigned righty Jerad Eickhoff to Indianapolis after he cleared outright waivers.
Banda has been in Pittsburgh for a bit shy of a year, having been claimed off waivers from the Mets last August. He made 25 appearances down the stretch, tossing 26 1/3 frames of 3.42 ERA ball. That came with middle-of-the-road strikeout and walk numbers, but Banda was successful enough to hold his roster spot over the winter. He broke camp this season and went on to make 23 more appearances, but the 28-year-old didn’t have nearly as much success keeping runs off the board.
Through 19 2/3 innings, Banda owns a 6.41 ERA. He’s posted slightly below-average marks in both strikeout rate (22.4%) and swinging strike percentage (9.4%), although that’s come with career-best control. Banda has walked only around 5% of opponents, and he’s averaging a personal-high 95.3 MPH on his fastball. Opposing hitters have an unsustainably high .463 batting average on balls in play against him in spite of a general lack of hard contact.
Those better underlying traits could entice another club to roll the dice on Banda over the coming days. The Bucs will have a week to trade him or try to run him through waivers. He’s out of minor league option years, so any team that acquires him would have to keep him on the active roster or DFA him themselves.
Hembree heads to free agency after being designated for assignment himself last week (ironically to accommodate Eickhoff’s selection to the 40-man roster). That’s little surprise, as the veteran reliever is playing this season on a $2.125MM salary and is amidst a down year. He posted a 7.16 ERA with more walks than strikeouts in 20 appearances for the Bucs, but he’s only a season removed from punching out 34.2% of batters faced. That’ll at least generate some minor league interest now that Hembree’s back on the open market; a signing team would only owe him the prorated portion of the $700K minimum salary for any time he spends in the majors, with the Pirates on the hook for the rest of the money owed.
Eickhoff has the right to join Hembree in free agency, having been outrighted on multiple occasions in his career. He made just one MLB appearance, serving up ten runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Cubs. The veteran righty has otherwise spent the season in Indianapolis, tossing 48 1/3 frames of 4.84 ERA ball.