10:10am: It’s a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, per Steve Gilbert of MLB.com.
Newman, 30, was a first-round pick by the Pirates in the 2015 draft and made his debut in Pittsburgh back in 2018 after being called up in late August. Newman appeared in 31 games for the club down the stretch but struggled badly in 97 trips to the plate, slashing just .209/.247/.231 during that time. Fortunately, Newman’s second taste of big league action went much better as the infielder posted the best season of his career in 2019. While acting as Pittsburgh’s regular shortstop, Newman slashed a solid .308/.353/.446 (109 wRC+) in 531 trips to the plate while striking out at a clip of just 11.7%.
Newman’s success did not last, however, as his offense cratered during the shortened 2020 season and his struggles at the plate continued into the 2021 season. While the Pirates stuck with Newman as their regular shortstop, he hit just .226/.268/.302 in a combined 726 trips to the plate across those two seasons. That production was good for a wRC+ of 52 that was 48% worse than league average and represents the worst slash line in the majors during that time among all regulars (min. 700 plate appearances). That weak production and a groin injury left Newman supplanted at shortstop by Oneil Cruz early in the 2022 season. Upon returning from injury in July and moving to second base, Newman provided the Pirates with decent production in the second half, slashing .279/.318/.371 (91 wRC+) in 257 trips to the plate from July 8 onward. Still, that improved production didn’t stop the Pirates from dealing Newman to Cincinnati last November in exchange for right-hander Dauri Moreta.
Joining the Reds ahead of the 2023 campaign left Newman to move into a part-time role as the club’s wave of young infielders including Matt McLain, Spencer Steer, and Elly De La Cruz took on regular roles throughout the season. Newman performed decently in his new role as a utility player, spending time at all four infield positions while slashing .253/.311/.364 (78 wRC+) in 253 trips to the plate, though his season was eventually cut short in mid-August by an oblique strain. The Reds then released Newman in late September, at which point he hit the open market.
The addition of Newman offers Arizona a high-contact bat capable of playing anywhere on the infield dirt. While his overall offensive profile leaves something to be desired, Newman’s ability to avoid strikeouts gives him value as a pinch-hitting option off the bench. Just 19 players with at least 200 plate appearances last season posted a strikeout rate lower than Newman’s 13.4% figure, and his career strikeout rate of 12% ranks sixth among active players with at least 1500 plate appearances since the start of 2018 season. That places him in rarefied air alongside the likes of Jeff McNeil, David Fletcher, and Yuli Gurriel.
Newman figures to continue in a utility role with the club. Though the details of his contract with the reigning NL champions are not yet available, Newman appears likely to battle with fellow utilityman Jace Peterson and infielder Emmanuel Rivera for a spot on the club’s bench this spring. Newman is the only member of that trio capable of playing shortstop, a fact that could give him a leg up even in spite of his relatively meager offensive production as he would likely serve as the club’s primary back-up to Gerlado Perdomo in the event that top prospect Jordan Lawler begins the season at Triple-A.