Heineman will look to crack the Pittsburgh roster for a second straight season. The Bucs nabbed him off waivers from the Blue Jays last May, and he spent the remainder of the 2022 season in Pittsburgh. Heineman set career marks in both MLB games (62) and plate appearances (174) in 2022, with the bulk of that work coming in the Steel City. He and Jason Delay mostly split catching duties for the second half.
The 31-year-old hit .211/.277/.254 through 158 trips to the plate as a Pirate. He now owns a .214/.279/.276 line with one home run in 236 career big league plate appearances. The UCLA product has a far more impressive .283/.350/.413 mark in parts of seven seasons at Triple-A. Heineman has only gone down on strikes in 14.1% of his career trips to the dish at the top minor league level, and he’s carried those excellent bat-to-ball skills over against big league arms. He has just an 11.4% strikeout rate in the majors, but a complete lack of power has resulted in his overall lackluster offensive production.
At the end of the season, the Pirates designated Heineman for assignment. He was not tendered a contract while in DFA limbo, sending him directly to free agency. A month later, he’ll return to the organization and try to play his back onto the MLB roster. A 10-year minor league veteran, he’ll bring a fair bit of familiarity with the pitching staff in Spring Training.
The Pirates are sure to make more impactful moves behind the plate this winter. The Bucs only have one catcher, prospect Endy Rodriguez, on the 40-man roster at the moment. The switch-hitter is sure to open the season in the minors, so GM Ben Cherington and his staff will have to bring in a starting backstop from outside the organization. They could add multiple big league pieces. At the very least, they figure to bring in a new starter and another player or two on non-roster invitations to compete with Heineman and Delay for a backup job next spring.