The Pittsburgh Pirates activated catcher Chris Stewart from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and optioned Tony Sanchez to Triple-A Indianapolis. This has some Pirates fans debating the move.
Pittsburgh’s offensive woes continue 18 games into the season. One night they put up 11 runs and the next they leave bases loaded twice in one game. The bench isn’t the strongest attribute, and this is where Sanchez was a plus.
With the big league team, Sanchez delivered the winning hit against the St. Louis Cardinals, a RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning and days beforehand he had a walk off base hit in the bottom of the 16th against the Chicago Cubs.
During his stint with the Bucs, the 25-year-old catcher batted .333 with 4 RBIs. However, his defense was a slight liability. Sanchez’s throwing error last week against the Milwaukee Brewers cost the Pirates two runs in a 4-1 loss.
Stewart is not known for his bat, but he is an excellent defensive catcher. The journeyman is out of options, so sending him to the minors isn’t an option, without the possibility of losing him to waivers.
The argument for Sanchez was his offensive production. A hit or miss offense needs all the help it can get. Sanchez is the better option there. He gives the Pirates depth on the bench, but as a backup catcher his value is limited due to his playing time.
Fans must also keep in mind the baseball season is long. Injuries happen, and if the Pirates let Stewart go, then they could find themselves hurting later on if either Sanchez or Russell Martin were injured.
An article written last week by Aron Minkoff, mentions moving Sanchez to first base to platoon with Gaby Sanchez, but the addition of Ike Davis most likely rules that out.
The Pirates are better off this year from a depth perspective by having Martin and Stewart in the majors and Sanchez in the minors. Sanchez’s defense hurt his case. Stewart frames several extra pitches per game, throws out runners and is less of a liability behind the plate.
While the decision could have gone either way, the Pirates likely made the right choice. Sanchez will be the better catcher in the long haul. Playing every day in Indianapolis will drastically improve his game defensively.
Sanchez is the future and likely will be the starting catcher in 2015. Martin will likely get a deal that Pittsburgh won’t be able to match. If the Pirates let Stewart go this year and lose Martin next year, then that leaves Sanchez as the only catcher.
Pittsburgh had a difficult decision to make, but in the end, they likely made the one that benefits the team in more ways than one.