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Pirates Trade Roansy Contreras To Angels



1:50pm: The Angels sent cash to the Pirates in the deal, reports Andrew Destin of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

1:18pm: The Angels are acquiring right-hander Roansy Contreras in a trade with the Pirates, reports Alex Stumpf of Pittsburgh designated Contreras for assignment five days ago.

The Halos have an open 40-man roster spot after designating lefty Amir Garrett for assignment last night, and they already cleared a 26-man roster spot earlier today when they announced that utilityman Niko Goodrum and righty Davis Daniel were optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake, with infielder Luis Rengifo coming off the injured list. A second 26-man roster move wasn’t revealed at the time, but it now seems that’ll go to Contreras, who’s out of minor league  and thus cannot be sent to Triple-A himself.

Still just 24 years old, Contreras was the headline prospect going from the Yankees to the Pirates in the 2020-21 offseason trade that sent Jameson Taillon to the Bronx. At the time of the swap, Contreras was widely regarded among the top-100 minor leaguers in the sport, and through the early portion of his career, the reasons for his prospect fanfare were apparent. Contreras debuted as a 21-year-old late in the 2021 season and tossed three shutout innings, then went on to make 18 starts and another three relief appearances for the 2022 Pirates. In all, he pitched 98 innings with a 3.67 ERA, 21.4% strikeout rate and 9.5% walk rate in the majors — all before celebrating his 23rd birthday.

That’s a fine start to any big league career, and as recently as April 2023, Contreras looked like a foundational rotation piece alongside Mitch Keller. The 2023 season went about as poorly for Contreras  as possible, however. He made 11 starts between April and mid-June — struggling so much that the Pirates dropped him to the bullpen. Through Contreras’ first 56 1/3 frames last year, he was torched for a 5.91 ERA with a greatly reduced 17.4% strikeout rate and a bloated 10.1% walk rate. His fastball velocity, which sat just shy of 96 mph from 2021-22, averaged a noticeably lesser 94.4 mph. Statcast painted the picture of a right-hander who opponents had little problem squaring up: 90.3 mph average exit velocity, 9% barrel rate, 42.7% hard-hit rate.

The 2024 season hasn’t brought better results. Despite a full-time move to the ’pen, Contreras’ 94.7 mph average fastball is still more than a mile per hour slower than his 2021-22 velocity out of the rotation. His 21.6% strikeout rate is a slight uptick from last year’s 21.4% mark, but his 10.8% walk rate is a career-high. His Statcast profile looks quite similar to the rough numbers he posted as a starter in 2023: 90.8 mph average exit velocity, 10% barrel rate, 42% hard-hit rate. Opponents hit .292/.370/.477 against Contreras this season. He’s sitting on a respectable enough 4.41 ERA, but his 5.01 FIP doesn’t match even that modest number. (His 4.13 SIERA is a bit more optimistic, forecasting some improvement in terms of homer-to-flyball ratio.)

Since the Pirates couldn’t send Contreras to the minors without first passing him through waivers, the club opted to DFA him. It’s clear they no longer viewed Contreras as a viable candidate to take a rotation spot alongside Keller, Paul Skenes, Jared Jones and veteran Martin Perez. With several pitching prospects having leapfrogged Contreras on the depth chart and no set-in-stone place in the team’s bullpen, the decision was made to designate him and evaluate other options. The cash return on the swap will surely frustrate Pirates fans, but that negligible return also speaks to the manner in which the leaguewide perception of Contreras has changed over the past 13 to 14 months.

The Angels have a full five-man rotation — Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers, Griffin Canning, Tyler Anderson, Jose Soriano — so it seems likely they’ll plug Contreras into the bullpen for the time being. It’s possible he’ll eventually get a look as a starter, with injuries always standing as an inevitability plus some notable workload concerns for Soriano, who’s making the transition from reliever to starting pitcher this season.

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