April 19, 2024

Giants trade Joey Bart, 2018 No. 2 draft pick, to Pirates: What’s next for him?

Two days after designating him for assignment, the San Francisco Giants traded Joey Bart, the second pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for minor-league pitcher Austin Strickland.

Despite a strong spring, Bart was out of options, and as the Giants’ third catcher, found himself the victim of a necessary roster move when the team needed to clear a 40-man roster spot for pitcher Daulton Jefferies, who started against the San Diego Padres on Sunday. Rather than take their chances in claiming him on waivers, the Pirates opted to make a deal for the 27-year-old backstop, adding him to their 40-man roster and designating pitcher Colin Selby for assignment.

It wasn’t Bart’s fault that he bore the heavy burden of being Buster Posey’s heir apparent from the day the Giants made him the second player in the country taken in the 2018 draft. Or that Bart was the highest player the franchise had drafted since they drafted another icon, Will Clark, in 1985.

It wasn’t Bart’s fault that he fractured his hand when struck by a pitch in the minor leagues. Or when it happened a second time. It wasn’t his fault that his major-league debut took place in a hollow stadium with cardboard fans in 2020 when Posey opted out of the pandemic-shortened season and the Giants had to press Bart into service when he wasn’t ready.

And, of course, Bart couldn’t do anything about it when a new baseball operations group took another catcher, Patrick Bailey, in the first round of the 2020 draft.

The Pulse Newsletter

The Pulse Newsletter

Free, daily sports updates direct to your inbox. Sign up

Free, daily sports updates direct to your inbox. Sign up

BuyBuy The Pulse Newsletter

None of Bart’s development was ideal. But he was afforded his chances as a Giant — he played in exactly 162 games over four major-league seasons — and his performance never warranted a lasting place on the roster. He was a .219 hitter with a 75 OPS+ whose 35.4 percent strikeout rate was the fifth highest among all major-league hitters (minimum 100 games) from 2020-24.

It’s been a while since anyone considered Bart to be Posey’s successor. Regardless, the die had been cast on Bart’s place within the Giants organization. It’s hard to imagine many players who have been in greater need of a fresh start.

He’ll get one in Pittsburgh, where Henry Davis, the top player selected in the 2021 draft, is attempting to reestablish his value behind the plate. The Pirates’ other promising young catcher, Endy Rodríguez, is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his right elbow.

If his spring is any indication, Bart could be poised to take advantage of the opportunity. The former Georgia Tech standout trained in the Atlanta area with Braves first baseman Matt Olson over the winter, came into camp in terrific shape and impressed manager Bob Melvin and his mostly new coaching staff with his aptitude and focus. But the Giants have Bailey and Tom Murphy, who signed a two-year, $8.25 million contract in December. Although Bart made the Giants’ season-opening roster, everyone knew it was a matter of time before carrying a third catcher would be a luxury they couldn’t afford. The clock struck on Sunday when they added a 13th pitcher.

“He’s developed, certainly, this spring,” Melvin said Sunday after the Giants had designated Bart for assignment. “His talent level was starting to rise. I know it was a quick ascent for him and it was difficult. You come in and after a legend here, and things don’t go smoothly right away, and now all of a sudden, you’re up and down. That can be hard on your psyche as well. But I think he got past that this year and came into spring training in a good place.

“He worked awfully hard for us this spring. He had a great attitude the whole time knowing that, you know, this could potentially happen. So it’s about moving on. And sometimes when you have to move on from your first team, it’s hard, but I think he’s going to get a better opportunity than we would have been afforded here.”

The Pirates liked Bart enough to jump ahead of teams with waiver priority and strike a deal. They gave up Strickland, an eighth-round pick from last year’s draft out of the University of Kentucky. The right-handed reliever, who hasn’t made his pro debut, pitched a scoreless inning in one exhibition game this spring.

Required reading

(Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)