Former Guardians catcher Austin Hedges is moving on, agreeing to a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who seem to have a keen interest in signing former Cleveland catchers these days.
Hedges was a beloved member of the 2022 Guardians, who surpassed all expectations and won the AL Central division on their way to the ALDS. Though Hedges was ultimately a liability offensively for the most part, his skills behind the plate and his ability to lead the pitching staff was far more valued by the organization, and he was instrumental in creating a clubhouse that had tremendous chemistry.
Hedges, like so many other guys on the roster at this point, came over to Cleveland in the Mike Clevinger mega deal in 2020. In his three seasons with the Guardians, Hedges, 30, only hit .169/.228/.274 with 17 home runs, 11 doubles, 61 RBI, and a 41 OPS+ in 662 plate appearances. It would have been great for him to ultimately be the stopgap solution before top catching prospect Bo Naylor was ready, but the team simply had to upgrade offensively at the position going into 2023.
At first glance, though, newly signed catcher Mike Zunino has certainly had his own fair share of offensive struggles at times, but he does provide the potential power this team so desperately needs as well. The Guardians are still trying to feel their way through their issues at catcher, and they're hoping to catching lightning in a bottle with Zunino.