Brad Hawpe’s name has recently been mentioned on this blog; McCutchenistheTruth took a look at an opportunity involving Hawpe that was missed by Neal Huntington during the 2010 season. This story now has a continuation, as the Pirates have added Hawpe on a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.
While Hawpe’s described as a first baseman/corner outfielder, he’s that bad in the outfield (career -18.9 UZR/150) that he should be identified strictly as a first baseman at this point. He’s likely been added as insurance – in the event that Garrett Jones and Clint Robinson pick up injuries during Spring Training, or if the former picks up an injury and the latter offers virtually nothing during Grapefruit League matchups. Even then, Hawpe will probably not be a player to rely upon, regardless of how well he hits during Spring.
Hawpe has struggled at the plate since the 2009 season. Over the past three years he’s been designated for assignment by the Rockies and picked up by the Rays in 2010, slumped in San Diego in 2011 and then offered little power while playing with the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate in 2012 (just nine hits for extra bases in 123 at-bats). He still has the ability to take a walk but then that’s combined with even more strikeouts. Furthermore, like every other option for a job at first base with the Pirates (other than Jerry Sands, maybe), Hawpe is strictly a platoon bat – he has a career wOBA of .374 against right-handers and a .330 wOBA when facing left-handed pitching.
Hawpe’s previous relationship with Clint Hurdle in Colorado has likely helped make the move happen, however his addition is probably nothing more than insurance. It’s nothing to fault the club for doing, although if he does make the cut over players like Clint Robinson, Jerry Sands or even Alex Presley to begin the year on the 25-man roster then my opinion will likely alter.