SF Giants acquire intriguing pitching prospect from Pirates in exchange for Joey Bart

After being designated for assignment, Joey Bart has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres / Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/GettyImages

After being taken with the second overall pick in the 2018 draft, Bart never fulfilled the promise of being Posey’s heir behind the plate.  Four years removed from making his major league debut in 2020, the Joey Bart era is officially with the SF Giants. On Tuesday, Bart was shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for 2023 eighth-round pick Austin Strickland, per the team's transaction log.

SF Giants acquire intriguing pitching prospect from Pirates in exchange for Joey Bart

He made the team this year coming off a strong spring showing where he hit .414 in 29 at-bats, but that was mostly because he was out of options and could not be sent to Sacramento without being exposed to waivers. 

Carrying three catchers on Opening Day meant the Giants could only carry seven relievers, so Bart was designated for assignment on Sunday to make room for former A’s pitcher Daulton Jefferies. Unfortunately, Jefferies struggled badly in his debut, giving up nine runs (five earned) in just two innings against the Padres before promptly being optioned back to Sacramento.

Pittsburgh does not have much to lose in taking a flyer on the former top prospect.  As recently as 2021 Bart was the #2 catching prospect in the game behind only Adley Rutschman, where critics lauded his power bat that had the potential to set him apart from other catchers in the game. 

That has not panned out at the big-league level yet, though, thanks mostly to his difficulties making contact.  His career 35.4% strikeout percentage, .219 batting average and 78 wRC+ are all quite a bit below average even for a catcher, but a change of scenery and chance to play could do him some good.

The Pirates already lost switch-hitting catcher Endy Rodriguez for the year to elbow surgery, and veteran Yasmani Grandal only made it into two games of Spring Training before being sidelined from plantar fasciitis.  Bart will presumably stay up with the Pirates as the backup to fellow first-rounder Henry Davis.  He’s making his way to Pittsburgh at an opportune time – they’re off to a scorching hot 5-0 start at the time of writing.

The Giants did manage to come away with a lottery ticket through parting with Bart. The Pirates send back minor league righty Austin Strickland (no, not Hunter Strickland).  Strickland was not ranked on MLB.com’s Top 30 Pirates prospect rankings. 

He had some success in the Cape Cod League, which practically seems to be a prerequisite for the Giants to be interested in a young player.  Featuring a mid-to-high 90’s fastball, he put up a 4.05 ERA in 26.2 innings there, striking out 31 against just nine walks.  We might hear more about him in three or four years, but for now, the main headline is that Bart’s time riding BART to Oracle Park has come to an end.