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Ben Cherington’s Belief in Edward Olivares Paying Off



Edward Olivares, Pittsburgh Pirates

Though there wasn’t a major splash, the Pittsburgh Pirates made several notable additions during the offseason.

Fan favorite Andrew McCutchen was re-signed to a one-year deal. Seven-time All-Star Aroldis Chapman was brought in on a $10.5M free-agent contract after helping lead the Texas Rangers to the World Series. Chapman’s teammate in Texas, Martín Pérez, was brought in to help stabilize the rotation.

There were others, too.

Among the other additions was one that more or less flew under the radar. On the same day the Pirates signed Rowdy Tellez, they also made a trade.

Perhaps overshadowed by the burly Tellez, the Pirates pulled the trigger on a trade, acquiring outfielder Edward Olivares from the Kansas City Royals for a minor-league infield prospect.

Olivares was coming off his best season in the big leagues with the Royals in 2023. In a career-high 107 games, the 28-year-old hit .263 with a .769 OPS, 12 home runs and 36 RBIs.

It was a solid season for Olivares, though not spectacular by any means.

Not long after the Pirates acquired Olivares, general manager Ben Cherington spoke with members of the media over Zoom to discuss the offseason. I asked him about Olivares, and part of his answer stood out to me at the time.

“He’s obviously not a household name but since he’s gotten some opportunity in the major leagues the last couple years with Kansas City, he’s produced at a pretty solid level offensively,” Cherington said on Dec. 20. “In fact, some of the underlying numbers that we look at suggest that he may have even been a little better in 2023 than the surface-level numbers suggest.

“We think this is a bona fide major-league hitter who has a chance to deepen our lineup.”

Olivares entered his Pirates’ tenure as essentially a league-average producer, yet Cherington was clear that he and the front office felt there was more in store.

Through the very early portion of the season, Olivares is firmly backing his general manager’s claim.

To begin the year, Olivares is batting .321 (9 for 28) with three home runs and seven RBIs. He is at the very top of the leaderboards in several metrics, including xwOBA, xBA, xSLG and barrel percentage.

His hot start to the season was on full display in the Pirates’ loss to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday afternoon.

On the first pitch he saw from Tigers starter Casey Mize, Olivares hammered a solo home run over the left-field fence. In the sixth, he hit another solo shot to left field, this one off of lefty reliever Tyler Holton.

“It is special for sure,” Olivares said on this performance through Pirates coach/interpreter Stephen Morales. “Any time I get a chance to go out there and perform, I’m just gonna try and do my best and today was one of those days.”

From his first game with the Pirates — his first at-bat in fact — Olivares has made his presence felt.

On Opening Day in Miami, Olivares homered in a pinch-hit appearance. It turned out to be a key run as the Pirates held on the defeat the Marlins 6-5.

His impact has translated through the first four series to begin the season. Olivares has had at least one hit in seven of his eight games played and has five hits in his last 12 at-bats.

“Just the work that I put in during spring training to put myself in a better spot,” he said on the key to his fast start. “My timing right now is good and I’m seeing the ball really good. Just proud of how hard I’ve worked.”

Despite playing well, Olivares is not yet a regular in the Pirates’ lineup. He’s started in only seven of the Pirates’ first 12 games to start the season.

The sparse playing time hasn’t yet slowed him down.

“Playing or not playing I always prepare myself,” Olivares said. “Whether it’s gonna happen that day or the next day I’ll be ready all the time.”

If he keeps playing this way, it will get harder and harder for manager Derek Shelton to keep him out of the lineup.

And Olivares will keep making Cherington look like Nostradamus, at least in this regard.

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