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Pirates’ Decision on Roansy Contreras Cements Disappointing End to Promising Beginning

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Roansy Contreras, Pittsburgh Pirates

As recently as little over a year ago, it looked like Roansy Contreras would anchor the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting rotation for years to come.

The Pirates acquired Contreras from the New York Yankees in 2021 in a five-player swap that saw fellow right-handed starter Jameson Taillon headed the other way.

Once he entered the Pirates’ organization, Contreras saw his prospect status rise. In 13 starts between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, Contreras posted a 2.64 ERA and struck out 82 batters against 13 walks in 58 innings.

His strong body of work that season led to a late-season promotion for his major-league debut in Sep. 2021. He made one start with the Pirates to end the year against the Chicago Cubs and threw three-scoreless innings with four strikeouts.

The following season, Contreras received his first extended look in the big leagues and totaled 21 appearances/18 starts. It was a solid first year for the right-hander, who finished with a 5-5 record and a 3.79 ERA across 95 innings.

Many expected Contreras to take a big step forward in 2023 and emerge as a top-of-the-rotation arm heading into his age-23 season. The jump that was expected instead turned into a faceplant.

Contreras struggled mightily during his time with the Pirates last year. He began the season out of the rotation before being relegated to a bullpen role. As his shortcomings persisted, Contreras was optioned to the minor leagues where he remained for the rest of the season.

During his time with the Pirates last season, Contreras went 3-7 with a 6.59 ERA and only struck out 55 batters in 68.1 innings.

With no minor up-league options left, the Pirates transitioned Contreras to a full-time relief role and put him on the Opening Day roster. The role change didn’t do much good and Contreras had a 4.41 ERA with a 5.04 FIP in 12 appearances to begin the year.

In need of a 40-man roster spot for prospect Paul Skenes, general manager Ben Cherington decided to make room by designating the 24-year-old for assignment.

“Ultimately when we had to make a decision on the pitching staff, despite it being a hard call, we felt like we had to make a decision that kept our best 13 pitchers on the team,” Cherington said on his radio show on 93.7 The Fan. “That’s where we landed.”

It’s a not-so-surprising end to a sudden fall from grace for Contreras. In seemingly no time at all, Contreras went from being a key component to the Pirates’ future to instead being a roster casualty to make room for another.

There were warning signs last season, and even some in 2022, that this could happen. Last year, Contreras’ velocity dipped. The excellent control that he showed throughout his minor-league career began to disappear, especially over the last two seasons when he averaged over four walks per nine innings.

But how did this all happen? It seems to be a mystery, even for those in the Pirates’ organization.

Can’t put our finger on entirely why the overall pitch qualities and stuff that we saw back in 2022 did not carry over consistently the way we hoped for and anticipated,” Cherington said.

It appears as though Contreras’ time in the Pirates’ organization has come to an end unless something unforeseen happens.

Once a player is designated for assignment, the Pirates will have to see if there are any trade suitors or waiver claims. If no other team pursues him, Contreras will remain with the Pirates.

If I was a betting man, I’d say a trade is worked out and Contreras will be in a new uniform in the coming days, putting an end to a perplexing tenure with Pittsburgh.

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