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Pirates Outright Canaan Smith-Njigba; Ali Sanchez Elects Free Agency

Pirates Outright Canaan Smith-Njigba; Ali Sanchez Elects Free Agency

8:54AM: Sanchez chose to reject the outright assignment and become a free agent, as per his personal profile page.

8:28AM: The Pirates have outrighted outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba and catcher Ali Sánchez to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to the team’s official transactions feed.  The two players were designated for assignment on Opening Day but have now cleared waivers.

Smith-Njigba has become quite familiar with the DFA wire, as he briefly left the Pirates organization via waiver claim when Pittsburgh initially designated him back in January.  The Mariners claimed Smith-Njigba but then designated him shortly thereafter, allowing the Pirates to claim him back less than three weeks after initially parting ways with the outfielder.  This latest transaction allows the Bucs to move Smith-Njigba off their 40-man roster, but he’ll remain as a depth option at Triple-A.

CSN turns 25 next month, and his big league resume consists of 18 games and 44 plate appearances (with a .493 OPS) with Pittsburgh over the last two seasons.  Apart from his brief sojourn as as Mariner, Smith-Njigba has also been a member of the Yankees organization, beginning his pro career as a fourth-round pick for New York in the 2017 draft.  He came to the Pirates as part of the four-player trade package for Jameson Taillon in January 2021.

Over 686 career plate appearances at the Triple-A level, Smith-Njigba has hit a solid .273/.366/.439 while hitting 16 homers and stealing 29 bases in 37 attempts.  He isn’t particularly fast despite those good base-stealing numbers, and Smith-Njigba has primarily played the two corner outfield positions apart from a handful of appearances in center field.  Smith-Njigba is also a left-handed hitter and the Pirates are currently loaded with right-handed bats, even though the outfield (left-handed hitting Jack Suwinski and switch-hitter Bryan Reynolds) has more balance.

This isn’t the first time Sanchez has been outrighted off a 40-man roster, so the catcher has the right to reject the Pirates’ assignment and re-enter free agency.  There hasn’t yet been any word on whether or not Sanchez will remain in the organization, though he is currently the only catcher in Indianapolis with any big league experience and would be the first call-up if either of Henry Davis or Jason Delay was injured.

Sanchez’s tenure in MLB isn’t exactly vast, as he debuted with five games with the Mets in 2020, two games with the Cardinals in 2021,…

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