This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 18th, Pirates Welcome Matt Stairs

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus one transaction of note.

The Transaction

On this date in 2002, the Pirates signed free agent outfielder Matt Stairs to a one-year contract. He hit 16 homers in 107 games for the 2002 Milwaukee Brewers, and he was two years removed from his fourth straight 20 home run season. Stairs played 121 games for the Pirates, batting .292 with 20 doubles, 20 homers and 57 RBIs. His .950 OPS was .001 behind Brian Giles for the team lead. Stairs signed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Royals after the season. He played 19 years in the majors and saw time with 12 different clubs. The Pirates were one of seven teams that he played for where his stay lasted just one season. It was also the best stop he had out of that group.

The Players

Joe Randa, third baseman for the 1997 and 2006 Pirates. He started his career with the Kansas City Royals, getting 144 Major league games in before the Pirates traded Jeff King and Jay Bell to Kansas City to acquire him and three pitchers named Jeff (It was a popular name in the trade). Randa had a solid season for the surprising Pirates team in 1997, hitting .302 with 60 RBIs in 126 games, helping keep them in the pennant race until the final four games of the season. Following the season the Pirates lost him in the expansion draft to the Arizona Diamondbacks. That same day he was traded to the Detroit Tigers. He would last just one year in Detroit before they traded him to the New York Mets, who in turn would trade him back to the Royals just six days later. Randa had some success in Kansas City, hitting over .300 his first two years and driving in at least 80 runs for four straight seasons. He had 106 RBIs and a .304 average in 2000.

In 2005, Randa signed with the Cincinnati Reds who traded him to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline. Granted free agency, he returned to the Pirates for the 2006 season. Randa struggled as the regular third baseman until an injured foot put him out from May 2nd through June 12th. It opened the door for Freddy Sanchez to take over the position. Sanchez would go on to win the NL batting crown that year. Randa returned from the disabled list and was mostly used as a bench player the rest of the way. He hit .267 in 89 games in 2006, his last season in the majors. In his 12-year career, Randa hit .284 over 1,522 games, with 1,543 hits, 123 homers, 739 RBIs and 697 runs scored. He was originally drafted out of Indian River Community College in the 30th round of the 1989 draft by the California Angels. Two years later, the Royals took him in the 11th round after he transferred to the University of Tennessee.

Gino Cimoli, outfielder for the 1960-61 Pirates. The Pirates traded pitcher Ron Kline in late 1959 to the St Louis Cardinals for Cimoli and pitcher Tom Cheney. Cimoli had four Major League seasons in at the time and was coming off his best year, hitting .279 with 40 doubles and 72 RBIs in 143 games for the 1959 Cardinals. In 1960 for the Pirates, he played all three outfield positions, getting into 101 games. He hit .267 with 28 RBIs that first year in Pittsburgh. He played all seven games in the World Series, hitting .250 with four runs scored, helping the Pirates to their third title. In 1961 Cimoli was getting limited playing time, hitting .299 in 21 games, before the Pirates traded him to the Milwaukee Braves in mid-June for shortstop Johnny Logan. His stay with the Braves lasted just 37 games. He was taken in the 1961 Rule 5 draft by the Kansas City Athletics. In 1962, he batted .275 with ten homers and 71 RBIs, while leading the league with 15 triples. Cimoli remained in Kansas City until he was released in late May of 1964. He quickly signed with the Baltimore Orioles and hit .138 in 38 games. He finished his big league career with four games for the 1965 California Angels. His pro career ended that same season, with 33 minor league games after his final big league contest. Cimoli spent ten seasons in the majors, hitting .265 with 321 RBIs in 969 games. He was originally signed at 19 years old in 1949 by the Brooklyn Dodgers. It took him seven seasons to make the majors, though he debuted with the NL champs in 1956. That season he played 73 games for the Dodgers and batted just 38 times. He had four starts all season. The next season he played 142 games and made his lone All-Star appearance.

Johnny Barrett, outfielder for the 1942-1946 Pirates. He played five seasons in the minors before the Pirates bought him from the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League on September 9, 1941. Despite there being three weeks left in the MLB season at the time, it was announced that he would join the Pirates during Spring Training the next year. The 25-year-old Barrett hit .313 in 149 games for Hollywood in 1941, with 45 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases. In his rookie season with the Pirates in 1942, he hit .246 with 56 runs scored in 111 games. The Pirates had an option to return him to Hollywood by the end of April, or keep him. The price was said to be “well over $20,000”, plus the Pirates needed to send a player to Hollywood in the deal. Pirates manager Frankie Frisch was said to have made the decision on April 29th to keep him and pay the price. He played 130 games the next season, although he got just 290 at-bats. His average dropped to .231, while he collected just 16 extra-base hits. With the level of play around the majors dropping due to the war, Barrett received even more playing time in 1944, despite the poor showing during the previous year (he was also considered to be below average defensively). He led the NL in 1944 in both triples (19) and stolen bases (28). He also drove in 83 runs, scored 99 runs and walked 86 times. He finished 21st in the NL MVP voting that year, then followed it up with a 20th place finish in 1945 when he hit .256 with 67 RBIs and 97 runs scored. Barrett struggled with the level of play back to normal standards in 1946, hitting just .169 in 32 games. The Pirates traded him mid-season to the Boston Braves for outfielder Chuck Workman. Both Workman and Barrett lasted until the end of the season with their new team before finishing their careers in the minors. Barrett, who started his pro career in the minors in 1937, played his final pro game in 1951.

Josh Rodriguez, shortstop for 2011 Pirates. Rodriguez had a brief stint with the Pirates, who picked him up from the Cleveland Indians in December 2010 during the Rule 5 draft. He made the team out of Spring Training, but after a slow start, he was returned to the Indians on April 29th, eight days after his last appearance. He went 1-for-12 with eight strikeouts during his seven-game stint with the Pirates. His only hit was an infield single weakly hit towards third base during his final game in the majors. Rodriguez was actually reacquired by the Pirates in a player purchase from the Indians on June 21, 2011, though he spent the rest of the season in Double-A, with a very brief stint in Triple-A. He was released by the Pirates at the end of Spring Training in 2012 and he signed two days later with the New York Mets. Rodriguez spent the rest of his 14-year pro career in the minors, last playing in Mexico in 2019. He went from a 39th round draft pick out of high school (did not sign) by the Oakland A’s in 2003, to a second round pick of the Indians three years later out of Rice University. He eventually joined the A’s as a minor league free agent signing in 2016. Including the majors, minors and foreign ball, Rodriguez played a total of 1,488 games and he hit 156 homers.

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