This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 18th, Joe Randa, and Pirates Sign 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 34-year-old free agent outfielder Matt Stairs to a one-year contract. He hit .244 with 16 homers and an .827 OPS in 107 games for the 2002 Milwaukee Brewers, and he was two years removed from his fourth straight 20+ home run season (all of them coming with the Oakland A’s). Stairs played 121 games for the 2003 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 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 Kansas City Royals took him in the 11th round after he transferred to the University of Tennessee. He debuted in pro ball in 1991, playing for Eugene of the short-season Northwest League, where he hit .338 in 72 games, with 20 doubles, 11 homers and 59 RBIs. In 1992, Randa split the season between Low-A Appleton of the Midwest League and High-A Baseball City of the Florida State League. He combined to hit .290 with 20 doubles and six homers in 123 games, with better results at the lower level. In 1993, he moved up to Double-A Memphis of the Southern League. That season Randa hit .295 with 31 doubles, 11 homers, 74 runs and 72 RBIs in 131 games. He advanced to Triple-A Omaha of the American Association in 1994, where he batted .275 in 127 games, with 27 doubles and ten homers. He was with the Royals on Opening Day in 1995, though he spent the middle part of the season back in Omaha. Randa hit .171 with one homer in 34 games for Kansas City. In 1996, he spent a majority of the season with the Royals, batting .303 with 24 doubles, six homers and a career high 13 steals.

Randa played 144 Major league games over two seasons 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 58 runs scored, 27 doubles, nine triples, seven homers and 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, hitting .254 with 32 extra-base hits and 50 RBIs in 138 games, before they traded him on December 4, 1998 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 batted .314 with 36 doubles, 16 homers, 84 RBIs and 92 runs scored in 156 games. He had a career high 106 RBIs in 2000, while putting up a .304 average, with 88 runs scored, 29 doubles and 15 homers in 158 games. In 2001, Randa hit .253 in 151 games, with 34 doubles, 13 homers and 83 RBIs.

Randa batted .282 in 151 games for the 2002 Royals, with 36 doubles, 11 homers and 80 RBIs. He played 131 games during the 2003 season, finishing with an .800 OPS, which was his highest mark over his final seven seasons in the majors. He hit .291 with 80 runs scored, 31 doubles, 16 homers and 72 RBIs. In his final season in Kansas City, he hit .287 in 128 games, with 65 runs scored, 31 doubles, eight homers and 56 RBIs. In 2005, Randa signed with the Cincinnati Reds who traded him to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline. He played a total of 150 games that year, hitting .276 with 71 runs scored and 68 RBIs, as well as career highs of 43 doubles and 17 homers.  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 National League 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 with four homers and 28 RBIs in 89 games in 2006, which was 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.

Gino Cimoli, outfielder for the 1960-61 Pirates. 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 got to debut with the National League champs in 1956. In 1949, he spent a majority of the season with Class-B Nashua of the New England League, where he hit .370 in 58 games. He also saw time with Montreal of the Triple-A International League that season, hitting .231 in 15 games. In 1950, Cimoli spent the entire season with Montreal, hitting .275 in 85 games, with a .724 OPS. He moved down a level in 1951 to Fort Worth of the Texas League, where he batted .262 with 38 extra-base hits in 137 games. The 1952 season was mostly spent with St Paul of the American Association (Triple-A), where he hit .319 in 142 games, with 75 runs scored, 39 extra-base hits and 70 RBIs. He was in St Paul for the entire 1953 season and saw a slide in his numbers, batting .262 in 145 games, with 66 runs scored, 31 extra-base hits and 52 RBIs. He saw brief time in St Paul in 1954, but a majority of the season was spent back in Montreal, where he hit .306 in 121 games, with 55 runs scored, 26 extra-base hits and 60 RBIs. He played all of 1955 with Montreal and hit .306 again, this time with 73 runs scored, 39 doubles, eight triples, nine homers and 85 RBIs.

Cimoli spent the entire 1956 season with the Dodgers, though he barely got to swing the bat. He played in 73 games, though he totaled just 38 plate appearances all season. He started four games all season, three times in May and once in June. He played just one World Series game, appearing late as a defensive replacement in left field. Despite barely playing during his first season, he was a full-time player in 1957 and made the All-Star team by batting .293 in 142 games, with 88 runs scored, 22 doubles, ten homers and 57 RBIs. His .753 OPS was the second highest of his career. In 1958, the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and Cimoli hit .246 in 109 games, with 35 runs scored, nine homers and 27 RBIs. On December 4, 1958, he was traded to the St Louis Cardinals for two players. Cimoli had his best year in 1959, hitting .279 with 40 doubles and 72 RBIs in 143 games. He was never much of a stolen base threat in the majors, though he went 7-for-7 in steals that season.

The Pirates traded pitcher Ron Kline on December 21, 1959 to the Cardinals for Cimoli and pitcher Tom Cheney.  In 1960 for the Pirates, Cimoli played all three outfield positions, getting into 101 games. He hit .267 with 36 runs scored, 14 doubles and 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 67 runs scored, 20 doubles, ten homers and 71 RBIs in 152 games, while leading the league with 15 triples. He played 145 games in 1963, hitting .263 with 34 extra-base hits, 56 runs and 48 RBIs.

Cimoli remained in Kansas City until he was released in late May of 1964. He played just four games that season and went 0-for-9 at the plate. He quickly signed with the Baltimore Orioles and hit .138 in 38 games over the rest of the 1964 season. 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 370 runs scored, 44 homers and 321 RBIs in 969 games. He failed to connect on a homer during his time in Pittsburgh, though his six homers versus the Pirates were tied for the most that he hit against any one team.

Johnny Barrett, outfielder for the 1942-1946 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball at 21 years old with Mansfield of the Class-D Ohio State League in 1937, where he hit .378 with 25 doubles, six triples and 13 homers in 84 games. In 1938 he jumped up to Hazelton of the Class-A Eastern League and hit .301 in 135 games, with 23 doubles, 20 triples and five homers. Most of 1939 was spent back in the Eastern League with Scranton, where he batted .273 with 37 extra-base hits in 125 games. From there, Barrett went to the west coast to play with San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League in 1940. That season he hit .267 in 164 games, with 16 doubles, 22 triples and 12 homers.

Barrett played five seasons in the minors before the Pirates bought him from the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League on September 9, 1941. The 25-year-old lefty hitting outfielder batted .313 in 149 games for Hollywood in 1941, with 45 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases. 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 Pirates had an option to return him to Hollywood by the end of April of 1941, or keep him and pay the agreed price. That 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. In his rookie season with the Pirates in 1942, he hit .246 with 56 runs scored and 17 extra-base hits in 111 games, spending most of his time in right field. He played 130 games the next season, although he got just 290 at-bats. He made 65 starts all year, 62 in right field. His average dropped to .231, with 16 extra-base hits, 41 runs scored and 32 RBIs.

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 National League 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 29 doubles, 15 homers, 25 steals, 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 played his final pro game in 1951. He finished his five years with the Pirates with a .251 average in 564 games, with 303 runs scored, 82 doubles, 32 triples, 23 homers, 220 RBIs, 69 stolen bases and more walks (253) than strikeouts (200).

Josh Rodriguez, shortstop for 2011 Pirates. 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 Cleveland Indians three years later out of Rice University. He debuted at 21 years old in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he hit .268 with 19 extra-base hits in 45 games for Mahoning Valley. In 2007, he skipped a level to Kinston of the High-A Carolina League, where he batted .262 with 20 doubles, nine triples, 20 homers, 82 RBIs, 21 steals and 68 walks in 133 games. In 2008, Rodriguez played Double-A ball all season for Akron of the Eastern League. He hit .241 in 137 games, with 75 runs scored, 39 extra-base hits, 12 steals and 77 walks. He was sent to the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he hit just .169 in 23 games. The 2009 season was spent back in Akron, though he played just 33 games all year, missing time due to a hamstring injury. He batted .295 in his limited time, then attended the Arizona Fall League again, where he hit .222 with one homer in 15 games. Rodriguez started the 2010 season back in Akron, but he spent most of the year with Columbus of the Triple-A International League. He had a .317 average and an .881 OPS in 21 games with Akron, then hit .293 with 23 doubles and 12 homers in 86 games with Columbus.

Rodriguez had a brief stint with the Pirates, who picked him up from the Indians in December of 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 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. Including his minor league time back with the Indians in 2011, he hit .258 with a .672 OPS in 81 minor league games that season. He was released by the Pirates at the end of Spring Training in 2012, and he then signed with the New York Mets two days later. Rodriguez is still active in pro ball and has spent the rest of his 15-year pro career in the minors, last playing in Mexico in 2021. He spent the 2012-13 seasons with the Mets, with most of that time in Double-A. He played with the Miami Marlins in Triple-A in 2014, then he returned to the Mets system for a second stint in 2015. He eventually joined the A’s as a minor league free agent signing in 2016, 13 years after they drafted him out of high school. That was followed by a third stint with the Mets in 2017. Since then he has only played in Mexico. Including the majors, minors and foreign ball, Rodriguez has played a total of 1,541 games. He has a .266 average during that time, with 809 runs scored, 278 doubles, 162 homers and 764 RBIs.

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