This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: December 18th, Joe Randa, and the 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 49 runs, 20 doubles, 20 homers and 57 RBIs. His .950 OPS was .001 behind Brian Giles for the team lead. Stairs started 42 games in right field, 27 at first base, eight in left field and two at the DH spot, while playing 42 games off of the bench. He became a free agent at the end of the season and signed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Royals. 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. He finished with a .262 average, 265 homers and 899 RBIs in 1,895 games.

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, but he decided to return to school. 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 53 runs, 20 doubles, 11 homers, 59 RBIs and a .984 OPS. Randa split the 1992 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 77 runs, 20 doubles, six homers, 55 RBIs and a .734 OPS in 123 games, with better results at the lower level. He moved up to Double-A Memphis of the Southern League in 1993. Randa hit .295 that year, with 74 runs, 31 doubles, 11 homers, 72 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 131 games. He advanced to Triple-A Omaha of the American Association in 1994, where he batted .275 in 127 games, with 65 runs, 27 doubles, ten homers, 51 RBIs and a .736 OPS. He was with the Royals on Opening Day in 1995, though he spent the middle part of the season back in Omaha, where he had a .779 OPS in 64 games. Randa hit .171/.237/.243 with one homer and five RBIs in 34 games for Kansas City. He spent a majority of the 1996 season with the Royals, batting .303 with 36 runs, 24 doubles, six homers, 47 RBIs, a .784 OPS 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, 60 RBIs and an .817 OPS in 126 games, helping keep them in the pennant race until the final four games of the season. The Pirates lost him in the expansion draft to the Arizona Diamondbacks in November of 1997. His stay with Arizona was extremely short, as he was traded to the Detroit Tigers that same day. He would last just one year in Detroit, hitting .254 with 56 runs, 32 extra-base hits, 50 RBIs and a .690 OPS in 138 games. The Tigers 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 92 runs, 36 doubles, 16 homers, 84 RBIs and an .836 OPS in 156 games during the 1999 season. He had a career high 106 RBIs in 2000, while putting up a .304 average, with 88 runs scored, 29 doubles, 15 homers and a .781 OPS in 158 games. Randa hit .253 in 151 games during the 2001 season, finishing with 59 runs, 34 doubles, 13 homers, 83 RBIs and a .693 OPS.

Randa batted .282 in 151 games for the 2002 Royals, collecting 63 runs, 36 doubles, 11 homers and 80 RBIs, while finishing with a .768 OPS. He had an .800 OPS in 2003, which was his highest mark over his final seven seasons in the majors. He hit .291 that year, with 80 runs scored, 31 doubles, 16 homers and 72 RBIs in 131 games. In his final season in Kansas City, he hit .287 in 128 games, with 65 runs scored, 31 doubles, eight homers, 56 RBIs and a .751 OPS. Randa signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005, then was dealt to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline that July. He played a total of 150 games that year, hitting .276 with 71 runs scored, 68 RBIs and a .787 OPS, as well as career highs of 43 doubles and 17 homers.  He returned to the Pirates as a free agent 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 23 runs, 13 doubles, 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 697 runs, 1,543 hits, 327 doubles, 123 homers and 739 RBIs. He put up a career total of 21.4 WAR, with some solid defensive seasons helping push that total. He led American League third basemen in putouts during the 1999-2001 seasons.

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. He spent a majority of the 1949 season with Class-B Nashua of the New England League, where he hit .370 with 40 runs, 12 extra-base hits, 44 RBIs, 17 steals and an .893 OPS in 58 games. He also saw time with Montreal of the Triple-A International League that season, hitting .231/.250/.231 in 15 games. Cimoli spent the entire 1950 season with Montreal, hitting .275 in 85 games, with 36 runs, 14 extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and a .724 OPS. He moved down a level in 1951 to Fort Worth of the Double-A Texas League, where he batted .262 with 38 extra-base hits in 137 games. He also played two games that year and six more games in 1952 with Montreal. The 1952 season was mostly spent with St Paul of the Triple-A American Association, where he hit .319 in 142 games, with 75 runs scored, 39 extra-base hits, 70 RBIs and an .810 OPS. 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, 52 RBIs and a devilishly mediocre .666 OPS. He saw brief time in St Paul in 1954 (nine games), 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, 60 RBIs and a .762 OPS. 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. His OPS jumped 65 points to an .827 mark.

Cimoli spent the entire 1956 season with the Dodgers, though he barely got to swing the bat. He played in 73 games, and he totaled just 38 plate appearances all season. He finished with a .111/.135/.139 slash line. He started four games all year, three in May and one 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, when he 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. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, and Cimoli hit .246 in 109 games, with 35 runs scored, nine homers, 27 RBIs and an .658 OPS. 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 61 runs, 40 doubles, seven triples, eight homers, 72 RBIs and a .757 OPS 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.  Cimoli played all three outfield positions for the 1960 Pirates, getting into a total of 101 games. He hit .267 that season, with 36 runs scored, 14 doubles, 28 RBIs and a .675 OPS. He played all seven games in the World Series, hitting .250 with four runs scored, helping the Pirates to their third title. Cimoli was getting limited playing time in 1961, hitting .299/.319/.373 in 69 plate appearances over 21 games, before the Pirates traded him to the Milwaukee Braves in mid-June for shortstop Johnny Logan. Cimoli’s stay with the Braves lasted just 37 games. He hit .197/.266/.316 during that time. He was taken in the 1961 Rule 5 draft by the Kansas City Athletics. He batted .275 in 1962, with 67 runs, 20 doubles, ten homers, 71 RBIs and a .743 OPS in 152 games, while leading the league with 15 triples. He played 145 games in 1963, hitting .263 with 56 runs, 34 extra-base hits, 48 RBIs and a .675 OPS.

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/.164/.259 in 38 games through mid-July of that 1964 season. He ended up playing 45 games that year for Rochester of the International League, where he had a .315 average and an .823 OPS. He finished his big league career with four games for the 1965 California Angels, going 0-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI. His pro career ended that same season, with 33 games for Spokane of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League after his final big league contest. Cimoli spent ten seasons in the majors, hitting .265 with 370 runs scored, 133 doubles, 38 triples, 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. He jumped up three levels to Hazelton of the Class-A Eastern League in 1938, and hit .301 in 135 games, with 111 runs, 23 doubles, 20 triples, five homers, 58 RBIs, 28 steals and an .828 OPS. Most of 1939 was spent back in the Eastern League with Scranton, where he batted .273 with 37 extra-base hits in 125 games. He also hit .167 in nine games with Louisville of the Double-A American Association, which was the highest level of the minors at the time. Barrett went to the west coast to play with San Francisco of the Double-A Pacific Coast League in 1940. That season he hit .267 in 164 games, with 75 runs, 16 doubles, 22 triples, 12 homers, 66 RBIs, 24 steals and an .829 OPS.

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 75 runs, 45 extra-base hits, 66 RBIs and 24 stolen bases. They still had three weeks left before the MLB season ended at the time of his purchase, but it was announced right away that he would join the Pirates during Spring Training of 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, 17 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs and a .664 OPS 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 that year, as he finished with 41 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 32 RBIs and a .619 OPS.

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. Besides the drop in hitting, he was also considered to be below average defensively. He batted .269 with a .782 OPS over 149 games in 1944, and he led the National League in both triples (19) and stolen bases (28). He also had 99 runs, 24 doubles, seven homers, 83 runs and 86 walks. 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 97 runs, 29 doubles, 15 homers, 67 RBIs, 25 steals, and a .775 OPS. Barrett struggled with the level of play returning back to normal standards in 1946. He hit just .169/.253/.211 in 32 games, before 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).

After the deal to Boston, Barrett hit .233/.400/.302 in 24 games with the 1946 Braves. He returned to the Pacific Coast League (then a Triple-A level) for the 1947 season. That year he hit .277 in 158 games with San Diego, collecting 78 runs, 33 doubles, seven triples, nine homers, 70 RBIs, 25 steals and 90 walks, for an .802 OPS. He remained in San Diego for 1948 and had a huge season, hitting .339 in 154 games, with 105 runs, 33 doubles, 12 triples, 14 homers, 90 RBIs, 18 steals, 98 walks and a .979 OPS. Barrett played 37 games in the Pacific Coast League in 1949, split between San Diego and Portland, while also getting into 48 games with Louisville of the Triple-A American Association. He combined to hit .249 with 31 runs, ten extra-base hits and 34 RBIs. He didn’t play in 1950, then returned in 1951 to finish his career with 18 games split between Buffalo and Ottawa of the Triple-A International League.

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 26 runs, 19 extra-base hits, 24 RBIs and an .802 OPS in 45 games for Mahoning Valley. He skipped a level to Kinston of the High-A Carolina League in 2007, where he batted .262 with 84 runs, 20 doubles, nine triples, 20 homers, 82 RBIs, 21 steals, 68 walks and an .811 OPS in 133 games. Rodriguez played Double-A ball all season for Akron of the Eastern League in 2008. He hit .241 in 137 games, with 75 runs scored, 39 extra-base hits, 49 RBIs, 12 steals, 77 walks and a .694 OPS. He was sent to the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he hit just .169/.286/.247 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/.426/.333 in his limited time, then attended the Arizona Fall League again, where he hit .222/.288/.370 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. He combined for 60 runs, 30 doubles, 13 homers, 57 RBIs and an .862 OPS.

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 Altoona of the Eastern League, with a very brief stint in Triple-A with Indianapolis of the International League. 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 16-year pro career in the minors, still playing in Mexico in 2022. He spent the 2012-13 seasons with the Mets, with most of that time in Double-A. He split 2012 between Buffalo of the International League and Binghamton of the Eastern League, combining to hit .276 in 122 games, with 60 runs, 28 doubles, 13 homers, 61 RBIs and a .784 OPS. All of 2013 was spent with Binghamton. He batted .272 in 127 games, with 77 runs, 30 doubles, six homers, 52 RBIs and a .761 OPS.

Rodriguez played with the Miami Marlins in Triple-A in 2014, hitting .259 in 122 games, with 60 runs, 21 doubles, 11 homers, 44 RBIs and a .733 OPS for New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League. He returned to the Mets system for a second stint in 2015, playing 115 games for Binghamton and five games for Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. He combined to hit .282 that season, with 72 runs, 26 doubles, 19 homers, 81 RBIs and an .857 OPS. 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. Rodriguez hit .263 in 88 games that year, with 33 runs, 25 extra-base hits and 53 RBIs. He split that season between Nashville of the Pacific Coast League and Midland of the Double-A Texas League. That was followed by a third stint with the Mets in 2017, though this time he spent the entire year in Triple-A. He batted .242 in 106 games for Las Vegas, with 40 runs, 27 extra-base hits and 44 RBIs. Since then he has only played in Mexico. He had a .758 OPS in 84 games during the 2018 season. He batted .312 with 30 doubles, 22 homers and a .911 OPS in 117 games in 2019, then played winter ball in Mexico that off-season. He sat out the 2020 season, returning in 2021 to hit .230 with a .712 OPS in 53 games in 2021. In 2022, Rodriguez batted .224 with a .657 OPS in 77 games. Including the majors, minors and foreign ball, Rodriguez has played a total of 1,618 games. He has a .264 average during that time, with 842 runs scored, 289 doubles, 169 homers and 799 RBIs.

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