This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: January 4th, Pirates Sign Starling Marte, Lance Parrish and Lonnie Smith

Three former Pirates born on this date, plus three transactions of note. Before we get into all of that, current reliever Blake Cederlind turns 27 today. He pitched four innings over five games in 2020, but he has not pitched at any level since then due to Tommy John surgery, and a setback during his rehab this season.

The Transactions

On this date in 2007, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed 18-year-old Starling Marte as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. With his 28.5 WAR, he is the most successful international signing for the Pirates. Marte debuted in the majors in 2012, and remained with the Pirates through the end of the 2019 season. He was an All-Star in 2016, and a two-time Gold Glove winner while with the Pirates. He played 953 games for the Pirates, finishing with a .287 average, 555 runs, 192 doubles, 108 homers, 420 RBIs and 239 stolen bases. The only player in team history ahead of him in both stolen bases and homers with the Pirates is Barry Bonds.

On this date in 1993, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed free agent outfielder Lonnie Smith to a one-year contract. Smith was 37 years old at the time of the deal, a veteran of 15 big league seasons. He hit .247 in 1992, with 23 runs, eight doubles, six homers and 33 RBIs in 84 games for the Atlanta Braves. He stole as many as 68 bases in a season before joining the Pirates, four times topping the 40-steal mark. However, after stealing 25 bases in 1986, Smith topped ten steals just once in the next six seasons. He hit over .300 six times in his career, with the last time coming in 1990, when he batted .305 for the Braves. With the Pirates, Smith played left field and was used often as a pinch-hitter. He hit .286 in 94 games, with 35 runs,  15 extra-base hits (six homers), 24 RBIs, nine steals and 43 walks. He was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in early September for two players to be named later. Both ended up being career minor leaguers. Smith ended up playing nine games for the Orioles in 1993, putting up a .906 OPS in 32 plate appearances. He played 35 games for the Orioles in 1994. His big league career came to a close with the strike that ended the 1994 season early. He hit .288 career in 1,613 games, with 909 runs, 273 doubles, 98 homers, 533 RBIs and 370 steals.

On this date, in 1996, the Pirates signed free agent catcher Lance Parrish to a one-year contract. Just two years prior to this transaction, the Pirates bought his contract from the Detroit Tigers. He hit .270 for the 1994 Pirates, with ten runs, five doubles, three homers, 16 RBIs and a .744 OPS in 40 games . He became a free agent and spent the 1995 season in Toronto, hitting just .202/.265/.320 in 70 games. Parrish, an eight-time All-Star, was 39 years old at the time of his signing in 1996. This stint with the Pirates didn’t go as well as the first one. He ended up getting cut on March 21st after hitting .190 during Spring Training. He took a job in the Kansas City Royals system as a catching instructor, ending his playing career. He was a career .252 hitter with 324 homers and 1,070 RBIs. Parrish won three Gold Glove awards and six Silver Slugger awards. He is 13th all-time in games caught, and only four catchers have hit more homers while behind the plate.

The Players

John Raynor, outfielder for the Pirates during the 2010 season. He was signed as a ninth round draft pick of the Florida Marlins in 2006 out of UNC-Wilmington. The Baltimore Orioles selected him in the 12th round in 2005, but he decided to return to college. He debuted in the short-season New York-Penn League with Jamestown in 2006, where he hit .286 in 54 games, with 36 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 21 RBIs, 21 steals and a .783 OPS. Raynor played for Low-A Greensboro of the South Atlantic League during his first full season in pro ball. He was named as the league’s MVP, after he hit .333 in 116 games, with 110 runs, 57 RBIs, 66 walks, 54 stolen bases (in 62 attempts) and a .948 OPS. He hit 28 doubles, eight triples and 13 homers that year. Raynor moved up to Double-A in 2008, playing that season with Carolina of the Southern League. He batted .312 in 126 games, with 104 runs, 29 doubles, 13 homers, 51 RBIs, 62 walks, 48 stolen bases (in 59 attempts) and an .890 OPS. He had a brief stint in the Arizona Fall League after the 2008 season, where he hit .364/.410/.606, with ten RBIs in eight games. Raynor was in Triple-A in 2009 with New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League. The jump proved to be a tough one for him, as he hit just .257 in the hitter-friendly PCL, with 63 runs, 24 doubles, six homers, 36 RBIs and 19 steals in 123 games. His .688 OPS was 202 points lower than his previous season.

That down year in 2009 led to the Marlins leaving Raynor off of their 40-man roster. The Pirates selected him in the Rule 5 draft on December 10, 2009. He stuck with the team on Opening Day in 2010, despite hitting .229 with three walks and no steals in 23 Spring Training games. Pittsburgh used him in 11 early season games in 2010 off of the bench, with eight of those appearances coming as a pinch-hitter. Raynor went 2-for-10 with two singles and one run scored with the Pirates. He played three games in the field for the Pirates, but he never got a big league start. Pittsburgh decided to return him to the Marlins on May 4th, getting back half of their fee paid for the Rule 5 selection.  He missed most of the rest of the 2010 season with a hamstring injury, playing just 41 minor league games for the Marlins back in New Orleans, as well as two rehab outings in the Gulf Coast League. Raynor hit .284/.349/.373 with New Orleans that season, finishing with 21 runs, six doubles, two homers and 13 RBIs. He went to Spring Training with the Marlins in 2011, but didn’t make the big league team, and asked for his release instead of reporting to minor league camp. He retired from baseball and went back to college at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, where he also coached for their baseball team while finishing school.

Brian O’Connor, pitcher for the 2000 Pirates. He was an 11th round draft pick of the Pirates in 1995 out of high school in Reading, Ohio. His minor league career got off to a great start in 1995, as he posted a 1.88 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 43 innings in the Gulf Coast League as an 18-year-old. It was fleeting success. He would post an ERA over 4.00 each year during the rest of his time with the Pirates. He split the 1996 season between Augusta of the Low-A South Atlantic League, where he was a reliever to start the year, and a level lower in the short-season New York-Penn League, where he became a starter with Erie. O’Connor combined to go 4-11, 4.89, with 97 strikeouts in 103 innings, spread over 19 relief appearances and 15 starts. He had much better results at the higher level, posting a 3.06 ERA as a reliever. He went 2-7, 4.41 in 1997, with 91 strikeouts in 85.2 innings for Augusta. He pitched in relief for Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League that year as well, putting up a 3.46 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 13 innings over 11 appearances. O’Connor went 6-2, 2.60 in 14 starts for Lynchburg in 1998, finishing with 84 strikeouts in 86.2 innings. He had a very rough time with Double-A Carolina of the Southern League that same year, going 2-4, 8.25 in 64.1 innings over 13 starts and a relief appearance. He finished with 53 walks and 41 strikeouts with Carolina. He spent the entire 1999 season in Double-A, as the Pirates affiliate switched to Altoona of the Eastern League that year. O’Connor started 27 games (also pitched in relief once), going 7-11, 4.70 in 153.1 innings, with 92 walks and 106 strikeouts, which was a sharp drop in his strikeout rate from previous seasons.

O’Connor began the 2000 season by repeating Double-A, where he went 3-2, 4.23 in the first six weeks of the season. He was called up to the Pirates on May 13th to make a spot start, after Francisco Cordova went on the disabled list. While the the Pirates ended up winning 11-8, O’Connor was pulled in the 3rd inning after allowing the first three batters of the inning to reach base. He gave up six total runs that game, and was returned to the minors the next day. He ended up splitting the 2000 minor league season between Double-A and Triple-A, doing much better with Altoona than he did in Nashville of the Pacific Coast League. He went 12-4, 3.76 in 129.1 innings over 22 starts for Altoona, while posting a 6.84 ERA in 26.1 innings over five starts with Nashville. The Pirates recalled him in September of 2000, and he made five relief appearances, giving up just one earned run over 10.1 innings. He played in the minors until 2006, but never returned to the majors. O’Connor spent the 2001 season at Nashville, where he switched between starting and relief work, going 6-9, 6.21 in 111.2 innings over 16 starts and 21 relief outings. He spent nearly the entire 2002 season back with Altoona, where he had a 5.06 ERA in 85.1 innings over 14 starts and ten relief outings.

The Pirates let O’Connor go via free agency after the 2002 season. He spent time in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays system (2003), independent ball (2003), then finished up with two years in Double-A/Triple-A for the Atlanta Braves (2005-06). He did not play during the 2004 season due to a shoulder surgery that also cut short his 2003 season. He had a 5.06 ERA in 16 innings over ten appearances for the Rays, seeing time with Orlando of the Southern League and Bakersfield of the High-A California League. His independent time amounted to 16 innings as well. He had a 3.36 ERA in three starts for Berkshire of the Northeast League. He pitched a full season in 2005, mostly spent with Mississippi of the Southern League, where he went 9-7, 3.65 in 133.1 innings over 19 starts and 11 relief appearances. O’Connor also allowed one run over 5.2 innings with Richmond of the Triple-A International League. He pitched for Richmond in 2006, going 8-10, 4.18 in 148.2 innings over 25 starts and three relief outings.

Jay Tibbs, pitcher for the 1990 Pirates. He was a second round draft pick out of high school in Alabama by the New York Mets in 1980. At 18 years old, he debuted with Kingsport of the short-season Appalachian League, where he went 3-7, 4.38 in 76 innings over 12 starts. He split the 1981 season between two Class-A teams, playing for Shelby of the South Atlantic League and Lynchburg of the Carolina League. Tibbs went 6-15, 5.20 in 161 innings that year, with much better results at Shelby, where he had a 3.84 ERA in 89 innings. His 1982 season was interrupted by injury, which limited him to seven starts and one relief appearance. He went 2-4, 5.63 in 38 innings with Lynchburg, then threw 3.1 innings with one unearned run for Jackson of the Double-A Texas League. He went 14-8, 2.92 in 203.2 innings in Lynchburg in 1983, finishing the year with 170 strikeouts, which was easily his career high for a season as a pro. He then got selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the Rule 5 draft in December of 1983. He was returned to the Mets on March 29, 1984 for half of the draft cost. He split the first 2 1/2 months of the 1984 season between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tidewater of the International League. He had a 3.13 ERA in six starts with Jackson, and a 5.23 ERA in 41.1 innings with Tidewater. Tibbs made his MLB debut in 1984, getting called up to the majors exactly one month after he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a four-player deal on June 15th. He had four starts for Wichita of the Triple-A American Association before his big league debut, posting 3.58 ERA in 27.2 innings. In 14 starts that season for the Reds, he went 6-2, 2.86 in 100.1 innings.

Tibbs had an impressive sophomore campaign, going 10-16, 3.92 in 218 innings over 34 starts (and one relief outing) during the 1985 season. That was his career high for innings, as well as wins. He was traded to the Montreal Expos in a six-player deal completed on December 19, 1985. Tibbs went 7-9, 3.97 in 190.1 innings over 31 starts and four relief appearances in 1986. His 117 strikeouts that season were a career high, and the only time he reached the century mark in the majors. He went 4-5, 4.99 in 81.1 innings over 12 starts and seven relief outings during the 1987 season. His poor performance led to a trip to Triple-A Indianapolis of the American Association, where he had a 2.99 ERA in 12 starts. He spent two seasons north of the border, then got dealt to the Baltimore Orioles during Spring Training in 1988.  He went 4-15, 5.39 in 158.2 innings over 24 starts and six relief outings during his first season in Baltimore, then saw limited work in 1989 due to an arm surgery. Tibbs managed to go 5-0, 2.82 in 54.1 innings with the Orioles in 1989, and 3-0, 0.93 in four rehab starts that year, so he finished a rough season with a perfect record.

Tibbs was healthy in 1990, and spent the first three months of the season in Baltimore. The Pirates acquired him June 25, 1990 from the Orioles in exchange for a player to be named later. That turned out to be pitcher Dorn Taylor, who was sent to Baltimore on September 5th. Tibbs was just 2-7, 5.68 in 50.2 innings over ten starts for the Orioles at the time of the deal. He pitched five games for the Pirates over a ten-day stretch, all in relief, giving up two runs in seven innings. He was optioned to the minors on July 12th to make room for Bob Walk, who was coming off of the disabled list. Tibbs pitched two games in Triple-A Buffalo before a sore shoulder ended his season early. He was invited to Spring Training the next season, but did not make the team, so he decided to retire. He had a 49-54, 4.20 record in 862.2 innings over seven Major League seasons, with 133 starts and 25 relief appearances.