Friday Focus: Why Did the Pirates Retain Ka’ai Tom?

Friday Focus

8-20-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

No matter how many examples we’ve seen this season that DFA doesn’t stand for GFG (Gone for Good) the Pirates still get some shock when they decide to retain one. In fact of all the position players the Pirates have DFA’d, every single one of them has cleared waivers.

Now, one of those players most recently was Ka’ai Tom.

I’m confused.

I was of the belief he was given a good shot. 39 games, 117 plate appearances, .152 batting average.

If Tom was showing something special that simply needed refined, I could get behind it. I guess you could say having a batting average of .152 and somehow racking up an OBP of .308 is impressive, but even so, I can’t see a path for him to return to this roster.

The rest of this year can’t be the reason. You got Ben Gamel, Bryan Reynolds, Your favorite Polanco, Hoy Park, Yoshi Tsutsugo and Wilmer Difo all here right now, all able to play. They’ve even got Anthony Alford ready to come off the IL, who I also think they should wash their hands of but that’s another piece.

It can’t be to fill AAA, they’ve got Tucupita Marcano, Phillip Evans (another DFA return), Jared Oliva, Hunter Owen, Chris Sharpe and Bligh Madris. Not a group that’s going to inspire many to clamor for their call up but for the rest of this season it’s fine.

So, why retain Tom?

Is it for next year? Man I hope not.

Even if you told me everyone I listed for AAA would be cut by the end of the year I’m not sure I could justify Tom staying and you can toss Travis Swaggerty’s return in 2022 into this discussion too.

Next year, maybe not day one but during the 2022 season I expect Canaan Smith-Njigba, Cal Mitchell, Matt Frazier maybe even Jack Suwinski to move up. And I know for damn sure 90% of you expect Oneil Cruz to be playing out in the outfield too.

You can go ahead and assume not all those AAA guys are getting cut. Now add in all the AA guys I just listed. Where does Tom fit?

Look, none of this really matters. If they just want him around as a warm body who’s played in the league a bit, so long as he doesn’t block anyone that matters, fine. It’s not like you’re going to have to protect him in the rule 5 draft.

I guess I’d just like to see a bit more decisiveness. Here’s a guy we tried out, it didn’t go well, let’s move on. Maybe that’s just the fan in me as opposed to the analyst. That tends to happen when the analyst side of me can’t make sense of something.

Maybe I’m just picking on an unpopular guy here. I mean you don’t see me saying anything about retaining John Nogowski.

Well, Nogowski I can make sense of. Mason Martin is the next real 1B prospect and he’s got some things to work on, unless you count Michael Chavis. After Will Craig was cut loose Christian Bethancourt has played most of the reps at first, so I can see why they might want to hang onto a guy who has played in the league, had a bit of success and can more than handle the position.

How about Erik Gonzalez? He cleared and was retained too. Keeping him I can honestly make the case it’s nice to have that MLB glove hanging around. The way he plays defense is nice just to have young guys see and be around.

Ha, know what maybe I am just picking on Tom.

It gets to the point where as a fan, I almost want rewarded with an outcome after being forced to watch him play this year. You just want to see the team definitively say, yup, there is a baseline, this guy didn’t reach it, move on.

I suppose I should be grateful they aren’t making rash decisions, that’s not good either, but progress doesn’t happen without change. Change doesn’t often happen in baseball without moving on.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

2 thoughts on “Friday Focus: Why Did the Pirates Retain Ka’ai Tom?

  1. Its a good question. Perplexing one , as to keeping Tom. He really stunk when he was given a legit shot with the Pirates. Maybe– it might have something to do with a baseball rule or legality, — his Rule 5 status when 1st obtained, so maybe , due to some reason or rule, they HAD to keep him around, or risk a grievance filed and possible damages? I don’t know, just a shot at giving some articulable reasoning for keeping Tom hanging around. Other than that, I cannot fathom any other possible reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why does it matter he’s not taking up space in the 40 man roster as for him hanging around maybe they think he can help Indianapolis win


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