Pirates looking at pitching
UPDATE 4:32 PM: Add Kameron Loe to the mix of names. Dejan Kovacevic reports that the Pirates, along with the Dodgers, Braves, and Athletics, are interested in the 28 year old right hander. Loe is 6′ 8″, 225 pounds, and has pitched 343.2 innings in the majors from 2004-08, with a 4.77 ERA, a 4.7 K/9, and a 3.2 BB/9. He’s got a 3.83 ERA in 87 innings as a reliever. Loe pitched in Japan last year, and probably would come under a minor league deal with whoever signs him.
Also, as I forwarded on Twitter earlier, Jerry Crasnick reports that the Dodgers, Padres, A’s, Mariners, and Reds are also interested in Noah Lowry.
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Several rumors have been flying around, and from the looks of it, the Pirates are heavily focused on adding pitching going in to the 2010 season. Dejan Kovacevic reported that the Pirates are looking at pitching, and aren’t focused as much on adding a position player, due to options like Jeff Clement and Jose Tabata in the upper levels of the minors. Here are the players the Pirates are rumored to be interested in:
Justin Duchscherer: DK reported on Monday that the Pirates were looking at Duchscherer, who missed the entire 2009 season due to injuries and clinical depression. Duchscherer was amazing in 2008, with a 2.54 ERA, and a 0.99 WHIP in 141.2 innings pitched. He was also effective as a full time reliever from 2004-2007, with a 2.94 ERA, and a 1.14 WHIP in 254 innings pitched over that time span. The Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox are also interested in Duchscherer.
J.J. Putz: Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports that the Pirates have inquired on relief pitcher J.J. Putz, and that Putz is looking for a one year, incentive laden deal. Putz really took a fall this past year. He was the closer in Seattle in 2008, then was traded to the Mets last off-season, serving as the set-up man behind Francisco Rodriguez. He only pitched 29.1 innings with a 5.22 ERA, before being shut down with season ending elbow surgery. Putz has also drawn interest from Philadelphia, Houston, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Texas.
Noah Lowry: DK also reported that the Pirates are interested in 29 year old left hander Noah Lowry. Lowry hasn’t pitched since 2007 at any level, but put up a 4.07 ERA in 612 innings pitched between 2004-2007 as a starter. He had surgery on his left forearm in 2007, and surgery to remove a rib in 2008, in order to remove pain from his neck and shoulder. He would be a gamble, but at 29, and with past success, he would be a good gamble to take. Colorado is also interested.
Jamey Wright: And once again, DK reports that the Pirates are interested in Wright. Wright has a 4.38 ERA over the last three seasons in 240.1 innings pitched, mostly as a reliever. He has a high walk ratio, allowing 4.5 walks per nine innings. He’s pitched at least 77 innings in each of those seasons, averaging 70 appearances over the last two years as a full time reliever. He turns 35 in December, and made $1.4 M last year. He’s drawn interest from the Kansas City Royals, who he played for last season.
Notice any trends? With the exception of Wright, all of these pitchers have three things in common:
1. They’ve had past success
2. They are coming off of injuries that cost them part, or all of the 2009 season
3. They would probably be willing to take low-risk deals, with incentives involved
These are the types of moves the Pirates need to make. They’re never going to contend for an established, healthy pitcher like John Lackey, but they do have a shot at guys like Duchscherer and Putz. The main attraction the Pirates provide is opportunity. The Pirates don’t exactly have a bullpen loaded with options. They have four guaranteed spots, and that’s if you consider Steven Jackson a guarantee. Outside of Jackson, Matt Capps, Evan Meek, and Joel Hanrahan, the other spots are open.
The Pirates have a decent rotation, with Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, and Ross Ohlendorf as locks, and Charlie Morton likely taking the number four spot. That leaves Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen battling it out for the fifth spot. There is a chance the Pirates could trade Duke this off-season, as his value is high, and he’s only under control through the 2011 season. That could be more likely if they were to sign a guy like Duchscherer.
More importantly, while the Pirates have good options for all five rotation spots, they don’t have a lot of depth at the upper levels. The ideal situation would be to have at least an eight man rotation between AAA and the majors. In 2009 the Pirates had nine starters make six or more starts in the majors. The 2010 Pirates have the six starters I mentioned above, plus Brad Lincoln due up in June, and Virgil Vasquez and Jeff Karstens in AAA. Vasquez and Karstens are about what you’d expect from emergency fifth starters, but you can certainly upgrade over them, and taking a risk on a guy like Noah Lowry, for example, would be a great way to try and upgrade that pitching depth.