The Pittsburgh Pirates are close to making their first addition of the off-season, agreeing to sign Scott Olsen to a one year, incentive laden deal, per Jennifer Langosch. The deal is not official yet, and is contingent on Olsen passing a physical. Dejan Kovacevic mentions that Olsen’s base salary will be in the $1 M range. Last year, Olsen received a $1 M base salary with Washington, with a potential $2.85 M in incentives.
On the field, Olsen has been nothing special. His fastball in the early part of his career could touch 94 MPH, although in recent years he has only touched 92, and averages 89 MPH. He has two somewhat good seasons under his belt. The 2006 season, when he put up a 4.04 ERA in 180.2 innings, and 2008, when he had a 4.20 ERA in 201.2 innings. The 2006 season was somewhat legit, with a 4.07 xFIP, although his 2008 season was a fluke, with a 4.95 xFIP. Olsen was lucky in 2008, thanks to a .266 BABIP.
Off the field, Olsen has some well known attitude problems. He was even suspended by the Florida Marlins for getting in to fights with teammates on multiple occasions. He’s been limited to 143.2 innings the past two seasons due to labrum surgery in 2009, and a set back on his left shoulder in 2010. He did put up a 4.39 xFIP in 2010, as he was unlucky with a .321 BABIP and a 63% strand rate.
The deal is low risk, with only around $1 M owed to Olsen, but I’m still not a fan of the move. Overall you’ve got a guy recovering from an injury, with a history of attitude problems and conflicts with teammates, and who wasn’t exactly a strong starter before the injury issues came up. I have no problem with taking a guy coming off an injury, but Olsen wouldn’t have been my choice, mostly due to the attitude and the poor results before the injury. I would have rather seen the Pirates use the money to sign Jeff Francis, who has a similar injury to Olsen, or Justin Duchscherer, who is very injury prone, but has top of the rotation numbers when healthy.