Andy Oliver Pirates

Pirates Looking For a Left-Handed Reliever

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been connected to a lot of relievers, and a lot of left-handed relievers. We’ve heard them connected to Andrew Miller of the Red Sox, Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies, and a loose connection to Oliver Perez of the Diamondbacks. Jon Morosi says that the team continues to look for lefty relievers.

This is the first time that we’ve specifically heard they’re looking for left-handers. Previously it was just assumed that was their approach, due to all of the left-handers who were popping up in the rumors.

There’s two ways you could look at this. One is that they might just want three left-handers in the bullpen, especially because Tony Watson is now the set-up man, and isn’t used as a left-hander normally would be used in middle relief. The other way is that they might be looking to replace Justin Wilson, who is having a down year. Wilson has a 4.62 ERA, and while his 4.13 xFIP suggests that should get better, they might not want to wait it out with him this year. Of course, they’re doing the exact same thing with Ernesto Frieri, so that might not be the case.

The Pirates do have Andy Oliver in Triple-A, who has been dominant since taking over as the Indianapolis closer. He has a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings since the start of June, with a 25:10 K/BB ratio, and just 11 hits allowed. However, if they don’t turn to Oliver, it’s understandable. His walks are down from earlier in the year, and from previous experiences in Triple-A, but it’s a small sample size, and he’s still walking a batter every other inning. The fact that he’s not giving up hits helps his cause, but will that continue in the majors? This is the same scenario as Justin Wilson when he was coming up, and because of the control issues, I think Oliver’s upside would be Wilson, with no guarantee that you get the good version of Wilson from last year. So it makes sense that they would be looking beyond their internal option in Triple-A.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Scott

    Can never have too many bullpen arms.

  • kelso

    need to replace Frieri before Wilson IMO.

  • Max Dine

    While it makes a lot of sense to replace Frieri right now, I believe the Pirates are too intrigued by his prior production, combined with their track record of helping pitchers achieve success, to replace him right now.

    Due to this, and the fact that they gave up an asset to acquire him, I think it is likely you will see Frieri stashed away until rosters expand in September. He will pitch in low leverage situations and remain on the big league club almost like a Rule 5 pick up due to his lack of remaining options. They will give him the time early next year to see if he can regain his form after an off season with the team. Someone else will be replaced if a reliever is acquired.

    • leadoff

      They only have 3 pitchers they can send down, Cole comes back that makes two, both are better pitchers than Frieri. I don’t see anywhere on the 25 man they can stash him, would be nice if he came down with a sore finger on his glove hand.

      • Max Dine

        That would be great. In fact, now that you bring it up, I’d wager the old “arm fatigue” is in his near future. He is not going anywhere.

    • scrappy2499

      Except they haven’t used him in low leverage situations. If they did then it wouldn’t be an issue. Hope they start using him properly.

  • leadoff

    Bastardo would be a nice addition to this pen, I think the Pirates are a contender and really don’t need to bring players in like Frieri that need fixed, losing games to fix someone is not the way the Pirates should go. I know Frieri could turn out to be good, but the Pirates just can’t wait for him.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Trading Frieri to someone else who has the time to help him would be the most likely way to solve this

  • NMR

    Wilson is a good example of the variability in reliever performance caused by small samples. He was mostly “good” last year thanks to the BABIP gods shining down upon him, and a good bit of why he’s been “bad” this year has been due to a low strand rate that should regress. Overall, pretty darn close to the same pitcher both years assuming you trust the metrics.

    • Y2JGQ2

      No- The walks are signficantly up this year, as are the strikeouts. That is significant. I don’t know what it says, but its surely not the same pitcher as command is essential with a high leverage relief pitcher. Noone wants Mitch Williams

  • Y2JGQ2

    I think they would like someone who is more of a finesse lefty since Watson and Wilson are pure power arms. Its nice to give a different look. Something Scott Sauerbeck-ish

  • formerdraftpick

    Would Jason Lane be a good, cheap, nonprospect trading choice? He was just dfa’d and has looked good in his relief appearances as well as spot start.

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