Ivan Nova

IVAN NOVA, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
Born: January 12, 1987
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 235
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Signed: International Free Agent, 2004 (Yankees)
How Acquired: Free Agent
Country: Dominican Republic
Agent: The Legacy Agency

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

Nova was well regarded at the time the Yankees signed him out of the Dominican, but he progressed more slowly than they originally hoped.  He eventually did add velocity and improve his command, and got established in their rotation in 2011.  His fastball typically averages a little under 93 mph and he didn’t lose velocity in the wake of his 2014 Tommy John surgery.  He doesn’t throw strikes as often as before the surgery, though.  His main secondary pitch is a curve and he infrequently throws a change.  Neither is a dominant pitch.  Nova is generally a groundball pitcher, with a career groundball rate of 50.7%.  Just the same, he’s frequently suffered from very high HR/FB rates, some of which may result from Yankee Stadium and from the offenses in the American League East.  The Pirates acquired Nova at the 2016 trade deadline.

2005
DSL:  0-1-0, 2.29 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 39.1 IP, 2.5 BB/9, 8.7 K/9

Nova put up good numbers across the board, mostly as a starter, in his DSL debut.

2006
R:  3-0-1, 2.72 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 43.0 IP, 1.5 BB/9, 7.5 K/9

The Yankees moved Nova up to rookie ball, where he started and relieved with largely the same results as the previous year.

2007
A:  6-8-0, 4.98 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 99.1 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 4.9 K/9

Nova made the jump to full season ball and pitched exclusively out of the rotation.  The numbers weren’t good, as he got hit hard and had a very low K rate.  He pitched well initially, but struggled badly for most of the season.  Baseball America nevertheless rated him the Yankees’ 18th best prospect due to his stuff.

2008
A+:  8-13-0, 4.36 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 148.2 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 6.6 K/9

Nova spent the season in the Florida State League and again didn’t put up very good numbers.  The Yankees didn’t put him on their 40-man roster after the season and San Diego claimed him.  They returned him to the Yankees at the end of the pre-season.

2009
AA:  5-4-0, 2.36 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 72.1 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 5.8 K/9
AAA:  1-4-0, 5.10 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 67.0 IP, 3.8 BB/9, 5.8 K/9

Nova split his time evenly between AA and AAA.  He had a semi-breakout in AA, with a good ERA but weak BB and K rates.  He got hit much harder in AAA.  BA rated him the Yankees’ 16th best prospect after the season.

2010
AAA:  12-3-0, 2.86 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 145.0 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 7.1 K/9
MLB:  1-2-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 42.0 IP, 3.6 BB/9, 5.6 K/9

The Yankees sent Nova to AAA to open the season, called him up for two relief appearances in May, and then brought him up in late August and put him in there rotation.  He made significant improvements in AAA and held his own in the majors.

2011
AAA:  1-2-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 16.0 IP, 1.1 BB/9, 10.0 K/9
MLB:  16-4-0-0, 3.70 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 165.1 IP, 3.1 BB/9, 5.3 K/9

Except for three starts in AAA in July, Nova spent the season in the Yankees’ rotation.  He was effective without dominating, posting a low K rate.  He obviously benefited in the W/L column from the Yankees’ offense.

2012
MLB:  12-8-0-0, 5.02 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 170.1 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 8.1 K/9

Nova posted a much higher ERA, but his xFIP was actually lower than the previous year, 3.92 to 4.16.  A .331 BABIP seems to have had an impact.  Nova’s BB and K rates were actually very good, but opponents batted 288/349/511 against him.  Much of the problem was gopher balls, as he allowed 28.  Nova made only three starts after August 21 due to shoulder inflammation.

2013
A+: 0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 3.0 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 18.0 K/9
AA: 0-1-0, 13.50 ERA, 2.63 WHIP, 2.2 IP, 10.0 BB/9, 13.5 K/9
AAA: 2-0-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 16.0 IP, 0.6 BB/9, 12.9 K/9
MLB:  9-6-0, 3.10 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 139.1 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 7.5 K/9

Nova had his best season, although he missed a month early in the year due to triceps inflammation.

2014
MLB:  2-2-0, 8.27 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 20.2 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 5.2 K/9

Nova struggled through four starts, then suffered an elbow injury in April and had Tommy John surgery, ending his season.

2015
A+:  0-0-0, 1.93 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 4.2 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 5.8 K/9
AAA:  1-1-0, 4.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 11.0 IP, 2.5 BB/9, 5.7 K/9
MLB:  6-11-0, 5.07 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 94.0 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 6.0 K/9

When he was able to pitch, Nova went on rehab and the Yankees called him up in late June.  He was only moderately effective; his xFIP of 4.59 was better than his ERA, but not by a lot.  He continued to have trouble with the longball, allowing one every seven innings.

2016
MLB (NYY):  7-6-1, 4.90 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 97.1 IP, 2.3 BB/9, 6.9 K/9
MLB:  5-2-0, 3.06 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 64.2 IP, 0.4 BB/9, 7.2 K/9

The Yankees started the season with Nova in the bullpen.  He moved to the rotation in early May and pitched reasonably well that month, but he had an ERA of 7.52 in five June starts before pitching better in July.  He continued to have trouble with gopher balls, allowing one every five innings.  The Pirates acquired him at the trade deadline for two players to be named later, who turned out to be Stephen Tarpley and Tito Polo.  Nova was outstanding for his first eight starts with the Pirates, posting a 2.41 ERA and completing two games.  He had two rough starts after that stretch, but finished with a good game against the Cubs.  He was somewhat hittable, with opponents batting .273 against him, but he walked almost nobody and wasn’t plagued with the gopher ball problems that he had in New York.  His groundball rate was high at 52.3%.  There didn’t seem to be any element of luck in Nova’s performance with the Pirates, as shown by his 3.13 xFIP.  His BABIP was an unremarkable .318.  A lot of his trouble with the Yankees resulted from an extremely high 21.3% HR/FB ratio.  That ratio dropped to 7.8% with the Pirates.  A normal HR/FB ratio would be about 12-13%, but you’d expect a lower ratio for a pitcher whose home games were in PNC Park, which reduces HRs.

The Pirates made it clear well before the 2016 season ended that they wanted to bring Nova back and made at least two extension offers to him in September.  They ended up signing him shortly before Christmas to a three-year, $26M contract.  The amount was well below what many people expected, given the extremely limited pool of free agent starters.  In fact, no other team was ever closely connected to Nova.  That’s a little unsettling, because it suggests that other teams weren’t convinced by Nova’s showing during his time with the Pirates.  On the positive side, his peripherals did support his ERA and many players have done much better after leaving the Yankees.  That includes A.J. Burnett, Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli, all of whom went to the Pirates.  It’s also possible that Nova was helped by further removal from the Tommy John surgery and departure from the high-offense AL East.  Even if Nova just returns to his 2011-13 form, he should help insulate the Pirates from the rotation meltdown they experienced in 2016.

CONTRACT INFORMATION
2011: $432,900
2012: $527,200
2013: $575,600
2014: $3,300,000
2015: $3,300,000
2016: $4,100,000
2017: $7,000,000 ($2,000,000 bonus, $2,000,000 in possible incentives)
2018: $8,500,000 ($2,000,000 in possible incentives)
2019: $8,500,000 ($2,000,000 in possible incentives)
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: $80,000
MiLB Debut: 2005
MLB Debut: 5/13/2010
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2019
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/09
Options Remaining: 0 (USED:  2010, 2011, 2013)
MLB Service Time: 6.024
TRANSACTIONS
July 15, 2004: Signed as an international free agent with the New York Yankees.
December 11, 2008: Selected by the San Diego Padres from the New York Yankees in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft.
March 29, 2009: Returned to the New York Yankees by the San Diego Padres.
November 20, 2009:
Contract purchased by the New York Yankees.
July 28, 2016: Traded by the New York Yankees to the Pittsburgh Pirates for two players to be named later; Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley named to complete trade on August 30.
November 3, 2016: Became a free agent.
December 22, 2016: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent.

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