The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed right-handed pitcher Brad Lincoln to a minor league contract. Lincoln was the Pirates first round draft pick in 2006, taken fourth overall. He was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays for Travis Snider at the 2012 trade deadline.
Lincoln pitched in the Phillies organization this year, making two relief appearances in the majors. He allowed three runs over 2.1 innings. He spent the rest of the season at AAA Lehigh Valley, where he made 22 starts and five relief appearances. Lincoln had 5.11 ERA in 123.1 innings, with 112 strikeouts and a 1.47 WHIP. In parts of five seasons in the majors (three with the Pirates), the 29-year-old has a 4.74 ERA in 222.1 innings.
UPDATE 9:44 AM: Thoughts from Tim Williams…
Lincoln’s best year of his career came in 2012. He put up a 2.73 ERA and a 3.46 xFIP with the Pirates before the trade. He struggled with Toronto after the deal, posting a 5.65 ERA, although his 3.62 xFIP looked fine. The following year, those numbers reversed. He posted a 3.98 ERA, but a 5.91 xFIP. He struggled with the Phillies in 2014, spending most of the season as an unsuccessful starter in Triple-A, and throwing just 2.1 innings in the majors.
A big change for Lincoln is that he saw a decline in his strikeouts, along with a slight decline in his ground ball rate. He also saw a massive increase in walks. FanGraphs shows that he started throwing a two-seam fastball in 2012, and gradually increased the use of the pitch after he left the Pirates.
Lincoln is just a flier at this point under a minor league deal. His signing has a bit more significance, due to the fact that he had success with the Pirates just two years ago. They need bullpen depth, and he could provide that if he can get back to doing whatever it was that he did right in 2011-12. The Pirates have done well to get pitchers back to their former, successful selves. We’ll see if that works for Lincoln.