Pirates Sign Left-Hander Clayton Richard to a Minor League Deal

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed left-hander Clayton Richard to a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League camp. Richard missed a lot of the 2014 season after recovering from AC joint surgery in 2013, and thoracic outlet surgery during the 2013-14 off-season. He signed a minor league deal with Arizona mid-season, but only made four appearances between Double-A and Triple-A, with poor results as a starter.

Richard has a good track record of pitching in the majors as a starter, with a 4.33 ERA in 773.1 innings over six years. He struggled in 2013, and that could have been due to the injuries. Prior to that, he looked great, combining for a 3.88 ERA in 520 innings from 2010-12 as a starter for the Padres. That included two seasons where he topped 200 innings.

My guess is that Richard would be considered first for a lefty relief role, since that is a bigger priority for the Pirates. They could use starting pitchers, but they would need someone a lot more reliable than Richard to compete for a job. The key here would be his health. Can he bounce back from the injuries in 2013-14 and go back to his pre-2013 self? If so, he would be a great addition. Some of the best lefty relievers are former starters. Richard was a decent starter when healthy, and that could make him a great reliever if he gets back to being healthy. He might even be a decent depth option for the rotation.

This is a good move for the Pirates, as the cost is minimal, and the potential upside would fill several possible needs for the team.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Chris Hale

I like this sign low risk and possibly high reward. Depth starter /lefty specialist could pay off I just hope they can get a couple guys like Liriano and a reclamation project with high upside like a Johnson or Anderson if you wanna call them reclamation or even get Volquez back and push Morton and guys like Locke and Richard out of the rotation. We need a rotation like this to get past the Cards Liriano/Cole/Burnett/Volquez /Worley


Also Tim , do you think Beachy and Medlin will get major league contract offers?


So much negativity. Some of you guys are worse than my wife. This is the beauty of being a Pirate fan in the present day. Stock pile enough of these no risk all reward type guys , and something is bound to stick. Next year at this time the same guys complaining will be criticizing the club for not re-signing Richard or Liz or whatever 1000% return on investment they get.




Love a free Lefty. If all he does is push others in February he’s worth it.


Richard has only put up one season with a FIP under 4.00, doesn’t miss any bats, and doesn’t have a single secondary pitch with positive run values.

He was able to top out at 95 while averaging only 90 before injury, so maybe there’s hope the slider or change plays up as a reliever.


Compared to the rest of the industry, probably the biggest advantage the Pirates have over the competition is their ability to turn pitching careers (particularly starters’ careers) around (for example AJB, Liriano, Volquez, Worley, etc.) For comparatively small investments they have received significant returns in value. Without their pitching rehab successes, almost certainly they would not have been in the playoffs the last two years. Tim has identified and discussed frequently this consistent generation of value by the Pirates through successful rehabs of pitchers.
I don’t know – are the Pirates better at this than any other team in MLB? If they are not the best, they are one of the best at taking pitchers with little value (and cost) and turning them into valuable pitchers that are wanted by many teams. In this niche the Pirates have done very well. Although I do not claim to know technically how they identify candidates and fix “broken” pitchers so successfully and relatedly I do not know what kind of total capacity the organization has to turn multiple pitchers around in one year, but we can all see the results which generally are outstanding with only a few relatively low risk, small cost failures.

Given that this niche is what they do best and where they achieve probably their greatest competitive advantage against other teams, they should do as much of this as they have the capacity to do (I am not saying this is the only kind of pitchers they should sign – for example, I think it is really worthwhile to bring Liriano back as a starter – he has demonstrated that he can be a top or near top of the rotation guy for the Pirates including in the playoffs). I think the Pirates should maximize to the greatest extent they can this competitive advantage by signing as many rehab candidates as they can identify, to the longest contracts they can risk, and use these rehabs not just to satisfy immediate team needs but to trade a surplus of these turnarounds to build a better team (again I can’t quantify who, how many, and for how long because I don’t know how they do it, for example, I don’t really know how they identified and “fixed” AJB, Liriano, Volquez and Worley who were bad/unusable before they came to the Pirates but pitched extremely well for the Pirates).

The logical next step, if otherwise feasible, would be to take advantage of what the Pirates do well and rehab more guys and trade some of them to strengthen the team in other areas. Clearly, this would be a little tricky because they have to put some rehab guys in the rotation to demonstrate their trade value, trade them, and have someone who they are confident can step into the rotation as a replacement, but it could probably be done by trying guys at the back of the rotation, AAA, etc. Obviously, this is not how most teams do it, but if the Pirates aren’t going/can’t spend more, to succeed they are going to have to do things differently, like Oakland and Tampa, and take advantage of a skill and exploit a niche in which they outperform all or most other teams in MLB.


Just isn’t feasible.

Very, very rarely can a good regression candidate be signed on a minor league deal, which means all these guys must be stashed on the 25-man. You don’t want that.

Turning around pitchers in the short term, as the Pirates have, also isn’t nearly as unique to them as one may think. Both Chicago clubs have had good success, and the Giants, Cards, Athletics, and Indians all have good reputations. The Pirates are absolutely in the conversation as well, and should certainly continue what they’re doing. I just don’t see this big opportunity to expand the practice.


Excellent move. He is a starting rebound prospect with the history to be a very good bullpen lefty is he isn’t used in the rotation.

Anybody remember that we have another big money, recently very good starting rebound prospect: Charlie Morton. I think the bucs might go with a Liriano if they get a good deal but otherwise, I don’t see why they would commit a rotation slot that already belongs to Morton.


So you’d rather throw guys like Cumpton, Sadler, Pimentel, or Richard in the rotation instead of Liriano? That’s not how you reach the post season, my man.


LIriano has a lot to say about were he pitches next year and remember he was absolutely horrid before signing here. Same w Volquez. Same w Burnett. Morton is prolly a better comeback candidate than any of them.

Chris Hale

ummm no. Morton doesn’t have near the ability’s any of those pitchers have. Not because of his stuff He’s got great stuff besides he has no gas on his fastball, but he is so inconsistent with those pitches; He is a head case He has a serious mental block. The smartest thing they could do is get enough starters in here to push Morton out of the rotation PLEASE


Occasional struggles with command equals is a headcase? I do not follow this logic.

Brandon Smith

So you think that they are paying Charlie 8m this year in hopes that somebody else comes in and takes his spot in the rotation?


Exactly. In NH’s eyes Morton is #5 until he isn’t. If Liriano comes on board they would obviously welcome the assurance but Cole, Worley, Locke and Burnett are locked in and usually quite good though many fail to notice. I they end up signing anyone to a BIG contract that would tell me Charlies doc told them he will not be ready for a long time if ever. Otherwise I would rather they spend the $10M/yr on a 4 year Walker deal or a 5/25 deal with Harrison.


Interesting cherry-picked stat: Richard is an above average pitcher (using tOPS+) vs. most likely NL playoff contenders (StL, Nats, LAD, SF).

Randy Ritchey



While having a 3.88 ERA in 520 innings from 2010-12 as a starter for the Padres may sound really good, consider the home/road ERA’s:

2012. 3.02 H, 4.74 A
2011: 2.30 H, 5.30 A
2010: 3.15 H, 4.41 A
2009: 3.82 H, 4.95 A

So outside of Petco, his ERA for his main four years was about 4.80. No problem with the signing, since it is only a minor league contract, but he is probably a long-shot to be a real contributor. As far as being bullpen help, one issue is that he has a very low strikeout rate – but at least he has pitched much better vs LH batters. Maybe the surgeries will improve results.


you’re right. sticking to Lefties will help.

Also, something worth considering is that his AWAY #s are heavy in hitter parks like COL and ARI.

Also, PNC is traditionally almost as much of a pitchers’ park as PETCO.

I don’t know what all this means. Just thought it was worth adding to what you said.


Good minor league filler, I would not be surprised to see the Pirates load up on this type of pitcher this off-season. I don’t think even if he was healthy that he would be higher than 8th or 9th on their depth chart a 4.33 ERA is something they can get easily.


Career wOBA of .274, and OPS of .611 vs lefties.

Between him and The Raspberry, they should be able to scrap together a Wilson replacement pretty effectively.


This guy threw 219 innings in 2012; that’s an absurd amount for a mediocre pitcher.


Clayton Richard is Paul Maholm. Seriously the same exact player.

ERA: 4.33 vs 4.30
WHIP: 1.40 vs 1.41
K/9: 5.6 vs 5.7
BB/9: 3.1 vs 2.9


And Richards is essentially free.


Very similar careers – but outside of Petco, Richard hasn’t been nearly as good as Maholm.

Monsoon Harvard

Except that Richard has a career ground ball rate of 50 %.

Lee Foo Young

Nothing to lose….lots to gain. I like the move.


Replacement for Jean Shorts?

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