The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Thursday evening that they signed free agent right-handed pitcher Juan Nicasio to a one-year deal. The 29-year-old pitched in relief for the Los Angeles Dodgers and it looks like that could be his role with the Pirates in 2016, though he has started in the past. He posted a 3.86 ERA in 58.1 innings over 53 appearances in 2015, with 65 strikeouts and a 1.56 WHIP. Prior to 2015, he spent four years with the Rockies, where he had a 5.03 ERA in 69 starts and 19 relief appearances. According to Ken Rosenthal, Nicasio will get $3M next season.
Neal Huntington had the following comment on Nicasio’s role with the team:
“Juan Nicasio is an experienced pitcher with the pitcher repertoire and versatility to fill a variety of roles on our pitching staff. He had a strong season pitching primarily as a relief pitcher and we look forward to Juan’s impact on our Major League club.”
UPDATE 5:01 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…
Nicasio had some decent numbers last year in his move to the bullpen, posting a 3.87 xFIP. The downside was his high walk rate, which sat at 12.3%. Putting that in perspective, no Pirates reliever last year went over 11.3%, and only Radhames Liz, Rob Scahill, and Antonio Bastardo were over 10%. Some of his walks were intentional, but his rate is still pretty high at 10.2% without the intentional walks.
Nicasio is a hard thrower, averaging 95 MPH last year, and topping out at 98.9 MPH. His slider was his primary out pitch, and was very effective, with a .533 OPS against.
It’s easy to draw comparisons to Arquimedes Caminero with this move. You’ve got a hard thrower with a very effective slider and control problems. Nicasio comes to the Pirates a bit more polished, but as a guy who could still use a drop in walks. He also looks like he could be a really great late inning reliever if that drop takes place. If it doesn’t take place, they’ve got a hard throwing middle reliever who has a history of being a starter, and could cover multiple innings.
The Pirates would have Nicasio under team control through the 2017 season, making him arbitration eligible one more time after the 2016 season. If he has a good year and cuts down the walks (which has been a specialty for the Pirates with their reclamation guys), then tendering him would be an easy decision to make.