Pirates Claim Yoervis Medina Off Waivers, LaFromboise Claimed by the Angels

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Wednesday afternoon that they claimed right-handed pitcher Yoervis Medina off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. The 27-year-old split last year between the Cubs and Seattle Mariners, posting a 4.71 ERA in 21 innings over 17 relief appearances. The Pirates will have to make a corresponding move to clear space on the 40-man roster.

Medina has had some Major League success in the recent past, so he could actually be an option for the bullpen. In 2013, he had a 2.93 ERA in 63 appearances for the Mariners. The following year, he had a 2.68 ERA in 66 appearances. Baseball America writes that he came up in the minors with a plus curve and low-90’s fastball. He was traded to the Cubs in May and got hit hard in five outings, which led to him spending most of his time there in AAA. Medina has had some control issues, but when he was at his peak with the Mariners, he got a lot of ground balls, didn’t give up many hits and average more than a strikeout per inning.

This is a typical waiver wire claim at this time of year. Find someone who is better than the 40th man on your 40-man roster and insert the new player on the roster. The Pirates obviously aren’t done adding to their roster this off-season, so there are going to be players currently on the roster, who they put through waivers with the hopes of sneaking them through and keeping them as depth in AAA. The only difference is that Medina could be a legit Opening Day option, while most waiver claims around this time look more like depth moves.

UPDATE 3:30 PM: The Angels have claimed Bobby LaFromboise off waivers from the Pirates. That creates a roster spot for Medina.

UPDATE 3:54 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…

I’ll start with Medina, who is a low-cost, high upside arm, and fits a trend that the Pirates have followed this off-season. Medina is the fourth guy the Pirates have added this off-season who has hit 97 MPH in the past. The others are Juan Nicasio, Jorge Rondon, and Allen Webster, with the latter being released to go play in Korea.

Nicasio has a guaranteed middle relief spot, but the others will fight it out with hard throwers like John Holdzkom and Rob Scahill for one of the final bullpen spots. There’s also minor league free agent Curtis Partch, who has reportedly hit 97 in the past, and Guido Knudson, who can only hit 94. When you add Arquimedes Caminero to the mix, you’re going to see a lot of velocity from the Pirates, and from their Triple-A depth.

One catch here is that Medina is out of options, and the same goes for Rondon. So if Medina doesn’t make the MLB roster on Opening Day, the Pirates risk losing him.

His track record shows that there might be something to bounce back to. Between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Medina had a 2.81 ERA and a 3.73 xFIP, along with a 9.4 K/9 and a 4.9 BB/9. He saw a drop in his strikeouts last year, and the control problems remained. The Pirates have done a good job cutting down control issues. Caminero, for example, had a 3.5 BB/9 last year, which was a year after he posted a 4.3 BB/9 in Triple-A with Miami.

Looking at the above list, guys like Medina, Rondon, Partch, and others have a common trend: high velocity and poor control. If the Pirates can fix one of those guys, and pair them with Caminero and Nicasio, then they’ll have a dangerous group of middle relievers. So the addition of Medina alone is pretty small, but the overall group of work increases their chances of finding a good reliever for the pen.

As for LaFromboise, there was a chance he could have made the Opening Day roster as a second lefty in the bullpen, although he was always best as a third lefty working out of Triple-A. Now that he’s gone, the Pirates have Kyle Lobstein and non-roster invitee Robert Zarate as their only lefty relief options behind Tony Watson.

Lobstein looks more like deep rotation depth out of Indianapolis. Zarate had some interesting numbers in Triple-A last year, with a 2.90 ERA in 40.1 innings, along with a 10.9 K/9 and a 3.3 BB/9. He touches 94 MPH with his fastball and pairs that with a good slider. But he seems to be more of a depth option, and maybe a better depth option than LaFromboise.

I thought the Pirates would add a second left-hander before, but I think that’s more obvious now after this move. If you look at what they’ve done with the right-handed side of the bullpen, they’re clearly not settling for just 1-2 options for that final bullpen spot, and they added a somewhat sure thing (or at least not a total wild card) to the bullpen in Nicasio. I don’t expect them to settle for 1-2 options on the left side either, and I think they’ll go into the year with more than an unknown as their second lefty.

  • That’s why I found you don’t play around with the Funky Cold Medina.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 23, 2015 5:20 pm

    I realize velocity is important, and I’d prefer to have it to not having it (all else being relatively equal), but it seems like there is now an obsession with velocity – where no other pitching skills or characteristics are hardly mentioned.
    I do like the Nicasio and Medina pickups – the other guys mentioned, not so much.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 23, 2015 5:16 pm

    I’m happy that the Angels did us a favor and took LaFromboise – I was never impressed with him when I saw him pitch…looks like a AAAA pitcher, and not a very good one…to think we protected him on the 40 man, so we could risk losing someone like Osuna….go figure…

  • PiratesFan1975
    December 23, 2015 4:54 pm

    Speaking of the Pirates bullpen…. Fangraphs article on the most two valuable relievers in baseball since 2013 per WPA. Melancon and Watson.


  • BallHeadWonder
    December 23, 2015 4:41 pm

    Has Bastardo signed anywhere yet?? Missed it if he has.

  • This is a perfectly acceptable relief option.

  • I certainly don’t *dislike* stockpiling hard throwing middle relievers, but the club has a serious need for multi-inning pen arms.

    Neither Niese nor Locke should be pushed into the fourth time through the order regularly, Voglesong’s starts should be bullpen games if they plan on winning any of them, and Liriano doesn’t have the profile of a innings eater due to pitch count.

    There’s gonna be a TON of innings to be pitched by the bullpen in 2016.

  • “The Pirates are claiming this guy, while the Cardinals are signing star pitchers to 100 million dollar deals.”

    -Pittsburgh Media

    PP is literally the only place I can go to read some rational Pirates stuff.

    • I would hardly call Leake a star pitcher. Lol

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      December 23, 2015 5:23 pm

      I’ve been very critical of the Pirates off season to date, as I see the Cubs blowing past us, but I am glad that the Pirates didn’t blow $80M (or whatever the number was) on a #3 to #4 starter like Leake. IMHO, he is greatly overrated – probably because he was a former #1 pick who went right to the majors from the start (or seemed that way). He doesn’t scare me – I’m glad the Cards wasted $80M on Leake and decided to re-sign Broxton……

  • The wheels are turning furiously on Federal Street before the Holidays.

  • Well we still need a new head groundskeeper and some medical staff help.

  • I wouldn’t mind them signing bastardo back for a 3 year deal. They seem to have the ability to find righties for cheap and fix them. Lefties are much harder to find

  • Unless this guy is really good, we can add today’s activity to the list of hard to figure transactions this winter – we essentially traded the guy who is currently our top lefty relief option (outside of Watson) for another option from the right side. Seems odd to me, but they are both probably slated to 0.1 WAR contributors in 2016…

    • Looks like Tim answered this question in his analysis. BL was only ever a depth option and this guy might be the real deal. Thanks Tim.

  • So…..is a Bastardo signing close?
    Lefty set up options not plentiful

  • He’s right handed

  • “Never Nervous” Yoervis

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 23, 2015 3:36 pm

    I like this pickup a lot better than the Vogelsong signing, as this guy is only 2 years removed from being a pretty good LH reliever in the majors – and is still only 27. This is one of the Pirates better moves this off-season, which reflects how little they’ve done so far.

  • I saw the Indians released Chris Johnson. I would think he should draw interest.

  • Big hard throwing righty. Had great years in 13 and 14. Nice claim. I bet he slots into Soria’s role with the team

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      December 23, 2015 3:34 pm

      Probably take’s over Bastardo’s role possibly, since he is a LH…as of right now, who else are possibilities?

      • The immortal Kyle Lobstein. Didn’t you see his only good stats were against lefties?

      • He’s a Righty…”they claimed right-handed pitcher Yoervis Medina”

        • BuccosFanStuckinMD
          December 23, 2015 5:14 pm

          My bad DYoung, I read the article quickly and saw the photo (who is not Medina) and was thinking LH….:(

  • I asked the guy, why you so fly?