Last night it was announced that Edinson Volquez had agreed to a two-year, $22 M deal with the Miami Marlins, which reunites Volquez with Jim Benedict. This also removes another free agent option from the list for the Pirates, and one that they were very familiar with, given Volquez’s revival in Pittsburgh in 2014.

A few weeks ago, I took a look at the free agent pitchers who made sense for the Pirates and their expected prices. Two of the pitchers on the list are now gone, with Volquez and Andrew Cashner both signing since the article. Jon Heyman projected Volquez for two years and $20 M, while projecting Cashner for one year and $7 M. He was right on the years, but a few million off in each case. So the prices of the signings weren’t totally unexpected.

Looking at the remaining pitchers from that list shows little opportunity for the Pirates. I included Rich Hill in the article, but the Pirates aren’t realistically going to be a contender for him, since he’s the top option on the market and would have a lot of competition (I included him to show what the top option on the market was getting). Ivan Nova is the top remaining option that is realistic, and he’s projected for anywhere from 3-4 years and $12-14 M per year. The Pirates could afford this, although without any trades to free up salary elsewhere, this would end up being most of their off-season.

The final name remaining from the list is Derek Holland, who the Pirates have been connected to, and who is projected on a one year deal making around $6-7 M. I’ve written a few times that I don’t see Holland as a good bounce back candidate. He could be a good option for the back of an MLB rotation, especially if he bounces back. I just don’t see him returning to the 4.3 fWAR he had in 2013, due to a decline in strikeouts and velocity since that time. I also think the Pirates need someone better than Holland, and going with him as the main option would just be a repeat of last off-season.

The only way Holland would make sense is if he was the second addition made by the Pirates, with a better pitcher brought in for the top or middle of the rotation. No matter what scenario you can come up with to make that happen, it would need to involve a trade to make it work.

If the Pirates could sign Nova and Holland, it would cost at least $20 M for the 2017 season alone. They are currently projected for around $86 M, with no information on how much money they are receiving from the Mets for Antonio Bastardo. Neal Huntington has made comments that suggest their budget is $100 M, and those two moves with no trades would put them at $106 M, minus the Bastardo money. And even if they go over budget, this doesn’t leave them room for additional moves to address bullpen needs.

If they just signed Nova, and passed on Holland, that would put them around $100 M, minus the Bastardo money. There could be some room there to sign a reliever similar to the deals they made last year for Juan Nicasio and Neftali Feliz, but this also limits their chances to add depth to the roster without a trade to free up some money.

The more likely scenario would involve the Pirates trading for pitching help. This could involve dealing prospects for an established pitcher, or perhaps a bounce back guy. It could also involve getting another young pitcher or pitching prospect back in a trade involving Andrew McCutchen. That move would also free up money, allowing them to add plenty of depth to the roster, and that might be a scenario where it makes sense to add Holland as an additional starter.

The problem with the budget and the need for a starter combined is more about adding depth at other areas. We saw the Pirates do that last year with the additions of Nicasio and Feliz to the bullpen, and Sean Rodriguez, Matt Joyce, and David Freese to the bench. They’ve got some depth heading into the 2017 season from the young players in the system, so there isn’t as big of a need for outside help this year. But there is a need for more outside help, since this isn’t a team that is just one middle of the rotation starter away from being a top contender.

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  1. Tim, Am I wrong, but are the Pirates stuck on a payroll of $100m? If that’s their top for 2017, it would be 3 years in a row with $100m payroll. Am I correct? When all the other contenders are increasing the payroll, the Buc’s stay the same. No raise. I really can’t see the Pirates be competitive in their division with that payroll, unless the players all over achieve. Just my thoughts.

  2. Pretty fucking comical. The market dictates Eddie Volquez coming off a season with an ERA over 5 and an Xfip of 4.58 is worth 2/22 but we had to sell prospects to take on Frank and cover his 1/13 in a year in which he had a better ERA and xfip of 4.23.

    • To quote my earlier reply to anther comment ” At the time of that trade Liriano’s value was zero.” Actually, it was less than Hutchison’s

      • You can quote me going forward Leo. You have no fuc*ing clue what Liriano’s value was at the time of the trade. And even if we accept your statement as true for the sake of a hypothetical… it makes even less sense to trade him at that point IF we establish his value was zero. You should just ride it out and give him a chance to improve his market value. What’s the worst case scenario, NH has to throw in 3 prospects to move him instead of 2? Yeah, yeah, I know we got Hutch back as part of the prized return.

        LOL Leo, on another note I would have thought this last year would taught you a little humility.

  3. I’d like Nova over Volquez for sure. Let’s just hope they figure a way to sign Nova. I’d love to see them sign him and Brett Anderson. If Anderson can stay healthy he’s the best bounce back candidate that is attainable for the Pirates

  4. Volques price seems reasonable, why didn’t they just sign him? The team continues to do little to improve itself. At this point available players sign elsewhere thereby limiting its chance to improve.

  5. I don’t expect the Pirates to trade Cutch this offseason, his value is too low right now. BUT, if they do trade him, I’m hoping it will be to the Giants — then I can follow the local team for the first time in my life and stop worrying so much about payrolls and reclamation projects. I’ve never contemplated abandoning the Buccos before now, but sometimes I gotta ask: why do I torture myself waiting for blood to be squeezed from this particular turnip?

    • As much as I understand the logic in shopping Cutch, I think it would have a significant effect on the fan base. Will be interesting to see what transpires before opening day.

  6. So, why did the boy genius NH trade for Nova, when he knew they likely would not re-sign him? To trade two prospects for a 2 month rental for a team out of the playoff race?

    • I have suggested this to you on numerous occasions over the past couple of years : if you know so damned much about a GM’s job, why not apply for one, genius ?

    • The two players traded for Nova would had been left unprotected for this upcoming Rule5 draft, so there was a chance they would had been lost for nothing, if I remember correctly!

    • If the pirates traded liriano and didn’t bring back a starting pitcher like nova, you would be on this site complaining that NH sold at the deadline when the pirates were only 2.5 games back of a playoff spot.
      The fact is that the pirates were only a few games back and replacing liriano with nova was a great move, the pirates faded and didn’t make it, but I’m happy NH upgraded that spot in the rotation at that time.

  7. I don’t pretend to know much but they aren’t signing 2 FA pitchers this offseason unless someone gets hurt in the near future or really don’t think Hutch is a possibility.

    Rotation is still 7-10 deep depending on how they view a couple guys.

    1 Cole
    2 Taillon
    3 Kuhl
    4 Brault
    5a Locke
    5b Holland/ bargain bin starter
    5c Hutch
    5d Glasnow
    5e T Williams
    5f Nicasio or other converted reliever???
    5g Kingham in 2nd half?

    Current rotation is a bargain with 3-4 starters around the MLB minimum. They have the cash for NOVA but I just don’t see it. I think trading Cutch to a big market contender is the more likely scenario to acquire a SP…

    • What make u – or anyone else for that matter sure that Cole will return healthy and more like the 2015 version than the 2016 version…

      I am amazed at how folks forget how awful he could be last season – too many starts where he could not get past the 5th inning – and threw a lot of [bad] – pitches getting there…

      What make you – or anyone think that has changed?

      I am not trying to be pessimistic – but he sucked big time – and until he proves he can throw strikes and miss bats we should be cautious in what we expect of him….

  8. At this rate trading Cole may be the best option. As long as they trade him based off 2015 and not 2016 and get that value back. I am not suggesting to sell low, but he should not be considered untouchable the way this market is headed. It always seems the Pirates needs match the market shortage. Maybe they should play the market instead of trying to game the market. I think Cole will bounce back next year, but if a team is willing to think the same and offer an equal amount they have to consider the offer. What could you expect in return for him in this market?

    • Why would anyone want him – he sucked – could not throw strikes and did not miss many bats when he did manage to throw a strike…

      The elbow thing can go either way – heals with rest or degenerates into a visit to the wizard of Birmingham and missing the full season next year.

        • NO! – why don’t you – since you are the smartest person on this site in your opinion – tell us what a pitcher like Cole would be worth in the trade market – and why?

          I look forward to your brilliant explanation of why someone would trade anything other than a B level prospect for him…

          I think I was pretty clear – he could/would not throw strikes last year – lots of starts where he needed 100 pitches to get through five innings – and other starts when he threw strikes and did not miss many bats – seems to me that is pretty much the definition of a 4/5 starter – someone who might be a little better than Jeff Locke – but a long way from a staff ace.

  9. That is why I do not eat catfish! Bottom feeders eat garbage. We are left with that on our menu. I wonder if Francisco Liriano was an FA what action would he be getting?

      • just because they are non-tendered doesn’t mean they are unwanted. it just means they weren’t worth what they were being paid.

          • I mean some of these players though untendered, have value at lower contracts. kinda like pedro…….signed for less. if we could have gotten him at 5 million instead of 9, and played in the American league, he would have still had that value for us as well

      • Didn’t say they would be the ideal. But each year a player is picked up and they turn it around. I am just saying saying that there will be more choices. Happ and Nova were not well received either when the Pirates acquired them.

  10. I have no illusions about Eddie Volquez but he’s solid if unspectacular and it seems to me $11m/year is affordable for the Pirates. They would have been improved by signing him. Jim Benedict is no dummy so I presume the reason they passed on him was an unwillingness to spend the dough. They can still go out and try to trade for a decent pitcher but they aren’t going to get anyone better than Volquez in a deal for Cutch. The dollars about match up.

      • Again, I have no illusions about him. I would not substitute my judgment for Benedict’s — who is a fair evaluator of pitching talent. The reverse of your rationale could be applied to Nova. If so, are you saying Nova is the pitcher he was for his last 7 starts?

  11. This is the 4th year in row the Pirates and specifically Nutting have let their best FA walk right out the door. Yes they have prospects, but how can an owner justify letting Russell Martin, EV, Happ, AJ Burnett (even though he came back), countless bullpen arms, S-Rod, & everyone else.

    Betting on rookies or 2nd players is not a smart move. I have said countless times you cannot continually win w a 100m budget. Nutting either need some to spend money in the 140 m range or just sell the team to someone who is willing to pay to field a contender every year.

      • which is 12% more than us evidently. That’s not an insignificant amount. if our budget was that, we don’t have to trade Frankie and give up two high ranking prospects for the pleasure.

      • Maybe Bucs will get to 114 years down the road.
        It seems to have peaked before last season and now heading back down.

      • Over time you cannot compete with the big boys, plus look at the divisions. I don’t think the Indians would make the playoffs if they had to face the Cubs and Cards. They got hot, and did whatbthe Pirates didn’t do when they got hot 2 years ago. The Indians got Shellby Miller!

        My point of 140 mil budget is, it wouldn’t allow them to obviously make the moves they did w Marte, Polanco, Cutch and Cerville. But we would have been able to keep Happ, EV, S-Rod ect. And those guys are the guys you need long term along w the others if you want to win or make serious run. Continually relying on home grown talent you are just treading water and can’t get ahead.

    • No one – repeat – no one is going to spend $140M. Not Nutting. Not Cuban. Not George Steibrenner reincarnated. The team doesn’t disclose revenues but it is reasonable to assume they are near $100M. No one will operate the team at a significant yearly loss.

    • If your entire strategy is to be home grown, relying on rookies is the only way to be successful. welcome to small market baseball.

        • gotta draft and scout, and develop well. that’s all there is to it. if you can’t, you don’t win. if you can… win sometimes

          • I agree scouting and drafting are key, but you have to keep more players than you lose. It’s frustrating watching a team so close and the owner not spend money.

    • A baseball team in a small market does not just spin off cash. If nutting or anyone else wanted to make money, they’d find a better investment. I don’t understand why folks think it’s as simple as opening up a wallet and paying more. There are multiple owners that agree on a projected budget, and if they deficit spend they ALL have to pony up or be DILUTED. The asset has appreciated, but they don’t have liquidity that is being spun, off the books, in dividends to owners laughing in the champagne room. Logic doesn’t work on baseball fans in Pittsburgh. I believe finance / business management should be a manadatory class in high school.

      • Given how baseball franchises appreciate Nutting could not have made a better investment. He could have used some of that “equity” the last few years to try and acquire talent to put them over the top. Instead he traded two top prospects to shed salary. Sports franchise are not like any other business – banks set up separate lending areas to lend money to sports franchises because it is an enterprise value loan vs. one based on cash flow. So maybe you should go back to business school.

        • Maybe you should go back to scouting school and let me know just how quickly ” top prospects ” Harold Ramirez and Reese McGuire are going to get to MLB.

    • Careful, the PBC thought police will smite you for suggesting those radical things.

      This franchise will keep making $$$ for the Nutting family and then go into the dowries of the Nutting daughters…to make more money for the Nutting family, never to be sold or improved.

      As long as there are Bobbleheads and fireworks, you never kill the revenue generating golden goose. You may pretend you like the neighborhood and the people–for PR reasons–but nothing more.

    • Reasonable list, but there are problems. Medlen’s arm is shot, $12m for Nova is too high, Fister’s stuff is non existent, and latos is either shot, or sucks, or both.

  12. Jeff Locke staying at $4m makes more sense than Holland at $7m. At least Locke can get into 90s w his velocity. I hope for some kind of miracle on the very few decent options available.

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