The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed right-handed pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla as a free agent. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Pirates have designated left-handed pitcher Jeff Locke for assignment. More on these moves shortly.
The @Pirates have signed free agent RHP Lisalverto Bonilla; designate LHP Jeff Locke for assignment.
— Pirates (@Pirates) November 29, 2016
Bonilla is a 26-year-old righty, who has 20.2 innings of Major League experience with the Texas Rangers at the end of the 2014 season. He missed all of 2015 with Tommy John surgery, then got claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He pitched all of 2016 in the minors, splitting his season between Double-A and Triple-A. He had a 3.97 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and 118 strikeouts in 111 innings. That ERA and WHIP are slightly inflated by spending half of the season in the Pacific Coast League. The Dodgers non-tendered him after the 2015 season, then re-signed him to a minor league deal, so he was a free agent this off-season.
Bonilla was the #12 ranked prospect for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011 according to Baseball America. The next three seasons, they had him rated between 29th and 31st in the Texas Rangers system. The last report from BA had him sitting 90-93 MPH with his fastball, which touched 95 MPH. He’s a strike-thrower, who flashes a plus changeup and a slider that needs work. The changeup is a strikeout pitch. His ceiling in 2014 was as a #5 starter, who might work better from the bullpen with his control and strong two-pitch mix. Bonilla has 56 starts and 145 relief appearances during his minor league career. He started 13 times in 2016.
No surprise that Jeff Locke got DFA’d. He made over $3M in 2016 and was due a raise in his second year of arbitration, with $4.2M being mentioned as his projected salary for 2017. Locke had a 5.44 ERA in 2016, making 19 starts and 11 relief appearances. He led the Pirates with 127.1 innings pitched. The 29-year-old Locke had a 4.41 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 644.1 innings with the Pirates.