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.

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.

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  1. Locke took too much shit as a Pirate imo. He was lousy in 2016 but never as bad as people made him out to be prior to 2016. I wish him well and thank him for logging a lot of innings for us during a great run(2013-15)

    • If AJ would just hang out in the dugout on days when Locke pitches he’d do fantastic. Burnett challenged him and was able to find his internal spark. Locke was a east coast cold weather high schooler who never had enough confidence against others who played year around. (My opinion). AJ helped Locke know he belonged in the majors.

  2. I am new to this, but I guess from this Locke
    becomes a free agent. How many think he
    will be able to sign for at least the 4 million
    he was possibly going to get on a
    one year contract from another
    MLB team (or even in Asia)?

    • I don’t think it’s likely he’ll make more than his projected arb award. Either he gets claimed off waivers, in which case the claiming team just assumes that arbitration salary, or he clears waivers, which means no team thinks he’s worth the money. And if he does pass through waivers, the Pirates should release him and immediately try to re-sign him to a $2-$2.5M deal. He’s worth that for depth alone, especially if he re-institutes the turn in his delivery.

        • Purely guessing, I don’t think he will be. There’s going to be more supply on the market for that 5th/6th SP in a few days, and Tommy Milone – who has been out there for 6 weeks now – could probably be had for less than Locke is projected to make in arb (when you adjust for league and park factors, Locke and Milone aren’t actually too far apart).

          But then again, it only takes one GM who believes he can turn Locke back into the 2013-2014 vintage, which would be a steal at $4.2M.

  3. Shout out to Jeff Locke the lightening rod for fans who misdirected their angst at him as opposed to the decision makers who put him on the mound. Probably won’t land with a contender will contribute somewhere hopefully not Cincy or Mil. Not many 5s consistently better than him.

  4. So, we have reached the point where Juan Nicasio has a legitimate shot at being in our starting rotation again.

    I don’t understand this move, we have a AAA rotation full of major league relievers, why add one more?

  5. So, let me get this right…we could not find room on the 40 man for Eric Wood – our ONLY third base prospect above A ball and one of the few potential power hitters in the entire system, but we immediately find room for a 26 year old career minor league pitcher who is now on his 4th organization? Genius!

      • This outrage is just comical, don’t get me wrong Wood has really shown an uptick in production but one year looks like the outlier when looking at his career thus far. Where on the diamond would you even put the guy if he was to make it to the Bucs? We have too many corner infielders as it is, and I cannot think he’d fare well in our outfield. I wish the guy the best and hopefully if he figures it out he’ll still be a Pirate, but these guys emerge every year in droves….temper the enthusiasm.

  6. It’s sort of sad to see Jeff go. I join those who think the team didn’t do him any favors with all the changes to his mechanics. Of course by cutting loose his salary it gives them financial flexibility to…do … what?

  7. Something tells me that sometime next season we will wish to have Liriano and Locke in our rotation. I just do not know what this management is thinking.

  8. Good luck to Jeff. Really good guy who was also struggling last year with the serious illness of his mother. Godspeed!

    • Hate to see him go, but even if the Pirates do not sign a SP, they have more than enough to be competitive in 2017. A few years ago we had Burnett, Cole, Morton, Liriano, and Locke.

  9. I wish Jeff Locke well – I spent a ton of time trying to get people to understand why he was not awful and to take into account what he cost the team vs what he provided. I do think the Bucs hurt his performance badly with the changes they asked him to buy into before 2016 – they clearly made him worse – not better.

    I was also surprised that nobody seemed to blame the great Searage for not fixing him – he had velocity and three workable pitches and threw from the left side – would seem to be ideal raw material for a genius pitching coach.

  10. This organization is an embarrassment with there self imposed cap. I saw wish MLB would place a salary floor of 130 mil call nuttings bluff and force him out

    • Force him out… who then is stepping in….MLB..? if memory serves me if he had not stepped up the Pirates well frankly may have gone like the doo doo bird….extinct….

    • And, Locke was second on the team with 9 Wins – Nicasio had 10, Locke 9, and Niese 8. Add that to the “that says it all” category.

      • The critical stat is IP/$. Over Jeff”s career he has done reasonably well on this metric, but it is the hardest metric to sustain.

        • if you are willing to leave a guy out there to get shelled, that metric isn’t hard to do. plenty of aaaa guys willing to pitch 6 innings, give up 5 runs per start until their arm falls off or even after quite honestly.

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