Pirates Agree to Two-Year Deal with RHP Daniel Hudson

According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, the Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to a two-year contract with right-handed pitcher Daniel Hudson. The deal is said to be worth $11M total.

There has been reported interest between the Pirates and Hudson recently, with Bill Brink reporting that the Pirates were one of 16 teams expressing interest in the 29-year-old reliever. Back in 2011, Hudson was a 24-year-old starter, who posted a 3.49 ERA in 222 innings with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He then had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and then again in 2013, shortly after he began his return. Since then, Hudson has pitched in relief and struggled for the most part. In 2016, he posted a 5.22 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 60.1 innings over 70 appearances.

Hudson’s deal includes $1.5 M in incentives per year, based on games finished. That means he’s probably being looked at for the closer role at some point in the next two years, and maybe for both of those years if Tony Watson gets traded.

UPDATE 4:19 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…

My immediate thought here is that it seems guaranteed that Watson will be traded this offseason. The left-handed relief market is a seller’s market, and the Pirates have plenty of left-handed options, with five pitchers who need to be in the majors next year. If they can trade Watson and pull a Melancon-type deal, where they get a young, MLB-ready reliever, then this could be a promising bullpen.

As for Hudson specifically, the numbers on the surface don’t look great last year, although he had a bit of a weird season. His xFIP (4.12) was much better than his ERA (5.22), mostly due to a high BABIP. If you look at the monthly breakdown, things get even stranger:

April: 0.77 ERA/3.60 xFIP, 11.2 IP

May: 2.00 ERA/4.70 xFIP, 9.0 IP

June: 9.00 ERA/5.94 xFIP, 10.0 IP

July: 19.29 ERA/3.91 xFIP, 7.0 IP

August: 4.09 ERA/4.42 xFIP, 11.0 IP

September: 1.54 ERA/2.46 xFIP, 11.2 IP

His walks were high in the middle two months, but dropped down to the sub-2.5 BB/9 range in the final two months. His BABIP was high all season, including those final two months. That said, it was at .577 in July, which means almost 60% of balls in play were going for a hit. His xFIP in the second half was 3.46, with a 10.87 K/9 and a 3.29 BB/9.

What I like about Hudson is his velocity. He averaged 95.7 MPH last year, which tied for 20th out of 135 qualified relievers. Felipe Rivero was right ahead of him at 95.8. His two-seamer averaged 96.1 MPH, which tied for 13th among two-seamers for relievers, and would have been 15th in the four-seam category. The Pirates also have Juan Nicasio returning with an average 94.1 MPH fastball last year, giving them a lot of velocity in the late innings, even if Watson is traded.

The Pirates have done best with pitchers who have velocity, have control problems, and have some promising advanced metrics. Looking deeper at Hudson, it wouldn’t surprise me if he leans on the two-seamer more often. He’s thrown that pitch 354 times the last two years, compared to 1,008 four-seam fastballs. The four-seamer had a .982 OPS in 2015, and a .722 in 2016. The two-seam fastball had that beat, with a .711 and .465, respectively. It doesn’t really generate ground balls, but it has been more difficult to hit, and a two-seamer is generally easier to control. That hasn’t been the case with Hudson, as he walks more on that pitch than any others, but this might be where an adjustment comes into play.

The Pirates have the makings of an interesting bullpen. They don’t have a standout guy like they did at the start of last season with Mark Melancon, but they have a lot of hard throwers, and I don’t think they’re done adding to the group, as I could see more moves made after they make what seems like an inevitable trade from their lefty relief stash.

UPDATE 4:22 PM: Assuming Hudson is making a flat $5.5 M per year, this signing puts the Pirates at a projected $94 M in payroll right now.

  • I actually like the signing, IF it does not mean they are going to go for another Vogelsong type as a starter due to the money they spent on Hudson. I would have rather that money spent on a SP if that is the case.

  • Great signing, watched him pitch a couple times and seems to tail the ball pretty well. Watson is good as gone. Just get me Jose Quintana NH.

  • Hudson was on my wish list. Really great stuff, and aside from July 2016, pretty good numbers out of the bullpen, too. He’ll fit into this bullpen nicely, I think.

    Bastardo, Nicasio, Watson, Hudson, and Rivero are a really good back five in a bullpen if we keep it all together. Even if we get rid of one of them, there’s four guys there, and enough between Schugel, Hughes, Leblanc, and some of our minor league arms to make the bullpen a strength this year.

  • 1. Marte CF
    2. Polanco LF (L)
    3. Cutch RF
    4. Kang 3B
    5. Bell 1B (S)
    6. Jay Hay All-Day 2B
    7. Vita Bella C
    8. Mercer SS

    1. Freese 1B/3B
    2. Jaso 1B (L)
    3. Frazier UTL (L)
    4. Hanson UTL (S)
    5. Stewy C

    1. Cole
    2. Tallion
    3. Kuhl
    4. Hutchison
    5. Brault
    *******Adding an Ivan Nova, Tyson Ross or similar pitcher here would be a great improvement keeping Brault in Indy to start the season with Glasnow and company. LLOYD wouldn’t mind lefty Travis Wood on a good deal.

    1. Watson (L)
    2. Hudson
    3. Riverio (L)
    4. Nicasio
    5. Schugal
    6. Bastardo (L)
    7. Hughes
    8. LeBlanc (L)
    9. Webb (L)
    **********Two of these guys cannot start the season with the Buccos. Obviously a lefty will need to be traded. And then another lefty traded or Schugal will start the season in Indy.

  • LLOYD thinks this is a great signing. Hudson is a really good power arm and if j.s.feeney is correct about his bereavement issue last season, Sir Daniel may be on the verge of a dominant two year bullpen run.

  • Apparently Mets had preliminary talks with NH over McCutchen recently…

  • Thing about Hudson is that he fits their mold, for a starter. But he doesn’t.
    So… is he possibly a turn around candidate and a possible high value trade piece in July?
    I mean what does a fireballer with an extra cheap year go for on today’s market?
    I see a lottery ticket.

  • The next shark in the line of Hanrahan, Grilli, and Melancon.

    No way they pay this much for a set up role. Thanks for the memories Tony.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 19, 2016 8:39 pm

    I assume this eliminates any further interest in Nova. I hope the Pirates keep Watson, dump Bastardo instead. This bullpen has the makings of being pretty good….a lot of power arms, although most are either unproven or maddeningly inconsistent. If the Pirates trade Watson, the bullpen becomes much more of a crap shoot. On the surface, I like this signing….but Hudson has to produce a lot better than last year.

    • I wouldn’t assume this means Nova is out of the picture. I think it means Watson for sure and likely Bastardo are going to be moved in order to sign (FA) or pay (trade)for a SP.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        December 19, 2016 10:56 pm

        I’d rather keep Watson and forget about Nova….not even close

        • I see your point of view. Watson is a great set up guy who has a history of success. While Nova is likely to be inconsistent at best over 3 years. However, the needs of the team dictate Watson has become too expensive for his role, and the rotation desperately needs a veteran innings eater like Nova.

  • Anyone know if his catcher got hurt in July? Did all of Arizona era go up that month?

    • I saw a diamondbacks fan mention that Hudson’s grandmother passed away this season. I looked it up and his stretch of really horrible games (~20.00 ERA) followed his return from bereavement leave.

  • Seems like a good move, definitely needed another righty for the back end of the bullpen. Gotta think this means watson is more likely to be traded but the bullpen should be decent even if he’s on another team. Still need a jason hammel, ivan nova type #3 inning eater for the rotation but a watson trade would free up several million or the front office could get creative and try to send watson and a prospect or two to get someone to fill that void.

  • I don’t hate the move, but I’m just a bit confused. With their self imposed budget and a glaring hole in rotation it’s baffling. This makes Hutchs chances of making the rotation much better, so in no way is that beneficial lol.

    • Please don’t call him “Hutch.” Andrew earned “Cutch.” This guy has yet to even earn the value of his baseball card

  • So the Pirates actually outbid a bunch of other teams for a free agent! Color me surprised!

  • exciting news. Can’t tell you how excited I am.

  • andrew.oneill88
    December 19, 2016 5:47 pm

    There goes Dragmire off the 40 man roster again…poor guy

  • I appreciate the analysis but cannot figure out for the life of me what this management team is attempting to do. I wonder if a starter is to be traded for?

  • Any chance they could be considering him for the rotation? He pitched pretty well as a starter before getting hurt (2010-11)

  • Who goes off the 40 man?

    Does Watson bring a SP in return?

  • Not a great bargain but I like the guy’s upside 5.22 era last year doesn’t tell the story. If Bastardo can be moved the Pirates are more balanced with righties and a better bullpen – regardless of whether they saved any$. It probably means Nova’s market has shaken out and for the worse.

  • Like this move. Seems like a somewhat typical NH move, but with a twist. Here he ended up with a player that a number of teams had identifiied as a possible target and complaints are already being made about this being an “overpay.” For those who will say “overpay,” are these the same folks just complaining about a lack of action/movement by the front office.

    Look at the $$ already being thrown around vs, the advanced metrics of those already signed. It is a gamble, but like most moves by this FO, one that seems grounded in analytics. Anyway, what was it Andrew Friedman said about signing Free Agents? 😉

    So, what is next?

    • I call it a market pay in a market that doubled in a year

      • Yes. It has been a wild ride.

        Compare this to Feliz and his deal last year – this really a very similar move, but at more $/years to get it done in this market (2x if all is earned/counted).

        The only difference may be is if he is truly being considered as a possible closer – at which point this deal may end up being a bargin.

    • Largest free agent reliever contract in team history! 😉

  • I like the pickup, but a little pricey and it looks like he may have some bumpy times. Got to hand it to the Bucs for paying what looks like top dollar. Price wise, he’s comparable to Bastardo. IMO, I don’t look for Watson to be traded real soon unless there’s a fantastic return.

  • Did anyone see this series of tweets? Any to get “bunched up” about?

    Bill @1965Bm
    @Ken_Rosenthal what’s up with Cole Tucker changing his Twitter follow from Pirates to Rockies? Trade?

    Clint Hurdle @Clint__Hurdle
    @BiertempfelTrib Rob why did Cole Tucker just follow the Rockies?

  • Decent add. Feel like we overpaid some. Watson’s stats are waaaaaaay better than Hudson’s. So are Feliz’s. Would’ve preferred him.

  • What am I missing, I don’t know much about this guy but his stats blow. Wouldn’t one of our young arms be a better option out of the pen for less money too? I’m seriously asking the question, not beating down the management

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Brian.

      At best, I thought he’d be a minor league invite.

      • From the yahoo article:

        Outside of an inconceivably bad five-week stretch during which he allowed 31 runs in 9⅔ innings, Hudson was dominant for Arizona this year, posting a 1.60 ERA in 50⅔ innings

        • That HAS to be wrong. He only gave up 35 runs all of last year! Looking at his game logs, he had this stretch from Jun 23 thru July 29, he gave up 23 ER (28 runs) in 8 IP and 26 From Jun 23 to Aug 1.


          • You can click on dates on BR and it highlights that time period for you, so you can see that it was 100% correct. Your calculation was close, except you missed three runs on August 2nd, which was included.

            • I did click on Aug 2nd (the first one in Aug…I just assumed it was Aug 1).

              I just now did it and you’re correct. I have no idea what happened with the 2nd calc. I must’ve missed a “bad day” at the beginning.

              Still….that’s a pretty bad stretch for a $5.5 mil reliever.

        • Reminiscent of Melancon’s struggles with Boston over a very short stretch that impacted initial views of his acquisition by some. Lots of other differences though.

          Hudson was a guy that intrigued me earlier in the offseason but I didn’t figure we’d win out over the other fifteen teams that were reportedly interested. I like the signing.

        • I like that Outlook… Maybe he was slightly hurt or any number of other reasons for the bad few weeks. The velocity sounds nice… Time will tell.

      • You thought 16 teams showing interest would end up in a minor league invite? The article will be updated shortly with more info. I was posting, while Tim was putting together analysis

        • I had no idea that 16 teams were showing interest, but then, 10-12 teams showed interest in Tim Tebow, so there’s that.

          I would never have given him that much. I sure hope NH knows what he is doing.

          • From this article up top, copied from the December 6th article on Hudson:

            “There has been reported interest between the Pirates and Hudson recently, with Bill Brink reporting that the Pirates were one of 16 teams expressing interest in the 29-year-old reliever.”

            • I don’t doubt the veracity of what you said, it’s just that *I* had no idea that many teams were interested in him.

              I guess I just fail to “see the attraction”. Which is what they told my wife when she wanted to marry me.

              • You make me smile with your humor at times. There are days I need it.

              • My bad, didn’t know you needed to independently confirm reports before believing them. Noted for future reference.

                • ummmmmmmm…I didn’t need to independently confirm your report. Not sure why you felt the need to mention that.

                  I had just never read that 16 teams were interested in him. I wasn’t following him that closely. That is all….nothing more. 🙂

                  • You have me lost now. It’s been written in two articles on here and you’re saying you never read it? Is that what you’re trying to say. Sounded like you were saying you didn’t believe 16 teams would be interested, not that you missed it in both articles.

                    • I have NO ideas what articles were written about him.

                      I’m sure there were a few out there written about him (every player out there has had 68 gazzillion articles written about the teams that are interested in them), but if I saw one about Hudson, I probably ignored it.

                      Even you guys might’ve mentioned it a couple of times. But, I honestly don’t remember.

                      I NEVER thought we’d bring him in. He wasn’t on “my radar” or supposedly, so I thought, the Bucs. THAT is why I thought we should’ve signed him to a minor league deal.

                      But now, given your info that so many teams were (for some reason) interested in him, I see why he cost so much.

                    • Ahhhhh….winter…where we have a long back and forth about how many teams were in on a middle of the road FA.

                    • I hadn’t planned on a long back and forth, to be honest.
                      John, for some reason pushed that part.

                      I just didn’t like the signing.

                    • I wasn’t criticizing. I have been in these many times before. This is what we do in the winter and there is nothing else baseball to talk about. It makes us antsy and irritated.

                    • i am glad i don’t have your job…you have to reply to inane comments all of the time! 9 months from now they will say this was a great signing and they were on board the entire time…

                    • I read almost every article on this site, and I didn’t realize there were 16 teams interested in Daniel Hudson. To be honest, this is the first time I remember hearing his name……..EVER, so I understand what leefoo is saying.

                    • Glad to see some support. I wasn’t trying to make a big deal of it. Just because lots of teams show interest means diddley, which is why I posted that part about Tebow.

                      Oh well….

                  • lonleylibertarian
                    December 19, 2016 6:27 pm

                    Thinking before commenting is a very good policy…

          • Reportedly, 25 teams expressed interest in Jeff Locke, 3 in MLB and the other 22 in the Women’s International Softball League. 😉

    • My thoughts too, Brian Z. I have to infer that they–Neal, Clint, Ray, and co.–have vetted out the situation, but on the surface, I am not excited. Also, they still have not addressed what I feel is the most pressing need: starting pitching. Now, if Watson and some others are traded as a package, they might be able to address that need. It is only December, of course. I really do hate the thought of Watson being traded though. He has been such a great and reliable pitcher for the most part. But, the economics of baseball dictate otherwise. As Syd Thrift once said, “time will tell; it always does.”

  • I think this makes a Tony Watson trade more likely. I like the addition, and I personally hope they add another hard thrower to the bullpen. Maybe Romo or bring back Feliz. Overall, I’m fine with this signing. Still hoping for a Tyson Ross signing.

  • This pretty much rules out Nova unless they clear some money first.

    • That would probably happen if Watson or Bastardo gets traded.

    • Nova at $13m brings them to 107m. If the mets are paying $2m of Bastardo, that’s $105m. Isn’t that what they opened at last year?