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.
Sources: Reliever Daniel Hudson agrees to a two-year, $11M deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. News at Yahoo Sports: https://t.co/qMBUx6ojCL
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 19, 2016
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.