According to Robert Murray, the Pittsburgh Pirates are signing right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova to a three-year deal worth $26 M, which will also include a $2 M signing bonus.

The Pirates traded for Nova at the trade deadline last July, acquiring him from the New York Yankees for Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley. He made 11 starts for the Pirates, posting a 3.06 ERA over 64.2 innings, with a 1.10 WHIP and a 52:3 K/BB ratio. Over seven seasons in the majors, he has a 4.30 ERA, a 4.26 FIP and a 1.37 WHIP in 793.2 innings.

UPDATE 9:28 AM: Ken Rosenthal confirms the deal, and says it’s pending a physical.

UPDATE 9:30 AM: Analysis from Tim Williams…

The initial reaction here is going to be that Nova’s price is low. It’s low, but not that low. At the start of the offseason, the ask for Nova was five years and $70 M. He was never going to get that much guaranteed, although his later reported offers in the 3/$36 M range seemed more in his expected range. So the Pirates are getting him for $10 M less, rather than $44 M less in guaranteed money, with the latter option never really being realistic.

I wrote last week that Nova’s market was surprisingly quiet, with the Pirates being the only team linked to him. They tried to extend him at the end of the year, but he declined. He did say that he wanted to remain in Pittsburgh, as he liked his time with the team, and it obviously worked well for him when you look at the numbers. It’s hard to say if the lower price was due to a low market, due to Nova really wanting to return to Pittsburgh, or a bit of both.

The only thing that matters here is what kind of pitcher Nova will be. He was fantastic with the Pirates at the end of the year, putting up a 3.06 ERA and a 3.13 xFIP. There are things which led to these numbers that I don’t think he can repeat. The biggest would be his 1.1% walk rate, which is down from his 7.1% rate. He did have a 5.9% rate with the Yankees prior to the trade. I could see him ending up lower than his career rate, but expecting this extreme would be unreasonable. His LOB% was also 68.7%, when typically he has trended higher than the normal 70% range, with a career 73.5%. So that could be something to watch.

Then there are the good trends. One of the issues for Nova prior to the trade was a high HR/FB rate. He was at 21.3% before the trade, and 7.8% after the trade. His career is 13.1%, and a normal number is around 10%. I wonder how much of the career numbers were impacted by him playing in the AL East his entire career? I do think the HR/FB totals will stay down and end up around the typical league average. Another good thing is that his strikeout rate of 19.8% tied his second best year, which came in 2013. His best year was 20.5%.

When you combine a higher strikeout rate, a lower walk rate, and fewer home runs, you’re going to tend to get some good outcomes. Again, I don’t think we can expect him to put up an ERA around 3.00, but I do think he could be expected to put up an ERA around 4.00 and possibly below. If the Pirates can get three years of that production, it would be a massive upgrade over what they had last year. It would also mean Nova fits in well in the rotation behind Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.

The Pirates might not be done there. After the Nova deal was reported, Ken Rosenthal said that they’re still pursuing Jose Quintana from the White Sox.

A rotation of Cole, Quintana, Taillon, Nova, and one of the many starters from Triple-A would make the Pirates a serious contender. I’ll have more on the Quintana rumor in a separate article.

UPDATE 10:35 AM: Jon Heyman reports that Nova can also earn $2 M per year in performance bonuses.

So it looks like this deal could end up as high as 3/$32 M, which is closer to Nova’s expected market. But Nova would have to be productive for those three seasons for this to happen. No word on the specific incentives, but typically those are broken down by innings and games started.

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137 COMMENTS

  1. trade watson for and maybe c. tucker- get some prospects back that white sox want, and that way avoid giving up more than glasnow and those prospects gleened from the trade.

  2. it makes bargaining for quintana seem less- required. the white sox lose some leverage. But- if we get quintana, this team is as close to all-in as it has ever been and cutch is going nowhere unless we flop by the trade deadline

  3. So Adam Eaton is gone from the White Sox we know. Maybe another center fielder would help the Sox out? Possibly a certain left handed reliever could be thrown in the deal along with a promising young right handed pitcher (not named Keller)? I wouldn’t mind that deal.

    • The Sox are rebuilding, which means they aren’t too concerned about adding players that can help them compete next season. With that said, they are looking for younger players with years of control, so the CF and LHRP you mention would be Meadows and Rivero and the young RHSP would be Glasnow…probably a little too much the Pirates would be willing to give up considering Cutch is 2 seasons away from free agency.

  4. I like the signing, good term and good price. Although, the Liriano deal looked great for a year or so.

    I would also like to say that I was wrong about them dumping a lefty reliever before a pitcher was signed. I was also wrong about Nova’s total value. I thought that he would get closer to $45M versus $25M. Think about those predictions before you upvote my future posts.

  5. Keeping Nova is good.

    I’m not a “keep prospects at all costs” guy, but the likely price for JQ is painfully high given Bucs lack of power and lack of good SP depth in AA/AAA. So if it’s Glasnow/Keller/Bell or Glasnow/Keller/Meadows, or worse, Glasnow/Bell/Meadows, that’s a severe hit.

    Once again, I’ll mention a potential Plan B if no trade for Quintana:
    http://www.baseballessential.com/news/2016/12/05/report-royals-listening-danny-duffy/

    Sure, Duffy would be only one year. But it also wouldn’t cost Bucs 3 of the top 5 prospects. Maybe only one, maybe not even that.

  6. I do not like Nova but at that price I guess he might be worth it. Hope he can beat out Hutchinson for the number 3 spot.

  7. Good news and the rotation is much better than yesterday. The key is Cole returning to 2015 form and using Cutch, Bastardo/Watson to bring in prospects to flip to the Sox. To me only Meadows, Tallion and Keller are untouchable

    • I think bell should go on that list. there isn’t really anything behind except for Freese and im pretty sure we might need him at third as the Jun hi situation unfolds

  8. It’s Christmas a little early for us Bucco fans. I do not think we can complain about the terms either, as it seems like we got him for a little under market value. Team is starting to take shape nicely.

  9. Just my quick take, because I know you are all sitting there waiting on it.
    I love the deal. There you have it.
    Furthermore, I think since we have Nova for 3 years, we have less of a reliance on rookies filling out our rotation. Therefore, it makes all the sense in the world to trade 6 years of Glasnow for 4 years of Quintana. Quintana will likely be the better pitcher for 3 if not all 4 of those years. As long as the Pirates don’t give up much else from their upper level pitching we should be fine. For those wondering what the Pirates would do if Cole, Taillon or Quintana gets hurt, how would we replace them in the rotation……….well, the same way as if they still had Glasnow, they wouldn’t. Glasnow is not a replacement for any of those 3, and will not be for at least 3 years. Most MLB teams can’t replace a top of the rotation starter from within, so it makes us no different.
    In closing, love the Nova deal, now go get Quintana.

  10. Given what his previous contract asking price supposedly was, I was not in favor of the Pirates re-signing Nova – as I don’t have great confidence that he will pitch an entire season like he pitched for 2 months last year in Pittsburgh. However, this is surprisingly a very low dollar contract for Nova – I never would have suspected that he would get less than $10m/year – not in this starting pitching starved free agency market. So, maybe other teams have similar concerns with Nova’s long term projections. If he slots in at anywhere from #3 through #5, wins 10-12 games, and has a sub 4.00 ERA, its a good signing. Anything more than that would be icing on the cake.

    So, the givens in the starting rotation now appear to be Cole, Taillon, Nova, and Kuhl – #5 will be competed for by Brault, Glasnow, Hutchison (gulp), and a few other young guys. Unless Brault wins the job, that means no lefties in the rotation. Is that a reason for concern? I would think so, against certain teams that may be LH hitter heavy…did any other team go last season with all RH starters?

  11. If Nova can improve slightly on his career numbers, he will be a good fit. At current salaries and comparing this deal to others, it’s quite cost effective. Nova’s quick innings and potential for complete games are very enticing. As a long time critic of the F.O. and it’s lack of commitment to winning, I must admit to admiring this deal.

  12. Looking great…Tim/John, if they get Quintana do you see Cutch getting traded for prospects…Looks like the smart move to me.

    • If the bucs get quintana I’d rather keep cutch in the lineup and truly be competitive on paper for the division then trade harrison and watson for lesser prospects but still offset roughly the same salary.

  13. Nova 2017 Salary: 8.67mil
    Hudson 2017 Salary: 5.5mil
    Total: 14.17mil

    Liriano 2017 Salary: 13 mi

    The trade funds actually WERE reallocated. When are we going to finally trust Neil & co’s plan?

    • I would have preferred that they either kept Liriano, and hoped he would turn it around, or just ate the contract – than giving up two of their better prospects in the process. The fact that they signed these two guys icould turn out to be good moves, but it doesn’t lessen the sting of the Liriano debacle….not to mention, these two have to perform well over the next couple of years to prove their worth.

      The team also didn’t re-sign Joyce or Rodriguez, while they also traded Melancon, so one could argue that some of their salaries were also reallocated to some of these signings.

      I still don’t trust NH, especially in making any trades involving Pirates prospects – his track record is not good.

      • To be fair though some of the biggest prospects that Huntington has traded are Polo, Sampson, and Tarpley. Those are only the ones that I can remember and don’t want to include McGuire and Ramirez because I feel that Nutting made NH do that whether he wanted to or not to get out of the salary.

  14. We were desperate for a starter. Now we have: Cole, Taillon, Nova, Kuhl, and one of Hutchison/Brault/Glasnow/Williams. It is now less of a desperate situation, so I am a little less interested in losing prospects – and ,aybe more interested in shooting for someone like Jason Hammel.

      • In theory I would but that is quite a gamble on the surgery resolving his shoulder issues. In years past, he would be signed to a minor league contract for about a million with maybe some incentives. But now he’ll probably get the same amount as Nova per year for about two years.

  15. Now a trade for Quintana makes Nova a #4 starter. We also have a very Kuhl option for 5th starter. I suddenly like the rotation, and with a Cutch bounce back we are cooking with gas.
    Totally in favor of trading Watson given the market for LHP in the bullpen. And I would trade Bastardo and his salary for a BOGO coupon at Golden Corral.

    • If we could get a decent bench option like Rodriguez when we got him from Tampa then I would like that for bastardo

      • Bastardo put up -.1 war for 6 mil last year. If someone will take him, the most we should hope for is that the box of baseballs we get back are name brand.

  16. KEN ROSENTHAL
    @KEN_ROSENTHAL
    SOURCE: #PIRATES STILL TRYING TO ACQUIRE #WHITESOX’S QUINTANA EVEN AFTER DEAL NOVA. THAT PURSUIT WAS FIRST REPORTED BY @BUSTER_ESPN.

    12/22/2016, 9:32:43 AM

  17. This signing shows Nova and Pirates are a perfect fit for each other.

    Happy days are here again!

    How many days until Pitchers and Catchers report? Can’t wait!

    • We still could have signed Nova without trading two prospects. We would have likely got him for a lot less to. That said it looks like the market for Nova never heated up. It was suggested we would offer 36 million but I guess our best offer was 26 million. Glad we signed him because if he would have receive 28 million from someone else it would have been pretty embarrassing.

      • I don’t think we would have signed Nova…at least not to this team-friendly deal…if we hadn’t traded for him and helped save his season last year. That definitely gave the Pirates an advantage. So, in that respect, the mid-season trade lead to a more long-term investment.

        • I don’t know if it was a team-friendly deal or the best offer he got.

          I’m kinda sorta shocked in this day and age that he got so little. My best guess is that he had quite a few one-year offers on the table for a higher AAV, but opted for security.

          • Shocking to me too. And how many times have we read that he had received offers similar to Happ? It just goes to show that teams and agents float a lot of misinformation in the offseason.

    • Well, the re-signing does lessen the sting of trading Tarpley and Polo away – as they did re-sign Nova (and i never would have believed that was going to happen). So, I stand corrected and kudos to the Pirates for re-signing him. So, yes, as long as Nova doesn’t turn into Niese, I for one will not mention that trade again….

  18. Nutting is so cheap! If he were a good owner, the Pirates would be signing Nova to a 3 year 45 million dollar contract. Anything under 45 million proves that Nutting is a bad owner. Bad! Bad! Bad!

    • I seriously would love to know how much he profits from the team. He deserves to make some money from this investment, but I’m really curious to know if it’s a lot. Of course, “a lot” is subjective.

      • Why is it important to know how much he profits? I only judge him based on relevance of team. In this respect, he’s done an exceptional job as Owner.

          • He doesn’t need to sell the team to make money.
            Most reports have him raking out $20M a year from the Pirates. The original Nutting family investment at the time they took full control was just less than $100M. Forbes values the franchise at over $900M and there will be a big uptick in TV revenue soon.
            The Nutting empire has made a killing on their Pittsburgh Pirates investment no matter how you analyze it.

            • “Citation needed.”

              I think I’m pretty up to speed on all known sources of Pirates revenue. I’ve never seen a figure of “him raking out $20M a year from the Pirates”.

              • If you are “up to speed on all known sources of Pirates revenue” why don’t you share your revenue and net income numbers for the Pirates in 2014, 2015, and year to date with the rest of us?
                Again, the asset has increased 9x in value which is the main point.

                • That’s not correct. If the franchise is worth $900 million, his share of it is only a fraction of that. He’s not the sole owner.

    • They signed a guy they wanted all offseason for much less than everyone anticipated…so what is wrong with that? They should pay the guy $45 mill just because?

      Edit: but…sarcasm? Sorry I missed it when i originally posted. Sadly there are fans out there who feel that way though.

  19. Nice!
    Now if Neal can get Jose Quintana. That would rock this town.
    Would even be sweeter to get Quintana without losing Meadows.

      • Unfortunately when reports come out that says “Pirates are working hard to acquire Player X,” it usually means the deal is dead.

        The pessimist in me says the Pirates leak this to media to appease the fan base for public relations purposes.

        • Eh, they get no positive bounce from it. Front office supporters already assume they are trying, and those who are critics of them aren’t going to give them credit for “trying”, so there’s really no reason for them to go that route.

          More likely, the White Sox leak it to help drive his market

          • In this case, you’re likely right. I was pontificating on a more macro level though. And I disagree with you on the public relations aspect. There is value in letting the fan base know you are trying to make team better. The fringe fan base who believe team can do no wrong or right is smaller than those who are in the middle. The silent majority needs placating from time to time.

            • I totally see where you are coming from, and that is possible, but I just wonder how much positive PR you get by leaking that you might do something, and then don’t do it. I can’t imagine there is any tangible positive bounce through ticket sales or anything like that, so I just don’t see what you are accomplishing by doing it.

        • In all fairness though, the reports during this entire off season had Nova not returning to the Bucs. It would be great to add Quintana, although I don’t want to have to part with Glasnow or Bell to make it happen.

          • I agree with Bell…but I don’t understand why some people are worried about 6 years of “we just don’t know” with Glasnow…or 4 years of “some really good” SP w/ Quintana. Just a question…I’m not saying what’s right or wrong…because it’s obviously just an opinion for everyone so there’s no definitive answer

          • I certainly understand your point of view. Unfortunately to acquire Quintana, it will take those two and more based on what it took for Sale.

            • Then I say abandon the Quintana idea. Look to another team to get another veteran starting pitcher that does not have such a high cost.

      • What in Gods name are you talking about? Like “they are trying to sign: Nova, Liriano, Cervelli, acquire Byrd, morneu, Burnette, freese, etc etc” and they “tried to win 3 years in a row and be the only team to make playoffs all 3 other than cards”
        What an ingnorant to facts comment.

        • Nice comment. To be it has nothing to do with my point. When’s the last time we traded top prospects for a star player. We hear it every year but it never happens. There not trading top 5 prospects.

    • Cole, Taillon, Quintana, Nova, Kuhl. That’s an awesome lineup. Then having Glasnow, Hutchinson and Brault waiting in the wings would get me excited about this upcoming season.

        • Yeah, I reluctantly agree. If I have to give up any of our top prospects to get Quintana, I guess I am o.k. with it being Glasnow. That is something I would not have said one year ago today. Beyond that, I am not giving up Bell, Meadows, Newman, Keller. And I am very reluctantly giving up Glasnow, and only willing to do so because of the four years of control over Quintana.

      • They better not give up Bell, to much upside in a position with no real backup, Freese is okay but can’t count on having at first with Kangs problems

        • Yes, plus Bell is a very special bat. He demonstrated incredible plate discipline. I think that his ceiling, offensively, is not even in sight yet.

    • Anyone who thinks the Pirates are going to be able to get Quintana, without trading 2-3 out of the group of Meadows, Glasnow, Newman, Bell, Keller, etc. is delusional….unless they get a third team involved and trade Cutch away to the third team, who needs a CF….

    • If they can’t get quintana without giving up meadows or bell- let it pass. i don’t care about his trade value, we need those players more than we need quintana right now.

    • I agree, Joe S. It’s the right price for the right amount of years, given his past performance. I’d love to pick up one more experienced starting pitcher–Quintana??–to give us a solid rotation, one capable of competing with anyone in baseball. Make it happen, Neal H.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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