BRADENTON, Fla. – The expectation at the start of the offseason was that Ivan Nova would get a big deal on the free agent market. The market was weak, and Nova was one of the more attractive pitchers due to his final two months in 2016 after being traded to the Pirates. Nova was projected to receive 3-4 years in the $12-13 M range per year. He ended up getting three years and $26 M from the Pirates, which came as a surprise due to the expectations.

There were some theories about why the price was lower. One theory was that he didn’t have much interest, despite his strong finish in 2016. The bigger theory was that he just wanted to return to Pittsburgh. Nova confirmed the latter theory today after reporting to Pirate City for Spring Training.

“Everything I said with my agent was ‘Try to make it done with Pittsburgh’,” Nova said. “I’m more than happy. I expressed that I want to be here. It took a little bit longer to sign, but to decide to be here was huge, and that makes it easy.”

Nova said he waited for the right time to sign, and while he talked with other teams, he knew he always had the option to come to the Pirates. He had interest from “a couple of teams”, but kept things quiet and focused mostly on the Pirates.

“We were just trying to get something done here, and not worry about other teams,” Nova said. “Sometimes you can go out there and play for more money, but sometimes you don’t feel as happy as I feel here. I choose to be happy here.”

Nova said a big reason he decided to return to Pittsburgh was due to the people on the team, and his coaches.

“It’s the people you have around,” Nova said. “I feel so comfortable knowing that I have my two catchers here. The way everybody treated me here, and the pitching coach that we have. The way these guys go out there and play the game.”

The atmosphere also helps him on the mound, leading to some of his success last year. Moving from New York to Pittsburgh has helped a lot of pitchers over the last few years, and Nova elaborated on why that move helped him.

“I was relaxed,” Nova said. “Knowing you’re going to pitch today, and no matter what happens, you’re going to have another start. In New York, you don’t always have that. If you pitch a bad game, you’re either in the bullpen or the minor leagues. It’s the way they do. I think that’s the big difference, knowing that you’re going to pitch no matter what, you’re going to have the time to figure out what you did wrong, and they’re going to help you out.”

Nova stressed that pitching in New York and the American League wasn’t easy. Part of that had to do with the park factors, with Yankee Stadium being unforgiving with home runs. PNC Park is much more forgiving, which allowed Nova to attack the strike zone more often, leading to lower walk rates and lower home run totals.

“Throwing a strike and not being afraid to go after hitters [led to the low walks],” Nova said. “Not thinking too much. Just being really aggressive with the strike zone. Not every fly ball is going to be a home run. In New York, if you don’t hit it to the middle, if you hit it to the corner, that’s a homer. Even a breaking ball, that’s a homer.”

Nova went from a 21.3% HR/FB ratio in New York to a 7.8% after the trade. His ratio was always high in his career with the Yankees, leading to a 13.1% career rate. The biggest change for him was that his walk rate was low, going from 2.31 BB/9 to 0.42. That might not be sustainable for him, but it does help that he’s pitching in the zone more often, throwing 48.1% of the time in the zone with the Pirates, compared to 41.6% with the Yankees. His career high was 45.7%, and his career rate was 42.8%.

The Pirates are now looking to Nova as a leader, and someone who can come in and provide a big boost to the rotation behind Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. If he can pitch close to his production from the final two months of 2016, he will provide the boost they need. And if that production was fueled by being more comfortable due to being away from New York, then Nova has a good shot of coming close to those late-2016 results.

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  1. Never thought much of him but the price was right and maybe he will produce at a level to justify the expenditure. If not, who knows what prospects NH will give up to get him off the books.

  2. While I’m sure that he liked Pittsburgh, and wanted to come back and play for us. I can’t help but think that part of him saying everything above was BECAUSE he signed with Pittsburgh.

    I can’t imagine Nova saying, ‘I came to Pittsburgh because this was the best deal available, but if another team had a better offer i’d be there.’

    • He might have traded some salary for comfort level or not. But as long as he makes the decision to stay and perform, he’s good in my book.

    • I don’t think anyone was offering 12-13 million for three or more years. If he gave us a hometown discount my guess it was a couple of hundred thousand a year. I would imagine he had some decent one year offers but nothing substantially above what the Bucs offered in years and amount.

      • I’m not arguing that the pirates may or may not have given him the best offer. There is no way for me to know that.

        All i’m saying is that, Nova or any other player signing with a team, is going to tell the media something negative about why they signed with who they signed with.

        No player is going to say, ‘Well the market didn’t play out like we’d expected and here’s where I landed!’ or something along those lines. They’ll be upbeat, say great things about the club, and blah blah blah.

        Good for Nova he came back to Pittsburgh, and i really wanted to see him back here. I just take what he said above as being a non story.

        • Here’s why I think you’re wrong. Many players of late haven’t received the long-term deal they wanted. So instead of taking the best long-term deal available, they either sign a 1-year deal in the hopes they’ll have better luck next off-season, or they have an opt out clause included. Neither of these things happened with Nova.

          • While you may be right Scott, you are missing the point of my entire reason for posting….

            Nova’s comments are a non-story. Plain and simple. My argument is NOT on WHY he came to Pittsburgh or did he get the best deal. My point was, that it is expected that Nova say the the things he said in the article above.

            Point A: Nova comes to Pittsburgh because he got the best deal available to him, regardless of what people say he SHOULD have gotten….. Do you think he, or any other free agent in this scenario would say to the media, “Well the Pirates offered me the best deal, so here i am!”

            No, they are going to say positive things about the club, it’s player, coaches, and that they are happy to be here.

            Point B: Nova comes to Pittsburgh for a ‘Discount’ because he wants to be a Pirate. He says the exact same stuff.

            Wherever anyone sees me talking about 1 year deals, or getting a discount, or anything else in terms of salaries… should get their eyes checked.

            • Im still missing your point. When does any FA say, I’m a greedy bastard and this team was one who offered me the most money?

              And every FA talks lovingly about the franchise who just signed them.

              In this particular case it’s easy to think his words are authentic based on his results, and what all Pitchers say about Cervelli & Stewart.

              • You got the point right on the money Scott! That is the point.

                Nova could be being genuine, and as a Pirate fan, I believe that he is. That doesn’t make what i said, that his comments are a non story, doesn’t hold true.

                If everyone says it, regardless of it they mean it or not, does that not make the reporting of those comments pointless?

      • It had to be about staying in Pittsburgh, there’s no way he doesn’t take a 1 year offer if it was about the money.

    • The only scenarios that people believe:

      1. If a player signs with the Pirates, it’s because he didn’t have better offers or stronger interest.

      2. If a player doesn’t sign with the Pirates, it’s because they weren’t aggressive enough and/or were cheap.

      3. If a player signs at a discounted price with another team, it’s a question of why the Pirates can never get those discounts, or a complaint that the Pirates could have just offered more money to sign the player away.

      • Tim,

        Brushing aside your generalization of all pirates fans and baiting Nutting haters, I fail to see where this applies to any comment i made?

        Where do i argue why he came to the pirates, or my thoughts on why he came to the pirates for that matter?

        My point, for the 5th time, was that REGARDLESS of the reason he came to the pirates….. He is going to say the same exact stuff to the media, as he did in your article.

        If a player wants to play for Pittsburgh and takes a discount, they’ll tell the media they came for that reason AND make it known they took a discount.

        If the pirates offered a player the best deal available. That player will, 90% of the time, not say that to the media. Instead they will say “I wanted to be a pirate, i love the players, club house, and coaches.”

        • The thing about Nova is that he has been saying this about Pittsburgh since the moment he arrived here, before he signed, and then after he signed. He signed for less money than expected in a weak market. So I think this is a case where we can take him at his word, rather than just chalking it up to saying the right things following a signing.

    • I disagree. I think most definitely some players choose to play where they believe they can be successful even at the expense of taking a 10-20% pay cut.

      Not every player is all about the money.

  3. Really excited about Nova’s possibilities with the Pirates. I still think the team needed to bring in another veteran starter because we don’t really know what is going to happen to the 4/5 spots. But 1-3, I think this can be a solid to above average rotation in 2017.

      • Every team hopes their rotation stays intact, but the reality is it very rarely does. Pirates are poised to have good quality depth in the likely event one or more of the opening day rotation is lost for a period of time. Having guys like TG, Brault, and Williams, who all have SP experience in Pittsburgh as depth options is huge! Not to mention possibly Kingham by mid season, too.

        Pirates are in good shape to stay competitive even if the inevitable injury happens.

        • I agree. Even though our depth does not have the experience I would like, the talent is there. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Kingham can do when he comes up. Prior to his injury, he and Tallion were the two prospects I was most excited about. JT did well for himself and I think moving forward he only gets better. I know a sophomore slump is definitely possible but with the stuff he has and his work ethic I’m thinking he avoids it.

          • I’m totally on board the JT train! I see him being the Ace of the staff even if Cole reverts to his form of a couple years ago. Love his stuff, control, and mental makeup most of all.

            • Preach! Jameo has the stuff to be a Frontline pitcher, no doubt. He has an edge about him but he always keeps his cool whether he gives up a dinger or gets a punch out. If his stuff continues to develop, we have something special.

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