According to multiple sources, the Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to a deal with the Chicago White Sox involving right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova. The deal is pending review of medical records for the players involved and no other names have been mentioned yet. Check back for details as they are announced.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2018
Nova is due to make $9,167,000 on the final year of his three-year contract. It also includes incentives that could raise it up to $2,000,000 more. Nova turns 32 years old next month and is coming off of a season in which he made 29 starts and pitched 161 innings, posting a 4.19 ERA, a 4.57 FIP, a 1.28 WHIP and 114 strikeouts. More thoughts on this shortly as we await word on the pieces in this deal.
UPDATE 1:09 PM: The Pirates will receive a young pitcher and international slot money, according to Jon Heyman.
Pirates to get young pitcher and international slot $ for Nova. Dealt from rotation strength.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2018
UPDATE 1:23 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…
This deal cuts the projected payroll for the Pirates down to $71 M, and opens a spot in the rotation. The current rotation includes Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, and Trevor Williams. The Pirates don’t have any strong options for the final rotation spot on Opening Day, as it would be unlikely that they’d give a rotation spot to someone like Nick Kingham or Clay Holmes without seeing MLB results first. Mitch Keller won’t be ready at the start of the year either.
This means that you can now expect the Pirates to pursue a starting pitcher this offseason, with the goal being an upgrade over Nova. Over the last two years, Nova was a decent starter, posting a 2.0 fWAR in 2017 and a 1.1 in 2018. He was pretty consistent, with a 4.14 ERA and a 4.19 xFIP in 2017, and a 4.19 ERA and 4.28 xFIP in 2018. Those numbers were around the league average each year. In short, the Pirates are going to need to find a pitcher with above-average results to upgrade over Nova.
As for the return, it doesn’t sound like there’s much. I’m guessing the pitcher will be a lower level lottery ticket. The Pirates have been focused on the lower levels with their returns lately when dealing someone who doesn’t have a lot of value. They traded Tanner Anderson for a DSL pitcher, and received some lower level guys in addition to Erik Gonzalez for Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff.
The real value for the Pirates is that they’ve cleared payroll, and have also cleared a rotation spot. So it will be tough to fully analyze this deal until we see the other shoe drop in regards to both of those things.
We’ll have more details as they are available.
UPDATE 1:59 PM: Jon Heyman has the details of the return:
Pirates got Yordi Rosario in Nova deal. Plus 500K in int’l $
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2018
Rosario is a lower level pitcher who threw as a starter last year between the DSL and Arizona League (west coast equivalent of the GCL). He combined for a 2.57 ERA in 56 innings, with a 70:12 K/BB ratio. The right-hander is 19 years old, turning 20 at the end of January, and is 6′ 2″, 185 pounds. Specific details about his stuff were hard to find initially. We’ll update later when we learn more.
On the international side, the Pirates had a little under $2 M remaining with their international budget, based on the known bonuses. However, that number isn’t accurate, since there are 23 players we don’t have a bonus for, and possibly more signings that haven’t been discovered. The Pirates traded for international money last year, knowing they needed it to sign Ji-Hwan Bae. This deal makes you wonder if they have another guy in mind for the added money.
UPDATE 2:09 PM: Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs had a report on Rosario in August, saying that he’s a standard teenage projection arm, sitting in the low-90s without any mechanical violence. He’s got an advanced ability for his age to throw strikes with his fastball and “shapely curveball”. Longenhagen says his stuff is very average now, but he could be exciting if things break right.
UPDATE 2:47 PM: Baseball America has a report on Rosario as well.
“Rosario, who signed with the White Sox in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic, spent three seasons in the Dominican Summer League before making his stateside debut in 2018 in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He’s athletic and projectable, though he pitches with a below-average but sneaky fastball in the 86-91 mph range. He also throws a curveball that has a chance to be average at 71-74 mph and a changeup at 83-84 mph. He’s a lottery ticket type of acquisition who will get more interesting as he adds strength.”