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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Weekly Pirates Discussion: Free Agent Targets For the 2023 Rotation

In the previous week’s Pirates Roundtable, the Starting Rotation wasn’t selected for “Which position do the Pirates need to upgrade the most this offseason?”, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be an area of focus.

As has been mentioned before, I am of the opinion that it would behoove the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire two starting pitchers to fill out a rotation that includes JT Brubaker, Roansy Contreras, and Mitch Keller.

On Monday, Fangraphs writer Ben Clemens released his 2023 Top 50 Free Agents, complete with contract estimates. One thing that interested me was the amount of projected salaries in the $10M-$15M AAV (Average Annual Value) range, which is where I think the Pirates should seek to upgrade.

A pitcher such as Chris Bassitt is projected by Clemens at three years for $51M. That is a little on the “steeper” side, and Bassitt would be someone I’d imagine will be chasing World Series opportunities. Jose Quintana is only a month older than Bassitt, and is projected at two years for $24M while seemingly open to an opportunity at being a mentor to young pitchers.

The reality is that there are going to be more Bassitt’s than there are Quintana’s, so I want to focus on a couple other names for individually specific reasons that each have their own risks.


Beginning with Mike Clevinger. What I’m about to say will likely turn a lot away, as such with the case of Roberto Perez (a lot of Guardians ties going on here), but Clevinger hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the life of him.

Between 2017 to 2019, Clevinger pitched 447.2 innings for the Cleveland Guardians and amassed 10.8 fWAR. From 2020 through the 2022 season, he threw only 156 innings and amassed 1.1 fWAR.

For what it’s worth, Roberto Perez caught Clevinger for 238 IP in Cleveland with a 2.50 ERA. This could be part of a step-by-step process of rolling one signing into the next.

A full season removed from Tommy John surgery, there’s a good chance Mike Clevinger would be open to a bounce back contract as Clemens has him projected for 1 year at $9M. Pirates could add incentives and tack on an option while affording the opportunity for a definitive rotation spot.

With a clean bill of health, Clevinger could reclaim his previous form just as another injury-riddled Cleveland Guardians pitcher (you thought I was done with Cleveland mentions) Carlos Carrasco did with the New York Mets in 2022.


Leaning on the opportunity for a definitive rotation spot is the basis for the next two names: Ross Stripling and Zach Eflin.

Stripling is projected to receive $30M over three years while Eflin is projected for one year at $9M.

Over his seven year MLB career, Stripling has made 204 appearances with only 104 of those coming as a starter. He has eclipsed 20 starts in a full season only twice, falling one start short in 2021. Stripling is coming off his best season as a pro (3.1 fWAR) and will likely be looking to parlay it into a multi-year payday entering his age 33 season. The Pirates could be the team that gives him assurance of getting the ball every fifth day.

Zach Eflin on the other hand has spent the majority of his MLB career in the Philadelphia Phillies rotation, with 2022 being the first year he saw a more extended bullpen role. Unlike Stripling, Eflin will only be entering his age 29 season and more interested in building value. A situation where the Pirates could entice him with a clear starter spot while tacking on incentives and/or an option.


The last name I’m bringing up is Andrew Heaney who is projected for one year at $12M. Heaney has battled inconsistency and injuries over the last few years. He’s also had issues with given up the long ball over his career.

That being said, his K numbers really jumped in 2022 when he was healthy for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Heaney’s Baseball Savant page shows a pitcher that was 97th percentile in K%, 96th percentile Whiff%, and 96th percentile Chase Rate.

As would be the case with most of the names in what should be the Pirates price range, Heaney comes with risks. But I think the potential upside they would be acquiring with his 2022 metrics makes him worth the risk.


Within reason, who are some targets you’d like to see the Pirates focus on? Be it a free agent or a trade acquisition.

After some research for this article, I like the idea of seeing if Roberto Perez could sway Mike Clevinger, then signing one after the other before the ink dries.

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Raised in Cranberry Twp, PA, Jeff attended Kent State University and worked in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before moving to New Orleans in September of 2012. His background is as an Engineering Designer, but he has always had a near unhealthy passion for Pittsburgh sports. Hockey and Baseball are his 1A and 1B, combined with his mathematical background, it's led to Jeff's desire in diving into analytics. Jeff is known as Bucs'N'Pucks in the comments, and began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2022 after contributing so many useful bits of information in the comment section.


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I think Wacha is the best option and has upside too and if I’m putting in chips I’d go for Rodon.
I think another choice buy would be Mancini for the missing power and can platoon with Choi when appropriate.


Every off- season baseball writers feel compelled to do these types of articles. I understand people who write about other teams it is a logical undertaking but with the Pirates it is nothing but a waste of time, energy and talk.
Nobody, however logical or conservative they are in their thinking can ever come up with players that the Pirates might take in free agency or other means.
I haven’t read this piece and I will not read any others on this subject because they will always be wrong or just useless conjecture.


I hope this FO understands their next order of business is to



It all starts with him


Multi-year deal for this FA



Quintana and Clevinger is my dream team. Unfortunately, highly likely to remain in the dream file.


We have to spend money on something and it’s not going to meh position players who block real position prospects. I see the addition of 2-3 pitchers to the 25 man roster from outside the organization.

My hope is two to the rotation and Yarborugh for the bullpen.


Operative words:”we have to spend money”. With Nutting you are not going to see pitchers making 5 figures salary. Pirates fans have ever right to be suspicious of the front office. They have NO track record of signing middle up free agents. When you are 40% less in salary in you own division this don’t work out well.


You lost me at “We have to spend money.”


Quickest way to get back to respectability, but would involve Nickles writing large checks, so . . .


So…continued disrespectability it is.


Would signing Mancini or a solid OF be blocking any position player prospect? Nope.
This team lost 100 twice in a row. Plenty of help is needed, and they shouldn’t worry about blocking meh prospects to do it.


Michael Lorenzen would be an interesting signing. I liked him with the Reds and he had a pretty good season with the Angels this year. I don’t think he made Fangraphs’ or MLBTR’s top 50 but he made Kiley’s top 50, which is what got me started thinking about him.

b mcferren

anybody want another go around with Archer?


Every starter in the Minors would be a better choice


Never, ever, going to happen. Neither party should have any interest in a sequel to the biggest flop since WaterWorld.

b mcferren

but he fits our budget


So I like your list, but the problem is that I just can’t see the Pirates shelling out $10m+ a year for a starting pitcher when last year they had 100 losses. It might make sense if you can get a younger guy on a 3-year deal, and pack it with incentives. An I loved Quintana last year, but he’s out of the their price range this year. So we will probably see what we saw the last two years…bringing in someone who had an unlucky season last year and hope the pitching staff can turn it around.


Time to change the narrative. They paid $9 million last year for Yoshi and Perez. They spent $2 million on Hembree, 1.3 on Marisnick and 800K on Knapp as well as $3 million to buyout Polanco, 1.7 for Stratton and 1.3 for Q. They also spent $2million on Newman which they probably wont this year. Additionally, they will pay over $4million for a platoon 1B. As the roster brings more talent from MILB they will spend more.

Tim Williams

One thing that has been encouraging to me is how well Cherington has done finding value from starters.

Tyler Anderson signed for $2.5 million. A year later, he signed for $8 million. Now, he will get at least $19.65 million for one year, and could otherwise go for a multi-year deal.

Quintana signed for $2 million. One year later, he’s projected by MLBTR for two years and $24 million.

In each case, the Pirates identified a guy who was on the rise in price, and got him when he was relatively dirt cheap.

I like the idea of adding two starters. I’d spend some money to get a mid-tier guy, but the other spot should go to another value guy. I wonder who this year’s Anderson/Quintana might be?


Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes.


It feels a bit disingenuous to say they found value in them. They were signed because they were cheap and coming off poor seasons; Q certainly wasn’t “on the rise.” That they provided value on the field seems like a happy byproduct. Anderson and Q were good in Pgh, but better after they left for LA and St. Louis. Isn’t that a better lesson to learn here? What are LA and St. Louis doing to make Anderson and Q even better?

Tim Williams

How much do you think the winning atmosphere plays an impact in their rise with those other teams?




Considering the Dodgers are outstanding at development (reworking Anderson’s change up according to FG), not as much as development.

b mcferren

also Chavis ravine is a pitchers paradise


This is KEY… but then I won’t be able to b*tch and complain about super two and service time manipulation LOL


Sure you will. Feel free. I will ignore it, but find it much more pleasant than discussing politics.


Or you could sign two good starters and move some of the other hard throwing young arms into the pen.

b mcferren

send Bryan Reynolds to the White Sox for Michael Kopech


I doubt the White Sox would give us Kopech, for another outfielder. They are loaded in the outfield and they still have Colas on probably debuting next year. Yes defensively they all suck except for Roberts, but the bats are too good, so they have to play somewhere.

b mcferren

throw some prospects to the Mariners for Marco Gonzalez and sign bounce back Steve Brault


We could probably get Brault on a minor league deal. I am not against getting Gonzales, I would think the Mariners would want a lot. If we gave them someone like Endy Rodriguez they might bite, but would probably cost us top prospect. They have Gonzales on a very favorable contract for at least 2 more years. They would be crazy to give that up unless the price blew them away.

b mcferren

I didn´t realize he would be that expensive in prospects

b mcferren

I think this article talking about the wrong shelf at the chuckie cheese ticket prize counter

Last edited 26 days ago by b mcferren

Free agent starter with the greatest differential between actual and expected ERA?

Sean Manea (4.96 ERA vs. 4.05 xERA), followed by Zach Eflin (4.04 ERA vs. 3.26 xERA).


I like the names already mentioned. One not mentioned yet as a possile bounce back candidate is Matthew Boyd.


Mathew Boyd would be interesting. Biggest issue with him is home runs, bu a park like PNC might neutralize that some.


I’d be happy with any of the pitchers you named but Manaea and Walker would also be near the top of my list given their age. There will probably be too much competition for those two, so Quintana and Clevinger are more likely, especially if we sign Perez.


Personally I’d have no interest in resigning Roberto Perez regardless of who he might potentially bring along, but that’s probably just me. Bringing Q back would be great. Any of the ones you mentioned would probably be significant improvements assuming health issues stay out of the way.

I see no mention of either Tyler Anderson or Michael Wacha? Anderson really turned it up a notch with the Dodgers and Wacha turned it around with Boston and both should be in the same general financial category, although Anderson might cost a bit more. They both might prefer a winning team instead of the Pirates but money talks if any can be pried from Nutting’s clutches. My vote would be for either Q or Anderson and/or Wacha because he has a winning veteran presence and I’d like to watch him go against the Cardinals a few times.


So James Click is leaving the Astros…I’d love to see the Pirates bring him in, either with Cherington moving to President (giving Williams another title) and Click as GM or vice versa (I don’t think Click would accept an Assistant GM position). But if I’m Williams I’d do everything I could to bring in a former member of the Rays’ brain trust. I’m sure Cherington wants full control of his dream rebuild, but I’d feel so much more confident in our future if a guy like Click was in the FO.


Give him the baseball ops title, im for it


How about fire BC and hire Click? Works for me.

In all seriousness, bringing in the AGM who was just fired by Astros after Click was let go would accomplish the same thing you asked for, and is actually feasible. He came from Rays system, too.


Only Quintan interests me. I want a LH in the rotation. Maybe Smyly as a fall back, I think Q can be our next Frankie.



b mcferren



A lefty would be nice, but any starter has tools to get LH and RH batters out. If not, they are a reliever or a minor leaguer.


That said, clevinger, heaney, stripling, and Q are all guys that i had also thought to be a really nice fit here. Even one of those plus a bargain bin dive would set us up for some solid rotation depth going into the season


Realistically we arent going to outbid other teams and we arent showing enough progress yet to sell guys on growing with a winner, so our best offer is the chance to start with a long leash to guys that might not get that chance everywhere


I vote for Quintana, at the 2 years $25M total. He seemed to enjoy his time here and it might help Contreras and Ortiz to have him around.

Jameson Taillon is out there as well. I might try 3 years and $60M but the injury history scares me.


They NEED a lefty or two in this rotation, but 2/$25M sounds a bit rich for Q. He’s still sits a bit high on the risk-spectrum for me; IDK, maybe I’m over-analyzing.

I’d be in favor of bringing JT back on something that pays around $10-12M AAV. He’s a solid and reliable arm, at least for the past two years, which they could really use. I’m a firm believer that this team will start to improve when roster volatility compresses. A dependable MOR arm, who can give you about 30 competitive starts per year, seems underrated. There are also some serious “trickle-down” benefits associated with this type of move.


the article suggests 12 – 14 mil per year for JT. Not 20. At those rates they should and could bring him back.


Q yes, JT, no.




No idea what this means.


“I Agree With This Comment”




Exactly lol


I find it incredible how we haven´t been able to have more Lefty Starting Pitching, considering PNC Park´s characteristics! So definitely I would go for a Lefty (actually 2 if possible, the second SP via trade).
I would be very happy with Heaney! If not, Smiley, Manaea, or getting Q back!


I don’t think that John Smiley has much left in the tank, but a ST invite might work.

b mcferren

guy smiley


Especially since he will not have the chance to blow the NLCS here.


He’s still be better than some we trotted out this year!


Sorry. Drew Smyly!


Yeah, John hasn’t turned 60 yet. So go for it.

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