The Pittsburgh Pirates are interested in LHP Jeff Francis. The Rockies pitcher is showing throwing during a 2-1 win over the Nationals on May, 16 2010. Image: Yardbarker

Behr: To The Left

Each week Jesse Behr gives us his opinion on all things Pirates.  Enjoy. 

The horrors of Zach Duke’s 5.72 ERA and 12.0 H9 can finally be laid to rest, as the southpaw was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday for a player to be named later. Neal Huntington’s fetish with left-handers lives on, as the Pirates have been linked to three lefty free agents – Jorge De La Rosa, Jeff Francis, and Scott Olsen.

Let’s break down what each has to offer to the Bucs:

Jorge De La Rosa

As I said in my “Analyze This” post on BP at the bottom of the page, De La Rosa is arguably the second best pitcher on the free agent market. It’s interesting that his stock is still so high after a par 2010 campaign (8-7, 4.22 ERA) where he missed nearly two months of the season with a torn flexor tendon band in a finger on his left hand.

However, De La Rosa’s career 7.9 SO9 rate speaks for itself, and any Major League staff (especially Pittsburgh’s) could use an explosive arm in their rotation. His fastball runs at almost 93 mph, slider at 84 mph, and curve drops down to about 75 mph. Signing De La Rosa, a Type A free agent, could cost the Pirates a second round draft pick. 

The talent is certainly there, though his faults are clear too – career 4.5 BB9 and 9.1 H9 rates.  The question is, can the Bucs afford to make an eight-figure mistake?  

Jeff Francis

The Pirates, Mariners, Brewers and Astros have all drawn interest in the Rockies former ace. Last season, Francis went 4-6 in 20 games while tossing 104 1/3 innings. He posted rates of 5.8 SO9 and 2.0 BB9 in a mediocre comeback from missing all of 2009 following arthroscopic surgery on his left arm. 

His best season came during Colorado’s postseason run in 2007, in which he went 17-9 with a 4.22 ERA and a 3.7 WARP (for you non-sabermetricans out there, WARP stands for ‘wins above replacement player.’ Read more on the term at Baseball Prospectus’ glossary )

Francis could be looking at an incentive-driven one-year deal.

Scott Olsen

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last week that the Bucs are “deeply interested” in Olsen.  He has a career 4.85 ERA in 723 innings (rates of 3.6 BB9 and 6.5 SO9), pitching in Florida from 2005 to 2008 before being traded to Washington. The Marlins were quick to get rid of Olsen not (necessarily) because of any on-field issues, but off-field issues that have followed the 26-year old throughout his career (clubhouse fights in 2006, DUI arrest in 2007). 

Health is also a question with Olsen, who continues to have soreness on the same right shoulder that was surgically repaired (labrum surgery) in 2009. This looks like a quintessential low-risk, high-reward signing possibility for the Pirates.

Now, if GM Behr had his way, he’d sign Jeff Francis to a one-year contract. De La Rosa’s going to cost me big bucks over multiple years (plus a draft pick), and I have limited trust in both Olsen’s ability and character.

Paul Maholm, James McDonald, Francis, and Ross Ohlendorf could make for a solid rotation, if everyone can stay healthy.

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Check out Jesse’s take on Jorge De La Rosa in his Analyze This column at Baseball Prospectus:

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Tags: Jeff Francis Jesse Behr Jorge De La Rosa Pirates Blog Pittsburgh Pirates Scott Olsen

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