The Pirates made a big move earlier this offseason with the addition of Erik Bedard, who is going to help the pitching staff significantly if he can stay healthy. However, even with Bedard, the Pirates pitching staff is far from impressive.
The Pirates have been rumored to be interested in free agent Jeff Francis. Those rumors faded after the Bedard sign, but who is to say that Neal Huntington and company have stopped spending this offseason? There have been reports that the Pirates were still interested in Derrek Lee even after the trade for Casey McGehee, which tells me that they are willing to spend more money.
I know as well as you do that Jeff Francis isn’t a great big league pitcher. However, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t help this pitching staff. Right now the starting five looks something like this: Bedard, McDonald, Morton, Karstens, and Correia. The team could be without Morton’s electric stuff for a few weeks to begin the season, but that’s not a huge issue as the Pirates have Brad Lincoln who can step in and make the couple starts they would need to compensate for that.
So this really comes down to who is the best pitcher out of Francis, Correia, and Lincoln. Let’s compare their 2011 numbers:
Francis: 31 GS, 183 IP, 4.82 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 4.5 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, .316 BABIP
Correia: 26 GS, 154 IP, 4.79 ERA, 4.85 FIP, 4.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, .292 BABIP
Lincoln: 8 GS, 47.2 IP, 4.72 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 5.5 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, .313 BABIP
Lincoln isn’t really a fair comparison there because a lot of his innings came out of the bullpen and he had just those 8 starts. His success as a starter was surprising to me because of the season he was having in AAA before his recall. In 19 starts with Indianapolis, Lincoln posted a 4.19 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9. Those numbers aren’t horrible, but you would expect a big league pitcher to perform better than that. At the age of 26, I think Lincoln deserves another shot as a starter in the big leagues, but that doesn’t mean the Pirates shouldn’t try to get another capable starter.
I think it’s pretty evident from the numbers above that Francis is a better option than Correia, especially when you consider that Francis was pitching in the much tougher American League.
If the Pirates don’t sign another pitcher, I want Lincoln as the 5th starter and Correia in the bullpen. However, I’m not fully convinced that either of them will be better than Francis. Heck, I’m not even convinced that Jeff Karstens is a good starting option in spite of his strong 2011 season.
I think the Pirates could benefit from signing Jeff Francis. Sure, he’s nothing more than a 4 or 5 starter, and the Pirates have a few of those, but the more you have, the lower the chances are of them all being awful.
There are other names than Francis still available, and we’ll go over them in the next few days.