Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Friday – Starting Pitching

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Aug 17, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Bud Nrrrris (20) pitches during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates were previously linked to attempting to pry Bud Norris away from the Houston Astros back at the 2013 trade deadline. A potential deal fell through after the Astros made it clear that Tyler Glasnow had to be involved in a deal. Looking back now, many fans will be thankful this deal didn’t happen. Since that time, Norris gave it a go in Baltimore and San Diego. After posting a 15 win season in 2014 for the Orioles, the wheels fell off of Norris last year to the tune of a 6.72 ERA to go along with 1.58 WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched).

Norris has never been a pitcher that values control, and his 2015 campaign was no exception. The right-hander averaged 3.2 walks per nine innings pitched, and struggled to keep the ball in the park with a 1.6 HR/9.

His ground ball rates are solid if not spectacular – 43.4% in ’15; 40.8% for his career – and has a nice selection of pitches. Norris found his 2015 self employing a change, cutter, and sinker while favoring his fastball and slider. The large array of pitches and decent ground ball rate can give Ray Searage something to work with. The biggest x-factor for Norris is that his struggles in 2015 have devalued any potential offers. The degree to which that will be shown remains to be seen, but it’s known that the Pirates like him, and the many options on the market will work in the Pirates’ favor.

Sep 14, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Doug fafFister (33) throws a pitch during the eleventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals defeated the Phillies, 8-7 in 11 innings. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Doug Fister has ridden a considerable rollercoaster over the past several seasons. The 2013 and 2014 seasons saw a combined total of 30 wins for Fister. Then, the curse that was the Washington Nationals season reared its ugly head, causing a healthy regression. Fister – never a strikeout pitcher – saw his strikeout-to-walk ratio drop to 2.63, his lowest total since becoming a regular starter. With only 5.4 strikeouts per nine, the margin of error for Fister is slim. He is simply the type of pitcher who cannot afford base runners, although his ground ball rates are solid (48.8% for his career).

Fister’s value did drop as a result, but with only one bad season and a career 3.42 ERA, it may not have dropped as much as Norris or others.

Both of these pitchers can make fine reclamation projects, which one of the market inefficiencies the Pirates are known to exploit.

Another such exploit is the organization’s willingness to ‘take a flyer’ on those pitchers with less than stellar reputations.

Next: Rolling the dice