Pittsburgh Pirates: Thoughts on Ivan Nova and his Asking Price

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

News: It was recently reported by Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that the Pittsburgh Pirates have made two contract offers to Ivan Nova.  However, in the same report, it says that Nova is seeking a fairly significant contract.

Bill Brink is reporting that Ivan Nova and camp are seeking a deal in the ballpark of five years and 70 million dollars.  That average annual salary on a deal like that would be about 14 million dollars per season.   This is a decently high asking price for a pitcher whose earned run average was over five at the trade deadline.  With that, Nova has been one of the best pitchers in the National League since joining the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation.  Once again, Neal Huntington has found a pitcher at the trade deadline who they were able to completely turn around.

The issue is that fans are tired of seeing the Pittsburgh Pirates turn these pitchers around, just to go and pitch for others team the next season.  Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates turned J.A. Happ’s career around.  He ended up getting a three-year contract at twelve million a year.  He now is a twenty game winner and has a strong 3.28 earn run average.  The once key difference between Happ and Nova is that Happ was entering his age 33 season, while Nova is entering his age 30 season.  Because of this Nova will most likely earn at-least a four-year contract.

Is Ivan Nova worth an investment of 70 million over 5 years?

Many are questioning whether or not Nova will be worth a contract of that size.  His average annual salary is not the concern, but rather the amount of years a team will have to invest.  Fans are wondering if he will be able to sustain he success over as he ages into his mid 30’s.  Chances are it will be really hard for him to repeat what he has done since August 1st, in general it has been remarkable.  However, Pittsburgh Pirates fans have seen J.A. Happ leave Pittsburgh and have continued success, so it is not impossible.

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Fourteen million dollars a year should not be out the Pittsburgh Pirates range.  Two seasons the organization was willing to give then 31-year-old Francisco Liriano, 13 million a year.  Liriano earned that after posting a strong first season with the Pirates.  However, that was in the 2013-2014 off-season.  This is now a few years later, every off-season the price goes up for free agents.  Hence why Ivan Nova can demand 14 million dollars a year.  Is it to much the Bucs?  Most likely.  This is not because they cannot afford to give a player 14 million a year, they are very well able to.  It is more because of the commitment long-term.

Long-Term Commitments

The Pittsburgh Pirates do not like to put long-term commitments in aging arms because they are very unpredictable. Once a pitcher turns 32 their numbers start to inflate, unless of course you are a bonafide ace.  We saw this with Francisco Liriano this season.  The Pittsburgh Pirates most likely feel that Ivan Nova would be worth 14 million dollars over the next two seasons, the issue would be the three seasons after that.  The Pirates front office feels they cannot afford to wrap up 42 million in those last three seasons.  If things go south with Nova, then they will be “financially handcuffed” for those years, or they will have to get creative to move his contract.

Final Thoughts

I personally think the Pittsburgh Pirates should look to extend Ivan Nova.  He would slot perfectly as the #3 pitcher next season behind Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.  Nova has proven that he can be successful here in Pittsburgh. The Pirates gave up two solid prospects for Nova as well.  If there is any time for the Pittsburgh Pirates to go out of their “comfort” zone, it would be for Nova.  With literally no expensive investments currently in the future rotation, the Pirates can afford to retain Nova.

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Is Ivan Nova worth 14 a year? If he continues to pitch the way he has, it would be.  It is time for the Pirates to retain a trade deadline asset.  The Pirates struggled early this year because they looked for cheaper reclamation pitchers.  None worked out and the team fell behind. Nova is fixed already, now turn your acquisition and development into an investment.  Worry about the later years on the deal down the road if it means being back in the playoffs next year.  Also, just because Nova wants five years for 70 million does not mean he will get it!

Disclaimer, I am not suggesting go out and pay him 5/70, but suggesting that it is doable to give a contract in the range if need be.

Finally if you have any thoughts on the Nova demands comment below.

Also all stats are courtesy of Baseball Reference.