Pittsburgh Pirates Offseason: Payroll Flexibility
The Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation fell flat on their face. The Pirates finished 22nd in ERA and 18th in FIP. They did not have a single pitcher qualify, as Jeff Locke led the team in innings with 127 and Gerrit Cole had the most innings started with only 116.
After tossing a 3.26 ERA the last three years, 3.38 in 2014 and 2015, Francisco Liriano imploded to a 5.46 ERA. He walked 13.2 percent of the hitters he faced as a Buc, a mark that was 0.5 percent above his previous high. There were some bright spots, however. Jameson Taillon pitched well in his rookie campaign, and Ivan Nova, a free agent, pitched to a 3.06 ERA and a 2.62 FIP. But most of the 2015 rotation is either gone, a free agent, or in the bullpen. As it stands, Cole and Taillon are locks, and Chad Kuhl is basically one as well.
Cole is projected to make $4.2 million according to MLBTR’s predictions. Taillon and Kuhl will come close to league minimum, but given the Polanco’s increase that I’m using as the baseline, that puts Taillon and Kuhl each at $532,500.
The next two in the rotation will be question marks. My money is on Drew Hutchison making the rotation, as he is projected $2.2 million in arbitration. The team just won’t kick him to the curb without giving him a legit shot, and I think he could be a capable back-end starter. At the worst, he will be better than 2015 Jeff Locke in terms of ERA and 2014 Locke in terms of FIP. That leaves a blank spot, which could be filled by Trevor Williams or even Tyler Glasnow, but as we all saw, Glasnow needs some work, and I’d be willing to guess he starts the year in Indianapolis with Williams. With the four pitchers – Cole, Taillon, Kuhl, Hutchison – the Pirates are at $7.465 million.