Pittsburgh Pirates: Should the Bucs Consider Aaron Barrett

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Pirates are going to be looking for at-least one bullpen piece this off-season.  With Neftali Feliz likely to move on, the Pirates could target a former Washington National.

As of yesterday, right-handed relief pitcher Aaron Barrett was placed on out-right waivers by the Washington Nationals.  The right-handed pitcher presents as a very intriguing bullpen option.  The Pittsburgh Pirates will definitely have to bring in a relief pitcher or two.  The Bucs will likely lose Feliz to free agency.  Meanwhile you always like to have plenty of depth in the bullpen heading into Spring Training.

Aaron Barrett has the make up of a back-end of the bullpen pitcher.  He throws his fastball in the range of 93 to 96 miles per hour.  He also has throws a plus slider that grades out as a 45/45 on FanGraphs scaled.  Now the top of this scale is 60, but what a 45 out of 45 suggests is that it is a tight breaking slider, with not a ton of movement, but enough movement to get outs.  He throws it hard as it ranges from 85-87 miles per hour and he has very good command of it.  Barrett is mainly a fastball and slider pitcher.  He does have a change-up, but he uses it very little when facing opposing hitters.  Like most relievers he is a two pitch pitcher.

Aaron Barrett made his professional debut in 2014.  The now 28-year-old appeared in 50 games as a rookie pitching to an impressive 3-0 record with a 2.66 earned run average.  He also struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings pitched. Meanwhile in the 40.2 innings pitched the right-handed thrower racked up a 0.6 WAR. The next season many had high expectations for Barrett.

The Nationals expected him to be the setup guy, while bidding his time to take over as the future closer.  Barrett saw himself struggled a little more in 2015.  He only appeared in 40 games while only pitching 29.1 innings. Although his strikeout rate stayed high as 10.7 per nine innings pitched, he saw his earned run average jump to 4.60.  Now obviously that raises an eye brow right away.  However, looking at his FIP his adjusted earned run average was at 2.21 suggesting that he had some bad defense and/or bad luck behind him.

Even with that some might be wondering why he is now on waivers.  Everything seems positive about Barrett.  He has a power arms and good slider that sets him up to be a back-end of the bullpen type pitcher.  In his 90 games of work he has struck out a lot of hitters and has pitched reasonably well.  He also has four more years of control entering his final season of league minimum followed by three years of arbitration.

So why would the Nationals just give him away? Well, in September of 2015 Barrett received Tommy-John surgery.  Then while going through rehab in July of this past season, Barrett found himself with a fractured elbow.  This second injury also required a surgery.  With two elbow surgeries within ten months of one another, the Nationals felt he could not contribute next season.  However, the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to always take advantage of teams who give up on players.  In fact according to Charlie Wilmoth of MLBTR, Barrett is expected to start throwing soon and should be ready for next Spring.

More from Rum Bunter

There are several reasons why the Pittsburgh Pirates would be interested in Aaron Barrett. First they need to find an arm that could possibly replace Neftali Feliz as the 7th or 8th innings guy.  Second if he recovers from Tommy-John the way most pitchers do now a days, his pitches should remain solid still. However, there are two main factors that could interested the Bucs.  First as mentioned earlier, Barrett has several years of control left.  It is likely to be cheap control to being that he has missed a full season and a month.  Second is he produces a solid ground-ball rate to go along with his great strikeout rate.  In his career he owns about a 45% ground-ball rate, to go along with his 10+ strikeout per nine innings.  The Bucs love pitchers who produce ground balls and missed bats, Barrett can provide both.

Next: Four SP Trades to make

The Pittsburgh Pirates always seem to take a few flyers on pitchers every off-season.  Aaron Barrett should be another flyer target for the Bucs.  He is a cheap, power arm that they could slide into the back-end of the bullpen to help fill the void that Feliz is likely to leave.  He has good peripheral numbers that an analytical team like the Pittsburgh Pirates will like.  Due to his injuries in the past there likely will not be a robust market for the right-handed pitcher.  The Pittsburgh Pirates should definitely look to bring Barrett on a buy low contract that could lead to a high reward for both sides.