Pittsburgh Pirates: Stay Away from Free Agent Market


Editorial: As many know, the free agent starting pitching market is one of the weakest groups in recent history.  The Pittsburgh Pirates need to add a few starting pitchers, but they should stay away from the free agent market.

The Pittsburgh Pirates absolutely need to add two starters this off-season.  There is no denying that the easiest way is to sign them via free agency.  However, the starting pitching market is historically weak.  Not only is there a lack of solid options, but because of that, pitchers are going to be over paid.  Many speculated that this would not be the case.  However, when there are teams with money, and pitching needs, they will spend what they have to.  Of course there is not a dominant ace like starter on the market.  The top pitchers available are Rich Hill, Jason Hammel, and Ivan Nova.  They will demand significant contracts, but they will not be getting rich deals like we saw last year with David Price and Zack Greinke.  Still, they will get more money than they should.

Ivan Nova set himself up nicely for free agency by being dominant the last two months of the season.  Just like JA Happ, Nova came to Pittsburgh and found himself.  With that being said, in a normal market he would be looking at thee years and around $10-12 million per season.  Instead, it is sounding like he is going to get four, maybe five, years at an inflated rate of 14-16 million dollars.  If he does get that kind of money, there is no reason the Pittsburgh Pirates should match, and finally invest that kind of money into a player who is not worth it.  Nova was excellent, but he will regress next season. Now yes, I could be wrong and he may get less than that, but early free agent signings suggest he will get exactly what I am speculating.

Two Examples

There have been two notable free agent signings so far.  Both have been starting pitchers and both have signed with the Braves.  The first was R.A. Dickey.  The just turned 42 year-old, will receive at least eight million dollars over the next year from the Braves.  He also has a club option for 2018, which would pay him another eight million.  This is entirely too much money for a pitcher who had an ERA of 4.46 and a FIP of 5.03.  Not only is this too much money for a pitcher who obviously is in decline, but too much for one that is 42 years old!

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To make the market even worse, the Braves signed another older pitcher to another sizable deal. Yesterday, Bartolo Colon received a one year, 12.5 million dollar deal.  For those of you who do not know, Colon is turning 44 in May.  Although Colon is aging, he did have a nice season in 2016.  He threw the ball to a 3.43 earned run average while logging 191 innings, not bad for an old guy!  However, the two previous years saw him post earned run averages north of four with low swing and miss rates.  Colon has been at least an efficient starter the last few season, especially last year, but he is still going to be 44!

Other Options

All in all, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to stay out of the starting pitching free agent market.  First off, there are not any premium talents for teams to go after.  There is a lot of parody between all the available starters.  Because of this, the market for these pitchers is going to be compressed and most of them are going to get more money than they should due to the limited options.  Most of these pitchers are considered project pitchers also, somewhere the Bucs have had success. Guys like Andrew Cashner, Derek Holland, Doug Fister, and Edinson Volquez all are viewed in the same category.  They are considered pitchers who have had success in the past, but need to have rebound seasons.

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Usually the Bucs would be all over one of these guys, but these four pitchers make up some of the better options on the market.  Because of this, they are going to get more money than they should. In the end, we saw two of the oldest pitchers in baseball get 8 and 12.5 million dollars respectably.  Imagine what the younger pitchers with more upside will get. A pitcher like Cashner, who is projected at 8 million dollars, could receive closer to 12, even with an ERA over five last year.  For all these reasons, the Bucs are better off hunting for a starter via trade.