The Pittsburgh Pirates need to make some changes to their bullpen
All season long the bullpen has been an issue for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While Felipe Rivero has become one of the best relievers in baseball, Juan Nicasio has been a fine setup man, and George Kontos and A.J. Schugel have done a nice job in middle relief, the rest of the bullpen has been a train wreck.
Adding to the frustration for Pirate fans is that they have young, promising arms at Triple-A. Angel Sanchez, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana, and Steven Brault could all be big parts of the Pirate bullpen for a long time. However, they are being blocked by lesser pitchers.
Two veterans in particular are problematic in the Pirate bullpen. One is right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit, while the other is left-handed reliever Wade LeBlanc. Benoit is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and LeBlanc has a club option for next season. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to cut ties with both immediately.
Neal Huntington acquired Joaquin Benoit from the Philadelphia Phillies at the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. This trade was one that never should have been made and, as expected, it has gone disastrously.
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After Benoit blew his third lead in six games with the Pittsburgh Pirates last night, he now owns an 11.81 ERA in 5 1/3 innings pitched since being traded. He has allowed 10 hits, a pair of home runs, and he has just a single strikeout.
Trading for Joaquin Benoit was a move Neal Huntington should never have made. Now, it is time for him to atone for his mistake by designating Benoit for assignment and giving his bullpen spot to one of the young arms at Triple-A.
As for Wade LeBlanc, the Pirates claimed him off waivers last September. LeBlanc went on to have an excellent September for the Pirates, which led to the team giving him an 800,000 dollar contract for this season with a club option for 2018. However, after starting 2017 strong the veteran lefty has become a total and complete liability.
LeBlanc has pitched 61 1/3 innings this season and has allowed 62 hits, 10 home runs (1.47 HR/9), and his 33.5 percent hard contact and 23.7 percent line drive rates are both far too high. While he is averaging just 2.35 BB/9, his 7.09 K/9 is also lower than you would like to see.
There is almost no chance LeBlanc’s option will be picked up this offseason. This combined with his struggles this season should lead to LeBlanc being designated for assignment along with Benoit to open bullpen spots for more deserving relievers.
It is time for the Pittsburgh Pirates to make some bullpen changes. Joaquin Benoit and Wade LeBlanc both need to be shown the door to make room for younger, more deserving arms. Unfortunately, there is little reason to expect either of these moves to happen.