How will the starting rotation shake out?
Currently, the Pittsburgh Pirates have more starting pitchers than rotation spots. On the surface this may sound like a great problem to have. The issue is that too many of this options are back end of the rotation arms.
Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Ivan Nova are locks for the 2018 rotation. Trevor Williams was the team’s second-best starting pitcher behind Taillon in 2017 and should be a rotation lock as well. This leaves the likes of Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault battling for one spot.
Also, there is prospect Nick Kingham. Due to potentially being out of options Kingham may have to make the team out of Spring Training in 2018. This could make Kingham a rotation option as well. The Kingham issue is discussed in greater detail here.
Both Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault might be best served as bullpen swingman, similar to Chad Green of the Yankees, at the Major League level. As for Ivan Nova, as his lifetime 4.30 FIP, 1.15 HR/9, and his 32.2 percent hard contact rate all indicate he simply is not a good pitcher and has no business being in the Pirates’ rotation. Unfortunately, due to his contract, he is going nowhere.
Cole, Taillon, and Williams give the Pirates a solid top three to build their starting rotation around. But after these three this rotation needs help. Also, Cole needs to fix his home run issue that plagued him in 2017.
This offseason Neal Huntington should look to first trade Ivan Nova and his contract and secondly add starting pitching help. If the Pirates enter the 2018 season with that top three, Kuhl or Brault as their number five starting pitcher with the other at Triple-A for depth, and a newly acquire starting pitcher as their other starting pitcher the rotation will, on paper at least, be in good shape.
If the Pirates do not add to their rotation this offseason, then things could be shaky in 2018. Right now their rotation is a bunch of question marks after the top three, and even Trevor Williams is far from a given since he does not even have 30 career starts yet.