Pittsburgh Pirates: Ivan Nova’s Last Start?

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates need to shore up their middle infield this offseason.  Could they open up some money by dealing a starter?

Ivan Nova may have pitched in his last game as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nova is entering this off-season with only one year remaining on his contract.  For the 2019 season, Nova is slated to make $8.5 million as he finishes out his three years and $26 million contract that he signed entering the 2017 season.

So the question is, should the Pittsburgh Pirates move on from Nova this off-season? If so, last night may have been his last start.  Nova started against the Cubs in a game that was his chance to clinch the Pittsburgh Pirates a winning season.  However, it did not go the way he would have hoped.  Nova only made it through four innings of work and gave up six runs (five earned).  In those innings, he gave up eight hits, walked two, and struck out four.  It was one of his worst starts of recent outings.

In general, Nova is everything that one would expect in a backend of the rotation type arm.  He is durable, has strong command, but not overly impressive numbers. In his 2018 season, he has posted a 4.19 ERA in 161 innings pitched. His home/road splits are quite different as he has pitched to a 2.99 ERA at home while posting a 5.42 ERA on the road.  Overall, he is only striking out just over six batters per nine innings, walking just under two, and has a 45.6 percent groundball rate. Nova has accumulated 1.1 WAR, so he has been exactly what one could expect from a number four or five type starter.

In all three seasons with the Bucs so far, Nova has thrown at least 160 total innings.  Overall, he has never thrown under an ERA of 4.00.  He has had a lot of really good stretches, but also some tough ones.  Also, he is entering his age 32 season, so he is likely going to continue and decline going forward.  Yet, even with his often mediocrity, he is consistent and somewhat reliable to be part of a backend of a rotation.

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A trade, however, would not be so much because of his performance, but rather just to clear up money to move into other areas.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are not too far off from being in contention next season.  Chances are they will finish this year with a winning season, and that is not because of Ivan Nova.  However, if they move Nova, the club could gain another $8.5 million to invest in shoring up the middle infield or outfield, which would make the team have a stronger offense next season.  Meanwhile, the team should have more than enough young pitching depth that can provide similar results as Nova has the past two years.