Could a veteran lefty, who would also classify as the team’s latest reclamation project, be a free agent target for the Pittsburgh Pirates?
As the Major League Baseball offseason carries on the Pittsburgh Pirates remain in the market for starting pitching help. After trading Ivan Nova to the Chicago White Sox, the Bucs find themselves without a fifth starter.
General manager Neal Huntington has said the recently signed Jordan Lyles will compete for the final rotation spot. Huntington has also mentioned the idea of using an ‘opener’ in 2019. However, the team’s best options remains to add another starting pitcher.
If the Pirates are to add another starting pitcher it would be wise to add a lefty starter due to the lack of one at the moment. A potential left-handed free agent that could be a target for the Pirates is 30-year-old veteran Drew Pomeranz.
Pomeranz appeared in 26 games, with just 11 of them being starts, during the 2018 season. In 74 innings pitched for the Red Sox Pomeranz owned a 6.08 ERA and a 5.43 FIP.
He struggled as both a starter and a reliever last season. Pomeranz owned a 6.31 ERA, 5.97 FIP, and a 13.3% walk rate as a starter last season. As a reliever, he owned a 5.56 ERA, 4.22 FIP, and a 11.5% walk rate.
Despite struggling in 2018, Pomeranz has a track record of being one of the better left-handed starters in the Majors. During the four year stretch of 2014 – 2017, Pomeranz logged 499 1/3 innings in 136 games (81 starts) for the Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, and Boston Red Sox. In these 136 appearances Pomeranz owned a 3.24 ERA, 3.78 FIP, a 9.2% walk rate, and a 24.4% strikeout rate.
However, during this stretch Pomeranz struggled with the injury bug. Pomeranz made 30 starts in 2016 and 32 in 2017, outside of these two seasons he has never made more 22 starts in a season. In three of the last five seasons, Pomeranz has made 11 starts or less.
Injuries continued to be an issue for Pomeranz last season. Throughout the season he battled bicep tendinitis, which was likely a contributing factor to his porous 2018 campaign.
If the Pirates would decide to turn to an ‘opener’ in 2019, Pomeranz could factor into this as well. Due to injury concerns and struggles the second and third time through the lineup, Pomeranz may be best served being used in two or three inning outings. Pirate pitchers such as Lyles, Steven Brault, and Nick Kingham are in the same boat.
That said, if the Pirates sign a pitcher like Pomeranz their first course of action would be to use them as a starting pitcher.
As you saw above, control was a major issue for Pomeranz in 2018. After owning a walk rate of 9.4% or lower each of the previous four seasons, this numbered jumped to an overall rate of 12.8% last season.
Pirate pitching coach Ray Searage has built a career by being one of the most successful pitching coaches in baseball when it comes to helping pitchers fix their control. A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Felipe Vazquez are just a few examples of this. If Searage believes he could do it with Pomeranz as well, then that could make Pomeranz an intriguing free agent target for the Pirates.