Even though the Pittsburgh Pirates do not currently have a general manager, it does not hurt to take a look at free agents they could pursue this offseason
Anyone who watched the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 know they have multiple needs entering this offseason. However, there is one need that outweighs the others – pitching. As the offseason revs up, the team finds themselves in dire need of both starting pitching and bullpen help.
While the team does not currently have a general manager, there is no doubt that whoever is hired as the team’s new GM will target starting pitching help this offseason. When looking at the starting pitching free agent class there are many names that look enticing. But when you look at names that could be in the Pirates’ price range, one that is very intriguing is long time nemesis Michael Wacha.
Wacha has spent all seven years of his MLB career with the St. Louis Cardinals. This came after the Cardinals drafted Wacha out of Texas A&M with the 19th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. By 2013, Wacha was already in the Majors.
In his debut season of 2013 Wacha looked like a budding superstar. He posted a 2.78 ERA and a 2.92 FIP in 64 2/3 innings of work across 13 games, nine of which were starts. In the postseason, Wacha continued to dominate. This included carrying a no hitter into the 7th inning of game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Pirates with the Cardinals facing elimination at PNC Park.
Each of the following four seasons Wacha was worth an average fWAR of 2.3. Injuries, however, were starting to become an issue. In these four seasons, Wacha made 30 starts just twice as a 24 start and a 19 start season were mixed in.
Wacha then made just 15 starts in 2018, and lost his spot in the Cardinal starting rotation in 2019. This past season Wacha pitched in 29 starts for the Cardinals, with 24 of them being starts. In these 29 outings Wacha posted a 4.76 ERA, 5.61 FIP, a career low 18.5% strikeout rate, and allowed an abysmal 1.85 HR/9 across 126 2/3 innings of work.
While he struggled in 2019, Wacha’s changeup remained a weapon. Opposing hitters slugged just .326 off of his changeup and the pitch generated a 36.6% whiff rate. The problem was his fastball and curveball both got crushed.
If Wacha can get his curveball back on track, then he can still be a quality starting pitcher in the National League. Trying to have whoever the Pirates’ new pitching coach winds up being attempt to fix Wacha could be a worthwhile gamble for the Bucs.
Even though it should not be the case, four of the Pirates’ five rotation spots are likely sewn up for 2020. Barring something changing, Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove, Mitch Keller, and Trevor Williams are all likely slam dunks to begin the 2020 season in the starting rotation. This leaves one spot available, and Wacha could be the guy to fill this spot.