Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: Starting Pitcher Ivan Nova

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates need an innings eater starting pitcher before the offseason ends. Old friend Ivan Nova could provide just that.

The starting pitching market is very thin after a flurry of signings. Once LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu completed his deal with the Blue Jays, the market was left devoid of changing types of starters. However, that doesn’t mean there is no value to be had, especially for a rebuilding team like the Pittsburgh Pirates.

There are still plenty of innings eaters types of pitchers, durable starters who can give you 6 or so innings per start, and 30 starts a season. While starters are running dry, the Pirates can still nab one of the best SP left on the free-agent market, old friend Ivan Nova.

Ivan Nova was one of the Pirates’ starters between mid-2016 up to 2018. While he wasn’t going to get Cy Young votes, Nova can do one thing, eat innings. He averaged almost 6 innings a start with the Bucs. Overall, he pitched to a 3.99 ERA, 4.22 FIP, and 1.250 WHIP with the Pirates in 71 starts/412.2 innings. He walked just 1.6 batters per 9, which was one of the best BB/9 between mid-2016 to 2018.

Last offseason, Nova was traded to the White Sox for young right-hander Yodri Rosario, and international bonus pool money. The 2019 season for the right-hander had its up but certainly had its downs. Nova finished the first half of the season with a 5.58 ERA, 5.26 FIP, and 1.53 WHIP. He struggled to keep the ball in the park (1.7 HR/9) as well.

Although Nova did bounceback in the second half. He lowered his ERA to 3.72, FIP to 4.65, and WHIP to 1.37. While he wasn’t completely home run immune, he gave up just 1.17 per 9 in the second half. However, this is nothing new. Nova similarly struggled in one half of the season but did much better in the other half multiple times with the Pirates.

He finished the season with a 4.72 ERA, 4.98 FIP, and 1.455 WHIP. He still is a control master with a 2.3 BB/9, which ranked 18th in the MLB. While his 4.98 FIP isn’t great, he will never have a great FIP because of his lack of strikeouts. Since 2016, Nova has registered the 11th lowest K/9 ratio.

Last season, his K/9 was just 5.49. Despite his home run numbers, Nova still generated ground balls at a decent 46% rate, which ranked 23rd in the MLB. Despite his overall sub-par numbers, he has the 2nd highest ERA+ (97, passed by Homer Bailey’s 99), bWAR (2.1, passed by Andrew Cashner’s 2.5), and 4th in ERA (passed by Bailey, Cashner, and Jason Vargas) of any starter left on the FA market with at least 100 innings pitched in 2019.

Regardless, Nova still provided innings. He pitched in 34 games and put up 187 innings. He led the league in games started and was 23rd in innings pitched. Nova ranks 19th in innings pitched from the start of the 2016 season to 2019. The Pirates suffered many injuries last season, especially to the starting 5. They only had one starter surpass 150 innings, and 30 games started, that being Joe Musgrove (31 games started, 170.1 innings pitched).

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Ivan Nova should definitely be on the Pittsburgh Pirates radar. The Bucs need to pick up at least one innings-eater type starter before the end of the offseason, and Ivan Nova is currently one of the best still on the free-agent market.