The Pittsburgh Pirates made an intriguing minor league signing on Wednesday evening
On Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a big move when general manager Ben Cherington traded star outfielder Starling Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In return, the Bucs received pitcher Brennan Malone and infielder Liover Peguero, who are now two of the team’s top 10 prospects.
On Wednesday evening Cherington made another move. While it was a much smaller move, it was still one that will impact the 2020 Pirates. This move was signing veteran left-handed pitcher Robbie Erlin to a minor league contract.
Last week, I identified Erlin as a potential free agent target for the Pirates. This was assuming it would take a Major League contract to get the job done. Getting Erlin on a minor league contract is a nice signing, and, despite it being a MiLB deal, barring a disastrous Spring Training you can go ahead and pencil Erlin onto the Opening Day 26-man roster.
In his career Erlin has logged 313 innings for the San Diego Padres. These 313 innings have come across 38 career starts and 68 career relief appearances. With the Pirates, he figures to be a reliever.
Erlin owns a 4.57 ERA in his career, but his 3.59 FIP paints a better picture. His 4.8% career walk rate is better than league average, but his 19.1% strikeout rate is slightly below league average.
During his career Erlin has always pitched better as a reliever. Erlin owns a 3.86 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 3.9% walk rate, and a 21.1% strikeout rate in his career of of the bullpen.
Last season, he owned a 3.65 FIP, 5.8% walk rate and a 20.8% strikeout rate as a reliever. While his ERA was over 5, this was largely due to an unsustainably high .373 batting average on balls in play.
An intriguing aspect to Erlin’s game are his fastball and curveball spin rates. They were both above league average last year, with his fastball spin rate being in the 64th percentile in baseball and his curveball the 66th percentile.
With Spring Training right around the corner the Pirates have no clear cut left-handed bullpen options. Steven Brault and Sam Howard are both on the 40-man roster and will compete for a spot this spring, but neither have strong career numbers. Even though this is a minor league deal, it would be a surprise to see Erlin not make the Pirates’ Opening Day roster as a left-handed bullpen option for manager Derek Shelton.
According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Erlin’s deal is worth $1.5 million if he makes the MLB team. His contract also includes $100,000 in incentives, and he can opt out if he does not make the MLB roster out of Spring Training.