Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: Pitcher Yusmeiro Petit

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 01: Yusmeiro Petit #36 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the third inning of Game Three of the American League Wild Card Round at RingCentral Coliseum on October 01, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 01: Yusmeiro Petit #36 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the third inning of Game Three of the American League Wild Card Round at RingCentral Coliseum on October 01, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates could use some durable relief pitching. Yusmeiro Petit not only has been one of the most durable arms in baseball the last handful of seasons, but can fill multiple roles.

Throughout the 2020 season the bullpen was consistently inconsistent for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Early in the season the bullpen was one of the worst in baseball, before putting together some strong work in the middle part of the season. Then during the last few weeks of the season, you never knew what you were going to get.

The Pittsburgh Pirates did see some improvement throughout the year and will enter 2021 with some interesting arms. Right now, Chris Stratton and Richard Rodriguez will return and we may see Blake Cederlind and Nick Mears get some regular time out of the ‘pen. Lefties Sam Howard and Nik Turley have some potential as breakout candidates. Both J.T. Brubaker and Cody Ponce could see some time out of the bullpen, as well as the starting rotation.

While the Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of different options out of the bullpen there is very little certainty or stability. Getting a durable arm for the pen should be something the Pirates look into this offseason. Among some of the most durable relief arms in baseball, Yusmeiro Petit sits at the top. He could be a nice low-risk signing for the Bucs.

Since 2013, Petit has silently become one of baseball’s most intriguing relief pitchers. His 2013-’205 stint with the San Francisco Giants is what really put him on the map. Petit served just about every role imaginable for San Fran. He tossed 241 innings, started 29 of the 80 games he appeared in and posted a 3.66 ERA, 3.21 FIP and 1.10 WHIP.

His strikeout rate was a solid 24.6%, but it was his impressive 4.9% walk rate that made him effective. Notably, he tossed a near-perfect-game with the Giants in 2013, retired 46 consecutive batters in 2014 and helped propel the Giants to the World Series with an impressive six inning shutout, one hit performance against the Washington Nationals in a marathon 18 inning game 2 of the NLDS. Petit went on to be a star throughout the 2014 postseason for the Giants.

Petit was surprisingly non-tendered by the Giants after the 2015 season. Though he struggled in his one year with the Washington Nationals, Petit would have an outstanding year with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017 tossing 91.1 innings, while posting a 2.76 ERA, 2.85 FIP and 0.93 WHIP. He put up his typical low walk rate at just 5.1%, but he struck out 28.5% of the batters he faced while putting up a career best HR/9.

This earned Petit a three-year contract with the Oakland Athletics. Petit showed off that durability once again, tossing 197.2 innings during these three seasons. These were the most by any other relief pitcher from 2018 to 2020 by a fair margin. All told, he put up solid numbers including a 2.73 ERA, 3.80 FIP and 0.93 WHIP. Petit almost gave up as many home runs as he did walks with 27 home runss and 33 walks. His 4.3% walk rate was 6th in all of baseball while his 4.97 K/BB ratio ranked 16th.

ERA estimators don’t particularly love Petit. He has a solid 3.89 SIERA with the A’s, but a 4.41 xFIP. Still, he’s put up a SIERA and DRA below 4.00 in four of his last six seasons. One of those seasons he had both a DRA and SIERA above 4.00 was in 2020 when he tossed just 21.2 innings which can lead to a small sample size potentially affecting his overall numbers like any player in 2020.

Petit has put up above average hard hit rates and exit velocities since the Statcast era began. His average exit velocity has gone over 88 MPH just once since 2015. While Petit is a fly ball pitcher who relies on his defense to get outs, the Pittsburgh Pirates defense took big steps forward from 2019 to 2020. If the universal DH returns for the 2021 season, this could limit the amount of time Josh Bell sees at first base, leaving first base up to Phillip Evans and Colin Moran, the latter of which proved he was capable of handling the position in 2020.

While Petit’s velocity was down in 2020, it can, again, potentially be because of a small sample size in a weird season. Regardless, Petit has never relied on velocity to get outs. The fastest his fastball has ever averaged out at was 89.6 MPH.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates need to look into durable arms for both the bullpen and rotation. Yusmeiro Petit would be a great player to try and go after. He’s filled multiple roles throughout his career. While he hasn’t started a game since 2017, he pitched multiple innings a handful of times in 2018 and 2019. He definitely could be a spot starter or opener if need be. He’s pitched in big games and high leverage situations, so he could fill in as a set-up man or even closer if he had to. To go with that, he’s always been a durable arm who you can rely on for 60-70+ innings a season. His lowest inning total from 2014 to 2019 was 62 in 2016. Not only is Petit essentially a super utility pitcher, but also an extremely durable one at that. This could make him a solid low-risk signing and someone who could potentially be an interesting trade chip in July.