Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: Reliever Steve Cishek


With the Pittsburgh Pirates in dire need of bullpen help, veteran reliever Steve Cishek could be a target in free agency this offseason

The 2022 Pittsburgh Pirates had plenty of weaknesses. Arguably the team’s biggest weakness was the bullpen. To be frank, the Pirate bullpen was one of the worst in all of baseball during the 2022 season.

During the 2022 season the Pirate bullpen ranked 29th in baseball in ERA (4.72) and 26th in FIP (4.26). Pirate relievers walked batters at a 10.2% clip, which was the fourth worst bullpen walk rate in baseball, while their strikeout rate of 20.6% ranked 29th out of 30 MLB bullpens.

To quote Bill Mays, “but wait! There’s more!”

Pittsburgh Pirates relievers hit more batters (47) than any other bullpen in baseball in 2022. They allowed 70 home runs which was the 10th most in baseball, and their 35 wild pitches were the 6th most in baseball.

It goes without saying that the Pirate bullpen needs a lot of help this offseason. Outside of David Bednar, no one seems to have a job locked up in the Pirate bullpen for 2023. Wil Crowe will be facing a make or break season,

Looking ahead to the offseason, Ben Cherington and the Pittsburgh Pirates need to be active in free agency. A big part of this will be addressing the bullpen. One potential free agent relief pitching target could be veteran Steve Cishek.

Cishek, who will turn 37 next June, is coming off a season in which he was a workhorse out of the Washington National bullpen. In 69 appearances, Cishek pitched 66.1 innings posting a 4.21 ERA and a 4.85 FIP.

Last season, he posted a 9.4% walk rate and a strong 25.8% strikeout rate. He limited opposing batters to a .219 batting average against and allowed home runs at a rate of 1.49 HR/9. While Cishek’s fastball velocity is toward the bottom of baseball, with his funky side armed delivery the pitch was in the 73rd percentile of fastball spin rate and helped keep batters off balance.

Opposing batters failed to square up Cishek last season. Batters had an average exit velocity 87.3 MPH against Cishek last season, which was below the league average exit velocity for hitters. His 36.0% hard hit rate was also below league average.

In his MLB career Cishek has posted a 2.98 ERA and a 3.49 FIP in 710.2 innings pitched in 737 relief appearances. He’s walked 9.6% of batters faced, struck batters out at a 24.8% rate, and has allowed home runs at a 0.68 HR/9 rate.

Adding Cishek to the mix could be a big boost for the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen in 2023. Cishek could help serve a setup man for Bednar in the back end of the Pirate bullpen. He would also be capable of closing games out if Derek Shelton chose to use Bednar before the 9th inning in a high leverage situation.

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Cishek could likely come at a decently cheap price, which, as well, is a factor for the Pirates. Not only could he then help solidify the team’s bullpen, if they are out of contention in July he could also be a strong trade chip.