Drew Smyly is coming off a very solid season for the division rival Chicago Cubs. In 106.1 innings, Smyly worked to a 3.47 ERA, 4.23 FIP, and 1.19 WHIP. Smyly’s 20.4% strikeout rate is a single-season career worst, but his 5.8% walk rate is the best he’s had since 2013. Smyly struggled with limiting home runs with a 1.35-per-9 rate, but he kept batters to an 86.7 MPH exit velocity.
The Pittsburgh Pirates would be taking a risk, given that Smyly’s track record is pretty inconsistent. He only had a 4.18 xFIP and 4.06 SIERA last season as well. But Smyly does have a 96 ERA- since mid-season 2019 (meaning he’s been about 4% better than average) and is still a relatively low-cost gamble.
While Zach Eflin has dealt with some injuries, he’s consistently been an average or better starting pitcher for the last few seasons. Eflin only pitched 75.2 innings but owned a 4.04 ERA, 3.56 FIP, and 1.12 WHIP. He only struck out 20.8% of the batters he faced with a 0.95 HR/9, but he also had an elite 4.8% walk rate. Eflin’s underlying numbers also support a better pitcher with a 3.78 SIERA and 3.81 xFIP.
While Eflin has run into injuries, he’s consistently above average. It’s the fourth season in a row he’s posted an ERA+ of 100 or better and the third straight season with a sub-4.00 FIP. When he’s healthy, Eflin is a decent starting pitcher, but he’s pitched less than 110 innings in each of the last two seasons (the last three seasons, if you count 2020).
Like with Eflin, while Wade Miley is coming off an injury-marred 2022 campaign, he represents a steady veteran rotation option on the free-agent market. He only pitched 37 innings for the Chicago Cubs. Of the few silver linings of his 2022 season, he was decently effective when healthy. Miley owned a 3.16 ERA, 3.95 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP in the few times he did take the mound.
But Miley was also highly effective in 2021. In 163 innings for the Cincinnati Reds, Miley was the owner of a 3.37 ERA, 3.97 FIP, and 1.33 WHIP. Miley has never been a strikeout pitcher, and his 18.1% strikeout rate falls in line with his career averages. But his 7.2% walk rate was well above average, and he had a 0.94 HR/9 despite pitching in a very hitter-friendly park, that being Great American Ballpark.