Pittsburgh Pirates: Questioning the Vince Velasquez Signing


The Pittsburgh Pirates recently signed Vince Velasquez to a one-year deal worth $3.15 million. But was this a necessary signing?

The Pittsburgh Pirates need relief pitching depth. By the end of the year, their bullpen was barebones thin. They’ve made some strides to improve the pen, acquiring Dauri Moreta from the Cincinnati Reds and signing left-hander Jarlin Garcia. However, they also just recently inked right-hander Vince Velasquez to a one-year, $3.15 million deal. But was this a smart move on the Pirates’ end? Was it an overpay in the end?

Velasquez spent the 2022 season with the Chicago White Sox. In 75.1 innings, Velasquez had a 4.78 ERA, 4.25 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP, which is only slightly better than his career 4.96 ERA, 4.53 FIP, and 1.36 WHIP. His 21.6% strikeout rate was tied for his career-worst, and he had a mediocre 1.33 HR/9 rate. Of the few positives, Velasquez had a career-best 7.8% walk rate.

Velasquez wasn’t terrible as a relief pitcher last season, owning a 4.25 ERA, but quality 3.22 FIP and 1.06 WHIP. He also had a decent 23.3% strikeout rate, 6.8% walk rate, and 0.8 HR/9. But some good luck played a role in Velasquez’s success out of the bullpen. He had a 4.28 xFIP and .255 opponent batting average on balls in play.

While he wasn’t terrible as a relief pitcher, is this really the right move for the Pittsburgh Pirates?

The Pirates aren’t asking Velasquez to be their ace or high-leverage late-inning go-to reliever. It’s a depth move, and depth is important. But for just over $3 million, you’d think the Pirates could have used that money toward something more impactful than a low-leverage long-reliever/spot-starter.

Now some fans will point out that the Pirates are cheap. While that is true, what’s even cheaper is promoting a minor league arm like Nick Dombkowski or Cody Bolton to fill the long-relief/swing-man role or letting either Bryse Wilson or Zach Thompson take the role. It already feels like the Pirates have multiple guys who could give them what Velasquez can provide.

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Overall, it seems like a confusing signing from an outsider’s perspective. At best, Velasquez is a 3.50-3.80 ERA long relief/swing arm. At worst, he’s a guy you put in when you’re down or up by a ton of runs, and it won’t matter if he gives up a few in two innings. We’re not necessarily talking about a ceiling that one of the multiple relief prospects in the system or a pitcher like Wilson or Thompson could potentially surpass. While the contract is not a very large contract, the $3.15 million could have been saved to go elsewhere.