Four Realistic Free Agents That Could Make The Pittsburgh Pirates Playoff Contenders

These free agents should be within the Pirates' price range, and could push them into being potential contenders in 2024.

Sep 18, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52)
Sep 18, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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RHP Seth Lugo

I’ve been spouting off about these next two all off-season, and for a good reason. They’re quality starting pitchers, and ones who will likely be relatively affordable. Seth Lugo spent the first seven years of his MLB career with the New York Mets where he was mostly a long-reliever/spot-starter. But Lugo was signed by the San Diego Padres last off-season, and was given a starting rotation spot.

Lugo ran away with it, as he pitched 146.1 innings, working to a strong 3.57 ERA, 3.83 FIP, and 1.20 WHIP. The right-hander had an above average 23.2% strikeout rate and 1.17 HR/9, however his 6% walk rate was one of the best in baseball last season. Among pitchers with at least 25 games started last year, he had the 17th lowest walk rate.

The only downside for Lugo is that he’s not young, and he’s not good at limiting hard contact. He will be 35 next season, and was below the 25th percentile in exit velocity (90.7 MPH), barrel rate (9.6%), and hard hit rate (44.2%). These were all career worsts, and from 2016-2022, he had an 88.1 MPH exit velo, 7% barrel rate, and 34.6% hard hit rate. How Lugo would age and how his hard hit rates would progress (or continue to regress) would be something to keep in mind.

But Lugo would still be a quality pitcher behind Mitch Keller and Marco Gonzales. Even though he’s older and allowed a decent amount of hard contact, he still limits walks, gets strikeouts at a good rate, and it marked the fifth time in a row in a 162 game season where he has posted a sub-4.00 ERA.