Free agent pitchers the Pittsburgh Pirates can pursue on incentive based contracts

The Pirates should go after these two veteran pitchers who will likely sign back-loaded contracts.

Miami Marlins v Chicago White Sox
Miami Marlins v Chicago White Sox / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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Brandon Woodruff

The Pirates should be more than familiar with a . The right-hander has spent his entire MLB career thus far with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he has pitched to a 3.10 ERA, 3.19 FIP, and 1.05 WHIP. He has a respectable 0.99 HR/9, along with a strong 28.9% strikeout rate and a 6.5% walk rate. Arguably one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, Woodruff looked good when he was on the mound in 2023.

Woodruff started eleven games while throwing 67 innings, working to a 2.28 ERA, 3.60 FIP, and 0.82 WHIP. Woodruff was once again approaching 30% in strikeout rate at 29.2%. However, he was on pace for posting a career-best 5.9% walk rate. His 1.21 HR/9 rate was about league average but much higher than anything he has posted in the recent past.

But Woodruff was limited to such a small sample size because of shoulder issues. He eventually had to undergo surgery on his anterior capsule in October, which originally looked like it could sideline him for all of 2024. But the right-hander hasn’t completely ruled out pitching again sometime in the second half of this upcoming campaign.

Woodruff was projected to make about $11.6 million in arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors. A deal at $16 million with only $1 million being paid in 2024 would be fair. While it’s entirely possible that Woodruff would pitch in 2024, it’s also far from a guarantee. But if he ends up not pitching in 2024, the Pirates could eat the $1 million. They also get the added benefit of getting a starter who can produce at an ace-caliber level for a relatively affordable price in 2025. The worst-case scenario is that this becomes a one-year deal at $16 million.