Pirates add pitching depth with signing of Jake Woodford

The Pirates signed right handed pitcher Jake Woodford to a minor league contract. Let’s go over the signing and how he helps the Pirates.
Boston Red Sox v Chicago White Sox
Boston Red Sox v Chicago White Sox / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

After a solid home stand against two above .500 teams, the Pirates witnessed some very poor outings from their relievers. This included 11 earned runs from Ben Heller in two innings and lots of base runners from Kyle Nicolas. This contributed to the Pirates losing two winnable games in this homestand, but nonetheless, the Pirates went 4-2.

These two series proved that the Pirates bullpen has some very solid arms, but also needs reinforcements. Ben Cherington wasted no time at all and added another arm to the group, according to Robert Murray, by signing right-handed pitcher Jake Woodford to a minor league contract.

Although this is not a high-leverage signing, it provides much-needed pitching depth for both the Triple-A and big-league rosters. The Triple-A pitching staff also made two other transactions: promoting Braxton Ashcraft and releasing Wily Peralta.

Woodford was recently released by the Chicago White Sox after struggling in just two big league starts. He also did not perform well in Triple-A, where he was used as a starting pitcher. In Triple-A this season, Woodford went 1-3 with an earned run average of 5.26 in 49.2 innings pitched and struck out 42 batters. Opposing hitters hit .269 against him and had a WHIP of 1.39.

These numbers as a starter are not great, but he has a decent history of being an effective bullpen arm. He had a great season in 2021, but in 2022, he was dominant. In that season, Woodford had a 4-0 record with an earned run average of 2.23 in 48.1 innings pitched and struck out 24 batters. Opponents had a .244 batting average against him, and his WHIP was a 1.12.

Part of his recent struggles have been command. In 2022, his walk percentage was at 5.9%. The following season, it was at 9.9% and it has remained that high in the big leagues in 2024 at 10.9%. If he can get back to allowing just soft contact then he will return to his 2022 form.

Although this may look like a cheap signing, getting Woodford in the organization is important if injuries continue to occur. The Pirates are already down three starting pitchers, but Woodford has been his best out of the bullpen. There is not a concrete timetable for Martin Perez or Quinn Priester so this could be a fill in spot for the rotation until one is healthy.

Jake Woodford may not provide an immediate impact to the Pirates roster, but he does add significant value to the Pittsburgh organization.