Pittsburgh Pirates: Grading Ben Cherington's Off-Season Moves Thus Far

Let's analyze Ben Cherington's moves this off-season.

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Signing Martín Pérez

Martín Pérez had a career year in 2022, posting an ERA below 3.00 and making the All-Star game. While it seemed somewhat fluky of a season, Perez’s 2023 season was well below expectations. Perez made 20 starts to open this season, working to a mere 4.98 ERA, 5.30 FIP, and 1.52 WHIP. Perez’s 14.4% strikeout rate was a significant drop from 2022 (20.6%), while his home run rate of 1.50 and 8.6% walk rate were relatively similar to last season.

Perez was then moved to the bullpen, where he pitched significantly better, working to a 2.70 ERA, 3.98 FIP, and 1.02 WHIP. Perez’s strikeout rate (18.5%) and walk rate (6.2%) both moved in the right direction. He also significantly cut his home run rate down to just 0.81. The veteran southpaw became better at limiting hard contact with his opponent's exit velocity and barrel rate falling 89.4 MPH and 7.9% from to 87.3 MPH and 5.3%.

The end to Perez’s season was promising, but granted, he worked as a long reliever instead of a starting pitcher. However, there were some other noteworthy aspects of this stretch that could carry into next season. Perez started to use his sinker much more frequently, a pitch that had +8 run value this year. Meanwhile, he used his cutter less, which had a -13 RV. 

The Pirates should focus on getting Perez to use his curveball, fastball, and slider more frequently as well. His change-up and cutter are, quite honestly, where nearly all of his struggles resonate. These two pitches are responsible for nearly 60% of the total hits and about 48% of the total home runs he gave up this year.

This seems like a very Ben Cherington move. They have done pretty well with turning around veteran lefties like this during BC’s tenure. However, I think there were better options for around $8 million. Wade Miley signed for a guaranteed $8.5 million and I doubt that Ryu will sign for any more than that. But given how well Perez pitched down the stretch and some of the adjustments he made, I think he could rebound. Maybe not to his 2022 peak, but some sort of a middle ground between ‘22 and the start of 2023.

Grade: C-

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