Pittsburgh Pirates: Rolling the Dice on Brandon Woodruff Would Be a Worthwhile Gamble

After being non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers, could this long time divisional foe be a fit with the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Sep 23, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) throws a
Sep 23, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) throws a / Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

After being non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers due to injury concerns, pursuing Brandon Woodruff could be a gamble for the Pittsburgh Pirates but it would be a gamble worth taking

The Pittsburgh Pirates have no bigger need this offseason than starting pitching. This is a need that has been made even bigger with Johan Oviedo's elbow issues that could cost him the entire 2024 season.

Even if Oviedo is fine for 2024, the Pirates still have just two legitimate starting pitchers currently on the 40-man roster with Oviedo and Mitch Keller. The other internal options for Opening Day? Quinn Priester, Luis Ortiz, Bailey Falter, Roansy Contreras, Andree Jackson, not much that inspires confidence. Even if one of those five would figure things out, be in the starting rotation, and pitch well, starting pitching would still be a huge need.

So, regardless of Oviedo's health, the Pirates will need to add at least two, if not three proven starting pitchers this offseason.

While it could be a bit of a gamble due to his health, righty Brandon Woodruff could be a starting pitcher the Pirates target in free agency. Shoulder issues that led to surgery limited Woodruff to just 67 innings pitched in 11 starts last season, contributing to him being non-tendered. However, as the Pirates saw for many years, when Woodruff is healthy he can be among the best starting pitchers in the National League Central.

When he was on the mound last season Woodruff pitched extremely well. He posted a 2.28 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 5.9% walk rate, 29.2% strikeout rate, and allowed home runs at a 1.21 HR/9 rate. Opposing batters hit just .170 off of Woodruff, with just a 29.8% hard-hit rate.

Since making his MLB debut in 2017, Woodruff has made 115 starts, with 130 career appearances and 680.1 innings pitched. He owns a 3.10 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 6.5% walk rate, 28.9% strikeout rate, and he's allowed home runs at a 0.99 HR/9 rate.

The big gamble here of course is Woodruff's health. As you can read more about here, pitchers returning from shoulder surgery tends to be a much bigger gamble than those returning from even Tommy John surgery. So, that is something that the Pirates must weigh.

That said, it's a signing that would be worth a gamble. If Woodruff is healthy and his pre-injury self, he immediately becomes the Pirates best starting pitcher and gives their starting rotation and gives the team a strogn 1-2 punch with Woodruff and Keller.

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