The Pirates would be best suited if they acquired another relief pitcher who could handle high-leverage situations on the regular and occasionally sub-in for David Bednar when he needs a day off. One of the relievers who could fill said role is Hector Neris, who has a player option for 2024. Even though Neris is older, his strong season could lead to him opting into free agency.
Neris is coming off a season in which he had a 1.83 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, albeit with a less impressive 3.83 FIP. Neris had a quality 28.3% strikeout rate and 0.92 HR/9. But he dished out walks at a below-average 11.3% rate. While Neris didn't have a poor season, there were some less promising numbers under the hood.
Even though Neris had a decent K%, it pales in comparison to his career 30.1% strikeout rate. His walk rate is the second worst of his career (unless you count 2020, which in that case would be the worst). Neris had a .219 batting average on balls in play and an extremely high 90.5% left-on-base rate. Sure, one could look at his left on-base rate and consider that really good and a good sign of a pitcher coming through when it matters the most, but Neris has never boasted a left on-base rate above 85%. Neris'Neris' BAbip is also nearly 60 points lower than his career average.
Now granted, Neris was one of the best soft-contact inducers in 2023. He was in the 98th percentile of hard hit rate at 28%, as well as the 91st percentile of exit velocity (86.5 MPH). But he was only in the 46th percentile of barrel rate with a below-average 8.1% mark. Neris had just a 3.89 SIERA, 4.45 xFIP, and 95 DRA-, in comparison to a 40 ERA-.
Neris has an $8.5 million player option but a $1 million buyout. That's not an insignificant amount to ignore, especially considering that 2024 will be his age-35 season. But, like with Bell, he could probably get more guaranteed money at a lower AAV over more years, which, at his current age, is what he might look for.
Neris would definitely be a reliever worth considering, even with sub-par underlying numbers for the 2024 season. There is some risk, but it would be worth at least kicking the tires on. But he will first have to decide to either take the $8.5 million option and return to Houston or turn it down in favor of a $1 million buyout with the hopes of securing possibly a multi-year deal that will give him more guaranteed dollars.