Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Relief Pitchers to Consider Pursuing This Off-Season

The Pirates should consider these three relief pitchers to pursue this off-season.
Aug 19, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Miami Marlins relief pitcher David Robertson (19)
Aug 19, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcher David Robertson (19) / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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David Robertson

The bullpen needs a good reliever who can be asked to take on high-leverage innings. Bednar has the 9th inning on lockdown, and the likes of Holderman, Borcuki, Moreta, and rookie Carmen Mlodzinski will be in the running for the set-up men roles. But it would certainly help if the Pirates got another reliable, higher-leverage reliever, especially since it doesn’t look like youngsters Jose Hernandez and Colin Selby looked like they needed a few more minutes in the oven this year.

If that’s the case, then the Pirates should look into right-hander David Robertson. Robertson opened the year with the New York Mets, overtaking the closing role after losing Edwin Diaz to injury during the World Baseball Classic. In his first 44 innings of the year, Robertson pitched to a 2.05 ERA, 3.58 FIP, and 1.00 WHIP. While Robertson allowed just over a home run per nine innings (1.06), he also struck out 27.6% of opponents with a 7.6% walk rate.

The Mets then traded Robertson to the Miami Marlins around the trade deadline. Now his numbers in Miami look quite ugly. In 21.1 innings, he had a 5.06 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, but a quality 3.49 FIP. One might look at an ERA over 5.00 in the second half, and the fact Robertson will be in his age-39 campaign and assume this might be a hint of the beginning of the end for the veteran. But looking more closely reveals that D-Rob likely still has some gas left in his tank.

Of the 22 earned runs Robertson allowed this year, 10 were in August. He struggled horribly but then got things back on track. Robertson immediately rebounded, and put up a 1.74 ERA in the final month of the year, with a 1.32 FIP. August also marks the only month of the year he posted an ERA above 3.09. He had an ERA below 3.00 in four of the other five months.

Based on how hard he’s throwing, Robertson has at least a few more years left. His cutter averaged out at 93.3 MPH this season, the hardest he’s thrown it since 2011, over a decade ago. With 2665 RPM on average, it’s also the most spin he’s put on his primary pitch in the Statcast Era (since 2015). His slider also hit a career-high in RPM and velocity at 85 MPH and 2764 RPM, and his curveball fell just 50 RPM (2018) and 0.3 MPH (2022) from career bests in those numbers as well, respectively.

Robertson brings a veteran presence that a young bullpen, like the Pirates’, could greatly benefit from. Robertson has consistently been a high-leverage threat out of bullpens for 15 seasons now, and he has shown no signs of stopping. Granted, an older reliever like him is a bit of a risk. 2024 will be his age-39 campaign, and will likely sign just a one-year deal. However, putting him as the 7th or 8th inning man alongside Mlodzinski, Holderman, and Borucki would form a fairly effective bridge to the 9th. Robertson also brings enough experience where you would be confident in him closing games when needed.