Pittsburgh Pirates: Top Five Starting Pitching Free Agents To Pursue

Who are the best free agent starting pitchers the Pirates should pursue?
Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan starting pitcher Shota Imanaga (21) delivers a pitch during
Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan starting pitcher Shota Imanaga (21) delivers a pitch during / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
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Number Five: Lucas Giolito

Lucas Giolito is a very good potential rebound candidate. The former Chicago White Sox’s ace is coming off a horrible second half of 2023. However, along with a solid first half of the season, the right-hander was considered one of the better pitchers in the league only a few seasons ago. For what he might cost, the risk could potentially be worth the money.

Giolito started the 2023 season with the White Sox, pitching to a respectable 3.79 ERA, 4.43 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP across 121 innings. Giolito struck out a touch over a quarter of the opponents who stepped into the batter's box against him (25.8%), while having an 8.3% walk rate. Where Giolito struggled was home runs with a 1.49 HR/9 rate. Overall, these numbers aren’t too impressive, but he only really had two bad starts, that being his second start of the season and his second to last start with the White Sox.

Despite these two outings only making up 6.3% of his total innings in the first half of the season, they made up 29.4% of the earned runs he allowed. Take out these two outings, and he drops to a 2.86 ERA and 3.85 FIP. Giolito spent most of the second half of the year with the LA Angels and Cleveland Guardians, where his numbers completely tanked.

Through his final 63.1 innings of the year, Giolito saw his numbers rocket up to a 6.96 ERA, 6.87 FIP, and 1.48 WHIP. While he maintained the same striekout rate at 25.4%, his walk rate went up to 10.8%, and his HR/9 doubled to 2.98. His home run rate could decrease simply given a larger sample size. His HR/FB ratio was over 25%, which is completely unsustainable, especially given he was allowing less hard contact. Once adjusting with xFIP, he had a better, albeit still poor 4.65 xFIP.

You also have to consider it was just a few seasons ago that Gioltio was a fine starting pitcher From 2019 through 2021, Giolito worked to a quality 3.47 ERA, 3.54 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP. Gioltio had a strikeout rate a shade above 30% (30.7%), while also carrying an 8% walk rate. Home runs were always a worry with him, but a 1.24 HR/9 is much more manageable than what he put up in 2023.

Giolito is one of the biggest rebound candidates currently on the free agent market. He’ll likely get a one-year deal with an option for another year or two, depending on his market. Given his poor 2023, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he was looking to rebuild some of his value before re-entering the free agent market for a larger contract.