Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Free Agents To Go All-In On And One To Avoid

The Pittsburgh Pirates should go all-in on these two free agents, but avoid this third free agent.
Sep 20, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Seth Lugo (67) throws a
Sep 20, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Seth Lugo (67) throws a / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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Two To Go All-In On

One of the players the Pirates should go all-in on is Eduardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez recently opted out of the remaining three years/$49 million ($16.3 million AAV) on his contract with the Detroit Tigers. Around the same AAV should get a deal done with Eduardo, but he’s likely looking for another year or two. If that is the case, the Pirates need to heavily pursue the left-hander.

E-Rod rebounded after a mediocre and injury shortened showing in 2022. In 152.2 innings, the most frames he’s thrown since 2021, Rodriguez owned a quality 3.30 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP. Rodriguez had a 23% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate. He also posted the lowest home run rate of his career with an 0.88 HR/9. 

Rodriguez was above average at limiting hard contact. He was above the 55th percentile of exit velocity and barrel rate, and in the 54th percentile of hard hit rate. In terms of pitch run value, he was in the 92nd percentile at +18 (+7 RV on his fastball and slider, +4 RV on his changeup). The only downside was his so-so ERA estimators, with a 4.06 xFIP, 4.26 SIERA, and 104 DRA-. Still, Rodriguez has been a quality pitcher year after year.

Rodriguez has been a solid pitcher for years now. If I had to estimate his contract, I’d say he gets five years at $85 million. This is a slight pay raise for him, on an AAV basis. It also carries him through just his age-35 campaign.

The second player is another starting pitcher, that being Seth Lugo. Lugo opted out of the one year valued at $7.5 million with the San Diego Padres. The right-hander had spent the first handful of his seasons as a long reliever/swingman with the New York Mets. However, the Padres gave him an opportunity to start games in 2023, and he performed admirably.

Lugo pitched a career high 146.1 innings, working to a quality 3.57 ERA, 3.83 FIP, and 1.17 WHIP. Both the right-hander’s strikeout rate of 23.2% and walk rate of 6% were above the league average. His 1.17 HR/9 rate was also slightly better than league average. Lugo has always been more of a ground ball pitcher, and had a 45.2% ground ball rate in his first full season as a starter.

On top of that, pretty much all his ERA estimator numbers were in agreement that he pitched almost to his ERA. Lugo clocked in with a 3.76 xFIP, 3.68 SIERA, and 86 DRA- compared to an ERA- of 87. The only category Lugo was below average in during the 2023 season was preventing hard contact. He was below the 30th percentile of exit velocity, hard hit rate, and barrel rate.

I have Lugo making $11 million a season over two seasons. In total, that’s $22 million. On an AAV basis, he is making $3.5 million more than he would have if he opted into his deal. That should be well within the price range of any team, let alone the Pittsburgh Pirates.