Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Pitchers to Pursue, Two to Avoid in Second Half of the Off-Season

The Pirates should consider pursing these two players, but avoid these other two.

Aug 21, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sean Manaea (52)
Aug 21, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sean Manaea (52) / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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Player To Avoid In Free Agency - Brad Keller

If the Pirates go for a lower-cost, free agent, that's fine by me, but do not let it be Brad Keller. Keller wouldn't just be going for a lower-cost free agent; it would be scraping below the bottom of the barrel. At that point, it would probably be better to give the last two spots to Roansy Contreras, Luis Ortiz, Quinn Priester, or Jackson Wolf.

The last three years have not been kind to Keller. He has pitched a combined 318.2 innings, working to a 5.14 ERA, 4.79 FIP, and 1.63 WHIP. The right-hander has struck out just 17.6% of the batters he's faced with a mediocre 11.5% walk rate. His 1.07 HR/9 isn't bad, but keep in mind he has pitched in the spacious Kauffman Stadium for his entire career. That home run rate may increase in a more hitter-friendly environment. He had an 89.6 MPH exit velocity, 42% hard-hit rate, and 8.4% barrel rate in this three-season stretch.

It's not as if he's gotten burned by the Royals and poor defense. He has a 5.01 SIERA and 4.73 xFIP over the last three years. His xERA has been over five and a half in two of the last three years. His lowest DRA- since 2021 was 101, meaning he was still slightly below league average at best.

I get that Keller had a good start to his career and had a 3.50 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and 1.28 WHIP from 2018 through 2020. But 2019 was the last year Keller threw at least 100 innings and had an above-average ERA+. Even then he had a poor 4.90 SIERA and 4.58 xFIP, which isn't significantly better than what he's had the last three seasons.

The most I would give him is a minor league deal. Someone has to fill roster spots at Triple-A and he wouldn't be bad depth. But that's the extent to what I would offer him. Not only wouldn't I want him as a rotation option, but I wouldn't even want him on the 40-man roster. I think the Pirates, at that point, should give the 40-man spot to a prospect like Sean Sullivan if it must come to that.

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