What are Pittsburgh Pirates' options to fill rotation after Falter, Jones injuries?

With Jared Jones and Bailey Falter hitting the IL, who could the Pittsburgh pirates slot into the rotation right now?
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates / Christopher Pasatieri/GettyImages
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The trade market contains option for the Pirates

The Pirates have bigger holes they need to fill via trade, and while it's unlikely they'll go after one of the top options on the market (like Garret Crochet, even though that would be somewhat unnecessary, but extremely fun), they could make a play for a short-term starting pitcher, depending on how long Jones and Falter are out. On the plus side, there are a handful of rentals they could look to go after. One of the top short-term options is Colorado Rockies right-hander Cal Quantrill. Quantrill has rebounded after a rough 2023 campaign despite pitching in the most hitter-friendly park in baseball.

Quantrill has a 3.77 ERA, 4.55 FIP, and 1.33 WHIP through 100.1 innings. Looking at some underlying numbers, you might think Quantrill is getting lucky. He’s only struck out 17.5% of batters faced with a below-average 9.2% walk rate. His 1.08 HR/9 and 5.2% walk rate are good, especially considering he’s pitched in Coors for half his season, but those are about the only positives of his peripherals. He has both a 4.63 SIERA and 4.63 xFIP, but in 2021-2022, he also had a similar 4.50 SIERA and 4.41 xFIP with an ERA of 3.16. He’s a guy who has consistently overperformed his peripherals, and there's very little reason why he couldn’t continue to do so, especially if he gets traded away from Coors. Quantrill is a free agent after 2025.

Another rental starter is Erick Fedde. After a poor start to his MLB career with the Washington Nationals, Fedde headed overseas to South Korea in 2023, where he then won KBO’s equivalent of the Cy Young award. Fedde signed with the Chicago White Sox this past offseason and has continued to dominate batters in the United States.

Fedde currently has a 3.16 ERA, 3.58 FIP, and 1.13 WHIP. He has an above-average 0.93 HR/9 with a 21.3% strikeout rate, and he’s been one of the best pitchers in the league at limiting walks; he only has a 6.4% BB%. Fedde has also been good at limiting hard contact with a 7% barrel rate. He has a 46.8% ground ball rate and could potentially be even better on the Pirates. While the Bucs don’t have Gold Glove fielders all around, they’re a much better defensive team than the White Sox. The Sox have -22 outs above average and -50 defensive runs saved. The Pirates have -12 DRS and -17 OAA. Like Quantrill, Fedde will also be a free agent after next season.

One pitcher who is a pure rental is Yusei Kikuchi. Kikuchi broke out last season with the Toronto Blue Jays, posting his best numbers yet since coming over from Japan in 2019. He’s still pitching well into 2024 and could potentially play even better, given how good his underlying numbers are.

Kikuchi has a 4.12 ERA, but a 3.61 FIP and 1.31 WHIP through 94 innings. He’s struck out 24.8% of the batters who have come to the plate against him, but has handed out even fewer walks on average than Fedde with a 5.8% BB%. Kikuchi is currently posting a career-low 1.24 HR/9 (unless you count his work in 2020). The southpaw also has career-best numbers in SIERA (3.56) and xFIP (3.41). The Pirates love their veteran lefties, so maybe this is a short-term fix they’d consider.

One last rental that may be on the trading block is lefty Andrew Heaney. Heaney has been a solid middle-rotation starter for the Texas Rangers for the last two seasons. Heaney has a 4.04 ERA, 3.91 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP in 84.2 innings. Heaney has both an above-average 23.3% strikeout rate and a 6% walk rate, but he has been slightly home run-prone, with a 1.24 HR/9. Granted, the Rangers’ Globe Life Field is the third most home run-friendly park in baseball per Baseball Savant’s park factors. His HR/9 on the road is 1.07; perhaps the Pirates can take advantage.