Pirates agree to terms with Francisco Liriano

The Pirates finally addressed their anemic starting rotation by signing lefty Francisco Liriano to a two-year deal. It was first reported to be a $14 million contract, although Jon Heyman suggests it’s around $13 million. Liriano joins A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald in the starting rotation. The fifth spot is still up for grabs.

In his career, he is 53-54 with a 4.40 ERA. He possessed a 5.34 ERA in 34 games with the Twins and White Sox last season. The 29 year old Dominican Republic native is fairly inconsistent and struggles with his control at times. However, Liriano threw a no-hitter in 2011 and struck out 15 batters in one game in 2012, so he definitely has potential for bright spots.

Although it’s a bit expensive for a risky, back-of-the-rotation starter, we think this signing is a good gamble to take. Liriano should benefit as a lefty with the spacious left field at PNC, plus he still has some upside at age 29.

ESPN breaks down the deal:

Here are some links pertaining to the Francisco Liriano signing:

- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs looks at Liriano and the “slow death of ERA.”

- Bucs Dugout‘s Charlie Wilmoth discusses how this deal speaks well of Neal Huntington.

- Rich from This is Getting Old thinks the money should have been spent elsewhere.

- Rumbunter weighs in on the situation.

- Twins blog Puckett’s Pond thinks the signing is worth the risk for the Pirates since they have a few strong pitchers coming up through the system.

Go Bucs

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Greinke Signs with LAD; Dominoes to Fall?

The Pirates are in dire need of a starting pitcher. In fact, the depth chart on the team website only lists four pitchers in the starting rotation. Those hurlers are A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, and Jeff Locke. Burnett and Rodriguez are the leaders of the staff; two reliable veterans who should bring a lot to the table. McDonald, despite his tremendous first half, was demoted to the bullpen down the stretch; who knows which J-Mac we’ll see in 2013. Jeff Locke hasn’t done much to prove he’s worthy of a starting spot; he’s just 1-6 with a 5.82 ERA in 12 career MLB games.

It was reported Saturday night that Zack Greinke would be signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who apparently have an unlimited supply of cash. The deal is reportedly worth $147 million over six seasons, which would make him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher ever. Greinke, 29, entered the offseason as the most prized pitcher on the free agent market. Typically, players wait until the top free agent inks a deal before deciding where to sign, hence why there weren’t many big moves at the Winter Meetings.

With Greinke off the market, is it time for the dominoes to fall?

Here’s a look at some of the remaining free agent starters:

Anibal Sanchez – Out of price range; Dodgers interested in him, too.

Edwin Jackson – #EJaxToBucs failed last year; worthy of a second attempt?

Ryan Dempster – Mitch Williams suggested he’d be a fit for the Bucco rotation.

Kyle Lohse – Beyond the Box Score makes a case not to sign him.

Shaun Marcum – Seems like a decent add; drawing plenty of interest from other teams.

Francisco Liriano – His name has popped up multiple times as a fit for the Pirates.

Joe Saunders – Orioles still looking to re-sign the veteran southpaw.

Kevin Correia – Doubtful that Correia and/or the Bucs want a deal.

Carl Pavano – Wouldn’t be surprised to see NH take a flyer on him.

Jeff Karstens – Should not have been non-tendered by the Pirates; unlikely to return.

Mike Pelfrey – Non-tendered by Mets; appeared in just three games in 2012 (elbow).

Jair Jurrjens – Braves non-tendered him; 2011 All-Star said to have a dead arm.

Manny Parra – Non-tendered by Brewers; no thanks.

Tom Gorzelanny – Ex-Buc non-tendered by Nats; possible long-reliever/mop-up man.

John Lannan – Another Washington non-tender; no space for him in Nats rotation.

Who knows which route Neal Huntington will take. Keep in mind that a starting pitcher could be acquired via trade – closer Joel Hanrahan may be on the move (especially if Jason Grilli re-signs in Pittsburgh).

The starting rotation let the team down at the end of both 2011 and 2012, so it’s important to bolster the staff. There is a bit of help on the way (see: Cole, Gerrit) but that won’t be until mid-season at the earliest. The rotation is up in the air at the moment, but hopefully that changes in the coming weeks with some acquisitions.

Go Bucs

Pirates re-sign Morton, non-tender Karstens

The tender/non-tender deadline was Friday at midnight, and the Bucs had decisions to make on several players. They dealt Chris Resop, who was a non-tender candidate, and Yamaico Navarro earlier in the evening.

It surfaced yesterday afternoon that the club was going to non-tender Jeff Karstens. This one was a bit confusing as he’s a pretty reliable pitcher, despite a few injuries. Regardless, the Bucs decided to cut ties with him after five seasons. The longest-tenured player is now Andrew McCutchen, who debuted in June of 2009.

The team also re-signed Charlie Morton to a one year, $2 million deal. Morton, who went 2-6 with a 4.65 ERA before hitting the disabled list, will be out until midseason. He made $2.445 million last season, so he is taking a bit of a pay cut to remain with the team.

Finally, the Pirates tendered contracts to five other players: Neil Walker, James McDonald, Joel Hanrahan, Garrett Jones, and Gaby Sanchez.

Bill James 2013 Projections: Pirates Pitchers

Last week, we took a look Bill James’ projections for some of the Pirates’ offensive players. Here’s how the Bucs’ pitchers are predicted to perform in 2013:

W L SV G GS IP ERA FIP
A.J. Burnett 11 13 0 32 32 209 4.05 4.09
Chris Resop 4 4 0 61 0 72 3.75 3.52
James McDonald 9 10 0 31 31 172 3.87 4.06
Jared Hughes 4 5 0 67 0 76 4.14 3.83
Jeff Karstens 6 6 0 24 16 105 3.86 3.96
Joel Hanrahan 3 3 40 59 0 57 3.63 3.61
Tony Watson 4 3 0 71 0 58 3.26 3.81
Wandy Rodriguez 11 11 0 32 32 206 3.80 3.79

* This is under the assumption that most of these players will be back in 2013. Burnett and Rodriguez have guaranteed contracts. Watson and Hughes are still pre-arbitration eligible and should be in the bullpen again. Hanrahan, Karstens, Resop, and McDonald are eligible for arbitration.

A few quick notes…

- A.J. Burnett is projected to regress a bit after his bounce back 2012 season.

- Chris Resop and Tony Watson are expected to pitch similarly to past performances out of the ‘pen, while Jared Hughes‘ ERA is expected to be 4+.

- James McDonald, who had the same number of innings pitched (171) and ERA (4.21) in 2011 and 2012, is predicted to lower his earned run average a bit and also throw one more inning.

- James has Joel Hanrahan‘s ERA jumping up to a concerning 3.63, but sees him reaching the 40 save plateau once again.

- If the Bucs decide to tender Jeff Karstens, he’ll be expected to pitch 105 innings between the rotation and bullpen (16 starts out of 24 games).

- Wandy Rodriguez, last year’s trade deadline acquisition, is projected to produce a reasonable 11-11 record and 3.80 ERA.

These are pretty moderate projections; nothing to get too excited about. However, they are just predictions after all, so they could be very far from true.

124 days until Opening Day.

Go Bucs

2012 in Review: Starting Pitching

Veteran A.J. Burnett was a mentor for James McDonald and the starting rotation.

The Pirates’ starting rotation once again carried the team into July with a winning record, only to falter in the second half.

The top six starters in 2012:

Wins Losses ERA IP
A.J. Burnett 16 10 3.51 202.1
James McDonald 12 8 4.21 171.0
Kevin Correia 12 11 4.21 171.0
Erik Bedard 7 14 5.01 125.2
Jeff Karstens 5 4 3.97 90.2
Wandy Rodriguez 5 4 3.72 75.0

Other pitchers to make starts: Charlie Morton, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson.

*Note that Correia and J-Mac have identical ERAs and innings pitched. McDonald also finished with the exact same ERA and innings pitched as he did 2011.

If you just looked at these numbers, you’d think that the starting pitching did a fairly decent job.  The weird thing about the Pirates’ starters this year this that they were so dominant for the first four months of the season that when they fell apart in August and September, the numbers pretty much evened out.  As a whole, though, this staff was much better than expected.  A.J. was unreal, Wandy came in at the trade deadline and was solid, J-Mac was one of the top pitchers through July, and Karstens continued to get better despite missing a large chunk of the season.  There are still a few uncertainties heading into 2013, but the starting pitching shouldn’t be a huge concern next year.