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

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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.

MLBTR: Pirates Arbitration Eligibles

MLB Trade Rumors takes a look at the Pirates arbitration eligible players. The article is to-the-point and informative; here it is in full length:

“The Pirates are next in our 2013 Arbitration Eligibles series.  Matt Swartz’s salary projections are below.

Hanrahan remains an asset for the Pirates, though this year’s return to a big-time strikeout rate came with the unwanted side effects of a high walk rate and a lot of flyballs.  On the surface, the Bucs have a guy who’s converted 76 of 84 save opportunities the last two years with a 2.24 ERA and two All-Star game appearances.  Hanrahan will be entering his walk year.  With draft pick compensation for relievers mostly a thing of the past, GM Neal Huntington has to decide whether to trade Hanrahan or extend him in the neighborhood of $10MM per free agent year.

Elsewhere in the bullpen there’s Resop, who added groundballs this year at the expense of strikeouts.  The 29-year-old is hittable yet serviceable, and he’s not terribly expensive.

The Pirates have three arbitration eligible starting pitchers.  McDonald’s ERA sat at 2.37 after a July 7th win; through 110 innings it seemed as if he’d turned a corner.  He was brutal over his next 13 outings, with a 7.52 ERA in 61 frames.  It was an odd season, but McDonald is expected to begin next year back in the Pirates’ rotation.  Now is not the time to consider trading or extending him.

Morton had hip surgery a year ago, but was able to make his season debut in mid-April.  He lasted only nine starts before succumbing to Tommy John surgery.  He has to be considered a non-tender candidate, as otherwise the Pirates would have to pay him a projected $2.6MM in 2012 to pitch at most three months.  Huntington must decide the value of the chance to control Morton for the 2014 season.  The GM was noncommittal on the subject of Karstens, who had an injury-shortened 2012 as well.  Since Karstens finished the season healthy, he might be on firmer ground than Morton.

Jones needs a platoon partner, but he did hit .289/.332/.556 with 25 home runs in 434 plate appearances against right-handed pitching.  I think he’s safe, though this could be the last raise the Pirates are willing to give him.  Walker had another nice year, and the Pirates have flirted with extending the Pittsburgh native before.  In March, I suggested five years and $27MM for the Super Two second baseman.

The Pirates acquired Sanchez from the Marlins at the July trade deadline.  The 29-year-old was better for the Bucs, but still fell well short of the production of a typical starting first baseman.  There’s a decent chance he’s non-tendered.

If only Hanrahan, Jones, Karstens, McDonald, Walker, and Resop are retained, the Pirates would be looking at an estimated $22.3MM for six arbitration eligible players.

Matt Swartz’s arbitration projections are available exclusively at MLB Trade Rumors.  To read more about his projection model, check out this series of posts.

For more, visit MLB Trade Rumors.