The Pirates’ offseason has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride.
After already losing their closer, Mark Melancon, at last year’s trade deadline, and aggressively shopping Andrew McCutchen during the winter, most assumed the Pirates would soon be entering their patented mini-rebuild phase, which comes every five years or so (as the budget requires).
But then, the McCutchen deal fell through, they signed reliever Daniel Hudson, and suddenly they were thought to be “working hard” to acquire White Sox starter Jose Quintana. Although those Quintana-specific rumors may have died down with this signing (UPDATE: No they haven’t, see bottom of the post), the Pirates pursuit of a starting pitcher has not.
In fact, earlier today, Robert Murray confirmed as much on Twitter:
Sources: #Pirates signing Ivan Nova to three-year, $26 million deal. $2 signing bonus.
— Robert Murray (@RobertMurrayFRS) December 22, 2016
The Pirates have resigned starting, right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova (whom they traded for at the 2016 Trade Deadline) to a three-year, $26 million deal (plus a $2 million signing bonus). Ken Rosenthal later confirmed the report and the details therein, adding that the deal is pending a physical, but is otherwise complete.
Nova wasn’t even the best available starting pitcher in this weak free-agent class, but he is one of the few on the right side of thirty. And, the Pirates have a tendency to make these sort of deals work well for them. Last season (overall), Nova finished with a 4.17 ERA (4.11 FIP) and 2.2 fWAR over 162.0 IP (between the Yankees and the Pirates). But during the second half of the season (i.e. just his time with the Pirates), Nova had a 3.06 ERA with even better peripherals (2.62 FIP, 52.3% ground ball rate) and just a laughable 1.1% walk rate.
They know how to get stuff out of pitchers.
But what about that deal?
Even for the Pirates, a three-year, $28 million deal (including the bonus) is not a terrible investment – even if things don’t really work out. Moreover, that was well below Nova’s expected price tag. MLB Trade Rumors, who had Nova ranked as the 10th best free-agent on the market this winter, pegged him for a four-year deal worth $52 million – he essentially got half!
Not only did Nova come up short on dollars, but he also came up short on years. Sure, he is a Tommy John Surgery recoveree, but as a 29-year-old, who is not attached to draft pick compensation, and is coming off a hot second half, I would have thought he’d get more. Good for the Pirates.
And apparently, they aren’t even done.
Even after signing Ivan Nova, the Pirates are thought to be still trying for Quintana:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 22, 2016
It seems they will go for it one more time in 2017 – or at least at the beginning of the season. Kudos to the Pirates for pivoting in a market that may not have paid what it should have for someone like McCutchen.
The Cubs, it seems, will not just be handed the keys to the NL Central.