Right before the holidays, the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to sign left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano, pending a physical. Over the holidays though Liriano hurt his right elbow, and has put the signing in major jeopardy. The Pirates aren’t too thrilled with the fact that he got hurt even though it is his non-throwing elbow.
Going into the 2013 season the Pirates have only three starters penciled into their rotation. Those pitchers being A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald. So they have two spots open that need to be filled by opening day. There are still plenty of options whether it be from within the organization or through free agency.
The Pirates made a move on Monday that actually that should fill one of those open spots by re-signing Jeff Karstens who has been a Pirate for the last couple of years. Earlier in the offseason the Pirates let him walk instead of taking him to arbitration, feeling as though he wasn’t worth the nearly $4 million he was going to be making had he gone to arbitration and won the case. So they let him hit the free agent market and he got some interest from the Colorado Rockies, but with the Liriano deal falling through the Pirates felt that they needed to bring him back.
On January 9 the Pirates made a trade with the Cleveland Indians for Jeanmar Gomez, who was designated for assignment. Gomez started a little bit last year for the Indians, posting a 5.96 ERA in almost 91 innings and has to be the front runner as of now for that fifth spot in the rotation.
If Liriano could prove that he can be healthy soon enough and still make the team better I believe he is their best option, but that doesn’t seem likely. Liriano is a proven starter in this league and only a couple of years removed from posting Cy Young-type numbers. His stats haven’t been that good of late but he’s still a good left-handed pitcher with a power arm. They have officially pulled their two year offer to him and are now talking about only a one year deal.
There are rumors out there now that the Pirates are interested in Shaun Marcum, who pitched for the Brewers last season. So they are familiar with his work and the way he pitches and have seen enough of him to know that he is a viable option for them. Marcum has a career record of 57-36, ERA of 3.76, and over the last three seasons he has won 33 of his 52 starts.
Jeff Locke could be an in-house option for the Pirates to go with as their number five guy in the rotation. He started some games for them down the stretch last year, but he wasn’t very good. He went 1-3 in his six starts and had an ERA of 5.50. Maybe it was a confidence thing, with it being his first chance to start for a winning team in games that actually meant something, but whatever it was if he plans on staying a Pirate he needs to improve.
The other option that the Pirates have is Kyle McPherson who posted numbers a little bit better than Locke. In nine starts last year he went 3-5 with his earned run average just above four at 4.07. He also struck-out 47 batters which is almost seven a start. McPherson showed flashes of hope last season and is in a tight battle with Locke for that final spot.
Any of these option aren’t bad options for the fifth spot in many teams rotations. And it is nice to see the Pirates actually looking at decent players to help improve the team. I know there is no mention of young stars like Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon, but they are just on the cusp of being big-league ready. They still need some grooming in the minors but soon enough they will be pitching in PNC Park for the Buccos. But until those guys are ready, the Pirates are going to have to find ways to complete their roster.
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