By: Noah Wright
The Bucs rotation is barely being held together. At one point, it looked like 5 aces. However, Chris Archer and Jameson Taillon went down with injuries. It was also bad timing since right around the time Archer and Taillon went down with injury, Joe Musgrove hit a slump. This left the Pirates to be forced to turn to Steven Brault and Nick Kingham to fill in those last 2 spots. Both struggle every time they go out to start a game. Kingham has only had 2 decent starts in his career, and Brault has only ever gone 6 innings twice in his career. Those 3 outing have come back with one being an excellent outing, the other that would make it look like he belongs in Triple-A, and the last being somewhere in the middle.
Although Archer is coming off the I.L., they still need to find a pitcher to fill that last spot. They can’t trot out either Brault or Kingham every 5 day to pitch 3, maybe 4 innings, give up 5+ runs, and then give it to the bullpen. It’s going to wear out the pen, and ruin the confidence of either Brault or Kingham. I’ve deducted the Pirates have to do one of the following to keep from getting destroyed every 5th day.
Bring in an outside resource:
Now before you say “Dallas Keuchel is the immediate solution”, he’s far from it. Keuchel hasn’t played a professional game of baseball since October. He didn’t have a spring training, and would be out in the minors warming up for the MLB until at least early June, possibly even later. I don’t want to watch the Pirates go down a Greg Holland and the Cardinals route. Plus, the Pirates need a temporary piece. A better fit would be to go shopping for a rental. One of the most notable rental pieces on the market is Giants’ lefty, Madison Bumgarner. Although MadBum’s ERA isn’t sparkling, his 3.43 FIP and 1.168 WHIP is very solid. Plus, he is currently carrying a career high 7.25 K/BB ratio. We all know how good Madison Bumgarner is in the playoffs, and if the Pirates are going to make a playoff push, he would be a very very good asset to have.
Another potential option to try and acquire is Reds’ right hander Tanner Roark. Roark is on the last year of his contract, and the Reds are likely not going to be in competition this season. Roark has overall done solid, owning a 3.27 ERA, 3.54 FIP, and 1.327 WHIP. Roark has limited homeruns to a .4 HR/9 rate, which is surprising given the hitter friendly park he plays in. He has also seeing a spike in K/9 at 8.1, but a spike in BB/9 too at 4.1.
Two other options could be the Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez, or Marcus Stroman. While Stroman has pitched better than Sanchez, either would be solid for a middle of the rotation arm. Afterall, neither have a handful of year of control remaining, and would be decent to fill in the 5th spot if Jordan Lyles leaves next season.
This idea is a bit different, but it could potentially work. If the Oakland A’s even think about selling off some of their low cost controlled players, the Pirates might want to jump on Yusmeiro Petit. Now Petit hasn’t started multiple games per season since 2014, but he sees multiple multi-inning outings. Petit doesn’t need to go 8 scoreless frames, but he would be the definition of a placeholder. He could start every 5 games for a month and then when Taillon comes back healthy, then Petit can move back to the bullpen. Petit is already off to another strong start to the season. In 24 innings, the former Giant has a 1.88 ERA, 3.65 FIP, and .708 WHIP.
Mitch Keller is probably the most notable starting pitching prospect in the system, but he needs a bit more time in Triple-A. He is striking out guys at an 11.1 per 9 rate, but he is walking guys at a 4.5 per 9 rate, and has given up 4 home runs in 34 innings. J.T. Brubaker would probably already be in the rotation by now. He had a 2.57 ERA, 1.7 BB/9, 8.6 K/9, and 1.095 WHIP in 21 innings. But Brubaker is on the injured list, and hasn’t come back yet from injury. Dario Agrazal is another minor league starter who is doing well in Indianapolis. He has a 1.25 ERA, 2.11 FIP, and .646 WHIP, but it’s likely the Pirates want to keep him in Indianapolis for a little while longer. They probably don’t want to rush Agrazal to the MLB after just 21 and two thirds innings, and 3 AAA games. However, other than Keller, or Agrazal, the Pirates don’t really have another guy they could bring up right now to fill that rotation spot.
The Pirates need to find a guy who can put up a quality start every 5th day. It’s losing games starting Kingham or Brault, and also is negatively impactful on the pen as well. Plus with the 2 not being able to go at least 5 innings, and usually giving up multiple runs in the innings they do pitch, the Pirates have basically have to carry an extra mop-up reliever or two so they don’t waste their good bullpen arms on blowout games. In the long run, it will be better if the Pirates go out and acquire either a rental starting pitcher, a better swingman type pitcher, or call somebody up from the minors to the majors.