By Jason Shetler
With free agency about to get underway in a couple weeks, here are some free agent starting pitchers who would be good fits for the Pirates if they’re unable to bring back J.A. Happ.
Doug Fister: Perhaps one of the more underrated starting pitchers in the last few years has been Doug Fister. The 6’8 right-hander spent 2015 pitching between the Washington Nationals rotation and bullpen, posting a 4.19 ERA along with a 1.40 WHIP in 25 games, 15 of which were starts. Fister is just a year removed from having the sixth lowest ERA in the National League at 2.41, so he could be a good bounce back pitcher at a reasonable price.
Mark Buehrle: Mark Buehrle continues to be the most durable pitcher in all of baseball. The 36-year-old southpaw has made at least 30 starts every year since 2001. Buehrle made 32 starts this season for the Toronto Blue Jays where he posted a 3.81 ERA with a 104 ERA+ and a 2.1 WAR. The ERA is impressive when you consider that he pitched his home games in the very hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.
Mike Leake: Just like Doug Fister, Mike Leake certainly falls under the category of underrated starting pitchers. Leake entered 2015 in his sixth season with the Cincinnati Reds. With the Reds being in seller mode, he was sent to the San Francisco Giants a day before the trade deadline. Combined with the two clubs, Leake had a 3.70 ERA with a 106 ERA+ and a WAR of 1.7 in 30 starts. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a very good hitting pitcher.
Scott Kazmir: After coming off an All-Star season with the Oakland Athletics last year, Scott Kazmir had another good season in 2015. The veteran lefty started off this year with the Athletics before getting dealt to the Houston Astros a week prior to the deadline. Kazmir made 31 starts combined with the two teams, posting an ERA of 3.10 along with a 130 ERA+ and a 2.4 WAR.
Wei-Yin Chen: The Baltimore Orioles signed Wei-Yin Chen prior to the 2012 season. The Taiwanese left-hander was a vital part of their rotation over the past few seasons. Chen posted a 3.34 ERA with an ERA+ of 124 and a 2.8 WAR in 31 starts this year for the O’s.
Yovani Gallardo: When Pirates fans think Yovani Gallardo, they immediately associate him as the long time Brewers pitcher who became a real thorn in their side within the division. The Pirates themselves were probably blowing a sigh of relief when Gallardo was traded to the Texas Rangers last offseason. Gallardo made 33 starts this year, as he put up a 3.42 ERA along with a 124 ERA+ and a WAR of 2.5 while helping the Rangers clinch an unexpected AL West division crown. Just as the case with Mike Leake, Gallardo also handles himself well with the bat.