By Jason Shetler
On Monday, I did a post regarding what kind of first base options the Pirates could consider. Now I will turn my attention to some bullpen options for the Pirates this offseason.
Antonio Bastardo: The Pirates acquired Antonio Bastardo last offseason from the Philadelphia Phillies. After struggling for much of the first half, Bastardo pitched really well in the second half of 2015. In 66 appearances, he posted a 2.98 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and a 10.0 K/9. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates want to bring back Bastardo. With left-handed relief pitching being thin this offseason, Bastardo could test the free agent market for the best possible offer.
Franklin Morales: The Kansas City Royals signed Franklin Morales a couple weeks before Spring Training this year. The 29-year-old lefty made 67 appearances where he had a 3.18 ERA along with a 1.16 WHIP. He also put up a 2.0 BB/9 and had a 50% groundball rate. Morales could be signed for a reasonable amount. He has a past connection with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, as he pitched for him with the Colorado Rockies from 2007 to 2009.
Joakim Soria: Prior to the trade deadline, the Pirates obtained Joakim Soria from the Detroit Tigers. The 31-year-old right-hander pitched in 29 games for the Bucs, posting a 2.03 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP and a K/9 of 9.5. Soria will be one of the top free agent relievers, and there’s already been several teams who have shown interest. With the level of interest combined with how much he’ll be offered, Soria probably won’t be back in Pittsburgh.
Joe Blanton: In addition to Joakim Soria, Joe Blanton was also acquired by the Pirates around the trade deadline. The veteran righty began this past season with the Kansas City Royals and pitched well, but was even better with the Pirates. Blanton posted a 1.57 ERA with a WHIP of 1.02 and a 10.2 K/9 in 34.1 innings with the Bucs. Because Blanton didn’t make much this year, the Pirates could look to bring him back at a decent price.
Ken Giles: One of the best young relievers in the game right now is Ken Giles. Since joining the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen in 2014, he’s posted a 1.56 ERA along with a 1.04 WHIP and has an outstanding K/9 of 11.2. There’s been talks of the Phillies having Giles on the trade block this offseason. Given the strong numbers, as well as the years of club control, the Pirates would probably have to part with a couple of Top 10 prospects to acquire Giles.
Oliver Perez: Oliver Perez entered 2015 in his second season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the Dbacks being in seller mode, he was dealt to the Houston Astros a week after the trade deadline. Combined with the two clubs, Perez put up a 4.17 ERA with a 1.32 WHIP and had an 11.2 K/9 in 70 appearances. However, his Fielding Independent Pitching was much better at 3.30. Perez was the Pirates ace in 2004, and could be an option to return to Pittsburgh to fill their need for a lefty reliever this offseason.
Ryan Madson: In Spring Training of 2012 with the Cincinnati Reds, Ryan Madson had a torn ligament in his pitching elbow, which caused him to miss the entire season. Prior to 2013, he signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but did not pitch that season. He also missed all of 2014 recovering from the injury. Madson came into this year fully recovered, and signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals. He was excellent in 68 appearances with the Royals where he had a 2.13 ERA along with a WHIP of 0.96. If the Pirates trade Mark Melancon this offseason, then perhaps they could sign Madson to be in the setup role to Tony Watson.
Seung-Hwan Oh: With Byung-Ho Park and Kenta Maeda being the notable international players that will play in the States in 2016, Seung-Hwan Oh will be in the mix as well as it relates to relief pitching. The 33-year-old right hander out of Korea posted a 2.73 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP and recorded 41 saves in 63 games pitched for the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League. The Pirates were reportedly one of a few teams that scouted Oh this year. I imagine he won’t command a huge contract since he’s a reliever approaching his mid-30’s, so perhaps the Pirates could be serious players for him to pitch near the back end of the bullpen.
Tony Sipp: After being released by the San Diego Padres in May of 2014, Tony Sipp signed with the Houston Astros where he had a 3.38 ERA. He was just as effective in 2015 with the Astros, as he posted an ERA of 1.99 along with a 1.03 WHIP and a K/9 of 10.3 in 60 appearances. Sipp is projected to be the top left-handed relief arm on the open market, so the Pirates would have to overpay for his services, which would seem unlikely.