By Jason Shetler
For the past several seasons, Ivan Nova has been a mainstay in the New York Yankees rotation. Nova made his big league debut for them in 2010. His best season as a Bronx Bomber was in 2013, posting a 3.10 ERA and a 129 ERA+. Just when it seemed like Nova was riding high, he was placed on the DL just four starts into the 2014 season, and ended up having Tommy John surgery. He made his return to the Yankees rotation in June of last season, as he had a 5.07 ERA with an ERA+ of 78 in 17 starts. This offseason, the Yankees reportedly have Nova on the trading block. If the season began right now, he would be in their bullpen as a long reliever. The Pirates could still look to add another starter, so would Nova be a possible option for them?
There’s no sugarcoating that Nova didn’t pitch well in 2015, but obviously when you’re talking about the Pirates in recent years, they haven’t been shy when it comes to turning pitchers around. Two things the Pirates generally look for in pitchers is good velocity and groundball ability, both of which Nova can provide. Last season, Nova’s average fastball velocity was at 93.2 mph, higher than the 91.8 mph he threw prior to having Tommy John. He also posted a groundball rate of 49%. One very interesting stat from last year was his chase rate, as he got batters to swing at pitches out of the strikezone 34.4% of the time, which was a career best. The combination of the increased fastball velocity along with his good curveball is a big reason for that. On Thursday, the Yankees avoided arbitration with Nova, settling at $4.1 million. If the Pirates were to acquire him, and he were to bounce back, that salary would be an absolute bargain. Personally, a healthy Ivan Nova might be a better rotation option than Ryan Vogelsong or Jeff Locke.