Midseason Report Card for the Pirates Offseason Moves

By Jason Shetler

As we are in the middle part of the 2016 season, I’m now going to review and grade the Pirates moves from this past offseason. 

David Freese signing: Okay, technically the signing of David Freese came during Spring Training, but it was made before the season began, so it still counts. Freese signed a one-year deal worth $3 million. He did an admirable job filling in at third base for the injured Jung-Ho Kang. Freese still plays third on occasion, and also gets time at first base against left-handed pitching. The numbers for Freese have remained solid, posting an .825 OPS with an OPS+ of 124.  Grade: B+

John Jaso signing: The Pirates were in search of a first baseman this past offseason after making the decision to non-tender Pedro Alvarez. The most notable talks came at the Winter Meetings, as the Bucs were interested in Mitch Moreland of the Texas Rangers, but a deal couldn’t be agreed upon. In late December, the Pirates signed John Jaso to a two-year deal for $8 million to be the first baseman, despite not having much experience at the position. Jaso has the reputation of displaying very good on base ability, which has continued this year with a .358 OBP. He’s also been able to set the table in the leadoff spot, as he’s put up a 115 wRC+. The biggest question mark was how Jaso would handle playing first base, and he’s done a nice job defensively, committing just three errors with a 3.0 UZR/150.  Grade: B+ 

Jon Niese trade: PNC Park was metaphorically burned to the ground when it was revealed that Neil Walker had been traded at the Winter Meetings to the New York Mets in exchange for Jon Niese. Walker has been very good for the Metropolitans this year, but I’m going to talk about this deal from the Pirates side. Niese had been a fixture in the Mets rotation from 2010 to 2015 where he posted a 3.87 ERA. This season for the Pirates, he started off April slow with a 5.08 ERA, but pitched better in May with an ERA of 3.82. What’s been interesting about Niese so far in 2016 is that he’s already allowed 14 home runs in 76.1 innings, despite the fact that he has a very good groundball rate of 54%. Josh Harrison has done pretty good work as Walker’s replacement, so the trade isn’t a complete bust.  Grade: C 

Juan Nicasio signing: Juan Nicasio inked a one-year/$3 million deal with the Pirates in December to pitch in the bullpen. However, due to a strong Spring Training performance, and the struggles of Ryan Vogelsong, he was placed in the rotation instead. Nicasio hasn’t performed as well as a starter like he did in the Spring, posting a 5.34 ERA. His K/BB ratio has been steady though at 2.40, which would explain why the Fielding Independent Pitching is lower at 4.41. Nicasio should be moved to the bullpen very soon, so he still could have better success there, but for now, he has underperformed.  Grade: C- 

Matt Joyce signing: Matt Joyce ended up being a free agent for awhile last offseason due to the poor year he had with the Los Angeles Angels in 2015. The left-handed hitting outfielder signed with the Pirates in February, the day that pitchers and catchers reported. Joyce has been phenomenal this season off the bench, putting up a .423 on base. Even more impressive is that he’s been the best pinch-hitter in baseball with a .514 OBP, while hitting four homers in that role. Oh, did I mention he’s been doing all of this on a minor league deal?  Grade: A 

Neftali Feliz signing: In an effort to bolster the bullpen, the Pirates brought in Neftali Feliz on a one-year deal worth $3.9 million. The former AL Rookie of the Year has been one of the few bright spots in a disappointing Bucs bullpen, as he’s posted a 3.80 ERA with a WHIP of 0.89 and a 10.7 K/9.  Grade: B 

Ryan Vogelsong signing: The Pirates signed Ryan Vogelsong to a one-year/$2 million contract in December to be the club’s fifth starter. Inconsistency in Spring Training however caused him to lose his spot to Juan Nicasio, and he began the year pitching long relief. Vogelsong has put up a 3.74 ERA, but his mediocre 1.60 K/BB ratio would indicate that his FIP is much higher at 4.98. He’s since then been placed on the 60-day DL with facial fractures that he suffered on May 23rd. It’s unclear at this point whether or not Vogelsong will return in 2016.  Grade: C 

Sean Rodriguez signing: The decision to bring back Sean Rodriguez on a one-year deal for $2.5 million this past offseason was deemed very unpopular among the Pirates fan base. While his defense was very much above average, his offense was quite abysmal. 2016 however has been ironically different for the veteran super utility, as his performance at the plate has been a pleasant surprise with an .819 OPS along with an OPS+ of 119. Rodriguez’s defensive metrics meanwhile have been subpar for the most part.  Grade: B- 

 

 

 

 

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