By Jared Lankes
It is no secret that the Pirates are in need of starting pitching this offseason. Even GM Neal Huntington has recently acknowledged that fact himself. However, the free agent starting pitching market is not exactly encouraging. Therefore, we are going to see many more teams trying to acquire starting pitching from others teams this offseason. The Pirates figure to be in the middle of it as Huntington has also acknowledged that trading for a starting pitcher or two is the more likely route. But, just what kinds of pitchers would the Pirates be interested in acquiring. Well, I am going to provide five pitchers that would make sense for the Pirates.
Gio Gonzalez: The Nationals figure to have a surplus of starting pitching this offseason (though nobody can count of Strasburg being healthy). Because of this, maybe the Nationals make Gio Gonzalez expendable. Gonzalez, 31, had his worst year in quite awhile in 2016, pitching to a 4.57 ERA. Before that, he had a good run of years where his ERA was well below 4.00. However, he has also seen his innings count year by year deteriorate. He made 32 starts this past season but only accumulated 177.1 innings, which is just over 5 innings apiece. Considering his less than phenomenal numbers and innings questions the past couple years, he may end up being one guy that would be risky to acquire.
Jake Odorizzi: Jake Odorizzi was subject to a lot of trade chatter this summer at the trade deadline. He figures to be subject to it again in the offseason. He is young, controllable, and steady. There isn’t much more a team could want from a pitcher like him. He is controlled through arbitration another few years and seems to be getting better as the years go by. Pirates balked at the asking price for Odorizzi during the trade deadline, but maybe the two teams go back to talking and can hammer out a deal this time around. However, he isn’t the only Rays starter coveted. There is in fact a bigger prize out there.
Chris Archer: Yes, Chris Archer is the bigger prize that can be had in the Rays rotation. The Rays would be naive to not look into offers for this highly-touted righty. He slipped up a bit in 2016 but figures to bounce back with the vast amount of talent he has. Archer is also under one of the most team-friendly deals in MLB. He is signed through 2019 with two team options for 2020 and 2021, and all at a very good rate for his talent. The question wouldn’t be whether the Pirates could afford his contract, it would be whether they can afford to acquire him in the first place. It would be a high cost, but with his talent and contract, it is certainly worth looking into.
Jose Quintana: Quintana, like Archer, is also looked into an insanely team friendly deal. The one thing that separates him from Archer, in terms of Pirates’ needs, is that he is a lefty. The Pirates have always loved having lefties in the rotation. However, their top lefty options now are a non-tender candidate Jeff Locke and Steven Brault. This isn’t exactly encouraging. Having Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon will be a great punch in the rotation, but getting a guy like Quintana to anchor the rotation as a lefty is just what the Pirates need. Now, the White Sox are always known to be stingy with their trading, but even they couldn’t look away if they got the right offer.
Drew Smyly: Okay, let’s get back to earth here. Drew Smyly seems like the perfect candidate to join the Pirates this offseason. He had his poorest year in 2016 but still has some qualities about him that can be tinkered with to get him back to form. It wouldn’t be the most exciting trade to get him in Pittsburgh, but it would be so much cheaper than the other options and might just end up working out.
Out of all these, I would say that Gonzalez and Smyly would be the most likely options. However, there are a lot of options out there that won’t be thought of or discussed that are possibilities as well. Even if none of these guys end up in Pittsburgh, there will certainly be another starting pitcher or two wearing black and gold here soon.