By Jared Lankes
When sifting through the potential Pirates’ roster of 2017, one guy that seems to not be thought about is Jeff Locke. I can certainly see why people aren’t thinking about him. His 5.44 ERA and demotion to the bullpen puts him in a category where he stands a good chance of not being on the roster this upcoming season. While most people are automatically thinking that he will be non-tendered, I think a different fate is very possible for the Pirates lefty.
As has been well stated, the pitching market is very thin. I mean, Charlie Morton of all pitchers got a 2 year, $14 million deal. If that doesn’t exemplify this pitching market, nothing will. Because of the thinness of the market, a lot of teams will look to fill their rotations through trading. Some teams will look to get top arms while others will be looking for filler arms. The teams that are looking for a filler arm and don’t want to overpay for a free agent pitching may look towards “change of scenery” candidates. Jeff Locke is a very good example of one of those arms.
I think there may be teams that bite on Locke as a change of scenery candidate, and there is no reason for teams not to. Locke is a former All-Star, he is a lefty, and has shown previously that he is able to hold down a rotation spot effectively. On top of all this, Locke would also be super cheap, as he will be worth around $4-4.5 million in arbitration this offseason and may even settle for less given his 2016 performance. This is extremely cheap when considering that much money won’t pay for anything substantial in this pitching market.
Given the nature of the starting pitching market, Locke may be a more attractive target for teams than he normally would be. I do not think teams would mind taking a chance on him to bounce back on a new team with how cheap he would cost financially. It would signify a low risk/high reward move for the acquiring team.
I do not believe Locke would fetch a big return by any stretch. Probably just a filler prospect or two, but it would relieve the Pirates from having to make a tough call on whether to tender him or not. Also, I think Locke has a better shot at succeeding somewhere else than with the Pirates. Whether the Pirates will find a trade partner or not for Locke’s services is a total toss up, but if they do, I would have to believe that Neal Huntington would not hesitate to try to put that deal together.