By Jared Lankes
The Pirates main need this offseason is, of course, starting pitching. However, there is also an obvious need for bullpen pitching. Could the Pirates look at a former Brewers closer for help? I examine.
The Texas Rangers are reportedly drawing interest in reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who they acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline this year. Despite being troubled off the field at times, Jeffress is a great asset to have on the field. Jeffress has found his footing the last few years with Milwaukee and Texas after bouncing around for a bit. He has been quietly one of the more quality relievers in the league the last few seasons, compiling an ERA of under 3.00 since signing a minor league deal with Milwaukee in 2014.
Jeffress is also rather affordable and controllable. He is projected to make $2.9 million in his first go through of arbitration which means he’s controlled for a total of three more seasons overall. This is certainly an attractive part of the potential Jeffress could offer.
Jeffress also brings a little bit of closers’ experience with him. In 2016, Jeffress saved 27 games for the Brewers before being shipped off to Texas where he wasn’t the closer. However, the Pirates always like to bring in guys with closers experience like this that are also controllable, so I could certainly see the fit anyhow.
The big obstacle here is that the Rangers will sell very high on Jeffress knowing that he’s controlled through 2019, and they have shown they are not scared about keeping players that have been in trouble off the field. The Rangers do not need to trade Jeffress as he can be a big part of that bullpen for three more years, especially for a team that needs pitching like the Rangers. They would certainly need to be really compelled by an offer to make a deal.
Overall, Jeffress would be a great fit for the Pirates, assuming his off-the-field troubles are behind him. However, I don’t think the Pirates are going to, or need to, give up a big haul just to get a reliever, even if he is controlled for three more years and is a high-end player. It’s a nice thought to have him fill into a late inning role to stabilize the bullpen, but it seems like an unrealistic possibility.