By Jason Shetler
Prior to the 2016 season, the Pirates signed Neftali Feliz to a one-year deal to pitch near the back end of the bullpen. Despite a bad ERA on the surface the year before, he had a much lower Fielding Independent Pitching, suggesting that he was a better reliever than the ERA indicated. The Feliz signing was a success last season.
Looking to fill the void left by Feliz, Daniel Hudson inked a two-year/$11 million contract with the Pirates this past offseason. Just like with Feliz, the Pirates were banking on Hudson to have a bounce back season, due to positive advanced metrics.
Hudson began this year pitching as the setup man to Tony Watson. He really struggled in April, losing his setup role to Felipe Rivero, who of course is now the Bucs closer (or relief ace as I prefer it). For the season, Hudson has posted an ERA of 4.29 and a 4.85 FIP. In 42 innings pitched, he has allowed seven home runs (1.5 HR/9), most coming at very inconvenient times, such as Saturday’s game versus San Diego, in which he was asked to keep a one-run deficit right where it was before promptly giving up a two-run homer. Given Hudson’s struggles this season, what should the Pirates do with him?
As mentioned early, Hudson’s deal was for two years. He is making $5.5 million this season, and will be owed the same amount for next year. Hudson has not been all that effective in high leverage spots in 2017, as opponents are posting an .830 OPS against him in those situations. The Pirates obviously did not sign Hudson for appearances that have less pressure involved.
On Saturday, the Pirates claimed George Kontos off waivers from the San Francisco Giants. Kontos will be under team control for the next two seasons. He also has more of a proven track record as a reliever than Hudson. Another significant factor would be if the Pirates were to re-sign Juan Nicasio. With the addition of Kontos, and the possibility of coming to terms on an extension with Nicasio, the Pirates could very well make Hudson expendable in the offseason.