Thoughts on the Pirates’ Free Agent Signings

I started off writing a comment on Tim’s article this morning, but got carried away, so now here’s a whole article.

Anyway, I think the signings of Yoshi Tsutsugo and Jose Quintana were probably pretty good moves, but it’s hard to see them as triumphs or anything. That’s especially true considering that they’ll almost certainly be the Pirates’ biggest moves of the offseason, which is pathetic when you look at the free agent pool this year. They’re more on the order of minor, short-term moves for a rebuilding team that’s just marking time until the prospects start collecting their major league minimum salaries.

The addition of Quintana has been compared to Tyler Anderson. I’m sure the basic intention is the same: shore up a dismal starting rotation for a while and hopefully have a nice trade piece at the deadline. The similarity ends there, though.

Anderson had always been a very solid starter when he was healthy, but he’d been plagued by injuries from the time he turned pro. It wasn’t the usual arm problems. Instead, he lost a lot of time to knee injuries and to a stress fracture in his elbow, along with an oblique strain. The plus side was that his arm had very little mileage. The Pirates gambled on him staying healthy and they won, which is perfectly fair. He pitched about the way his history suggested he’d pitch.

Quintana’s situation is very different. In the five seasons from 2013-17, he threw just over 1,000 innings. His effectiveness was tailing off toward the end of that time and continued to do so in 2018 and 2019. He mostly missed the pandemic season. In 2021, he was healthy but was just terrible. His velocity, for one thing, was down a notch from his prime. So the Pirates aren’t just gambling on Quintana staying healthy, they’re gambling on him turning around a five-year trend. I also think it’s questionable whether he offers a higher ceiling than Anderson did. The better comparison here is Trevor Cahill, not Anderson. But not much of Bob Nutting’s money is at stake, so . . . .

Tsutsugo I see more as a way of transitioning away from Colin Moran, who threatens to remain a millstone around the team’s offense for another couple of years. Of course, there’s still a risk the Pirates will hang onto Moran in the expectation of having the DH next year. But then, they could end up paying $8M for what turned out to be a first-base platoon. This is a team that once released its second-best reliever just to save half a million, so it’s very hard to envision them taking a risk like that.

The upside, then, is that Tsutsugo replaces Moran and gives the Pirates a first baseman who actually has some power, making the 2022 team a bit less of a laughingstock than it was in 2021. That’s far from a sure thing. Alex Stumpf ran a piece a little while ago looking at Tsutsugo’s success in hitting good velocity, which has been his primary problem in MLB. Turns out, while Tsutsugo’s overall numbers against mid-90s or better fastballs improved from Ivan Nova-like to just poor, it was because a lot of bloops fell in. The power wasn’t there. This is definitely a very risky move, but either Moran or Tsutsugo would be just a short-term measure. The long-term answer lies in the farm system. For the short term, Tsutsugo makes more sense than Moran, assuming that’s how it plays out.

QUICK NEWS NOTE:  Super two status has been set at 2.116 years of service.  As expected, that’ll include Bryan Reynolds, who’s at 2.163.