The Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping that the huge need for starting pitchers in this trade deadline period will help them get rid of Jon Niese, who has been a massive disappointment in his first (and only?) season with the team.
Niese was acquired in a trade from the New York Mets, with the Pirates sending Neil Walker for him. Niese has provided poor numbers: 4.87 ERA, giving up 19 home runs through 98 innings (his career average is 22 a season through 162 games) and a 1.531 WHIP. In short, this is by far the worst season of his career, and the Pirates are paying $9 million this season for it, before the rest of his contract becomes two years of a team option worth $10 million in 2017 and $11 million in 2018.
Not everything is bad for Neise, with his W-L record at 7-6. He’s striking out 6.2 batters per nine innings, slightly better than last season (although he has a very low 2.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio), his speed is the same as in previous years (about 89.2 mph on his heater) and his ground ball rate is at 54.7%. Overall, the Pirates want a lot more, and have been calling teams for a number of days, trying to sniff out some interest. By moving Niese, the Pirates open up a spot for the likes of Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault, all waiting for their major league debuts.
From 2012 to 2015, Niese was a good mid-rotation arm for the New York Mets, with a 3.65 ERA for 697 innings, a 1.310 WHIP and a home run ratio that’s almost half as it is right now. Used to be 0.9 per nine innings, now it’s 1.7 per nine innings. From the looks of things, the Pirates will have to eat some of Niese’s salary (about $4.3 million remaining) in order to move him to another team, who’ll then probably buyout his deal for $500,000 once the season is over.
The Pirates are 44-42 this season, third in the NL Central. They’re ranked in the bottom half of the majors in almost every pitching category, including 22nd in WHIP and 21st in allowed batting average.