The Pittsburgh Pirates have been looking to add at least one starting pitcher to their disappointing rotation, but they’re trying to get rid of opening arms as well, specifically Jeff Locke and Jon Niese.
What? A team that’s trying to make the postseason getting rid of starters? Yes. The Pirates are hoping that the packages they’re dangling can land them a premier arm, while opening up room for their younger set of talent: Tyler Glasnow for example, but also Jameson Taillon, Steven Brault and Chad Kuhl who all made their major league debuts this season. Even without adding pitchers, the Pirates might be happy with a rotation that includes Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Ryan Vogelsong, Glasnow, Kuhl, Taillon and Brault.
Niese has been a disappointment since arriving in Pittsburgh for the New York Mets, with Neil Walker heading in the other direction. In 18 starts he’s pitched 101.2 innings, posting a 5.13 ERA, with a 1.574 WHIP and a 1.97 strikeout-per-walk ratio, all the worst numbers of his career. He makes $9 million this season, but both his 2017 and 2018 contract years have team options on a reasonable $10 million and $11 million respectively.
Locke, a one-time All-Star, is in his sixth season with the Pirates, making $3.025 million this season. He isn’t available for free agency until 2019, so he might be easier to move, or to keep. He’s doing just as bad as Niese this season, with a 5.26 ERA and 1.416 WHIP. He’s striking out only 4.7 batters per nine innings, and his k-to-bb ratio is down to an awful 1.66.
Locke is 28, Niese is 29, both are left handed pitchers. With Glasnow not on the future starting list on this Triple A team, a move for either Niese or Cole might closer than anyone thinks.