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Pirates in contact with Matt Thornton

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates have been in contact with representatives of lefty reliever Matt Thornton, Stephen J. Nesbitt tweets. Nesbitt notes that Thornton isn't a top priority, but that the Pirates do need lefty relief help.

The Bucs can use another lefty with Antonio Bastardo departing via free agency. It will probably be tricky to replace him -- many teams can use lefty relief, and there aren't many good lefty relievers on the market. Thornton might -- might -- be one of them, but with a ton of caveats. For one thing, he's 39, and despite his sparkly ERA last season, he suffered a significant loss of velocity, dipping from an average fastball speed of 95.1 MPH to 93.6 MPH. He also generated many fewer ground balls than he had in the past.

Thornton was also bad against righties last year, striking out 12 of them and walking 10 in the equivalent of 18 innings of work. Unlike Bastardo and Tony Watson, he'd likely have to be used as a specialist, and Clint Hurdle doesn't generally use his relievers in that way. Thornton looks like he might be an odd fit.