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Examining the remaining starting pitcher free agent market

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

As it currently stands, the Pittsburgh Pirates have a starting rotation of Joe Musgrove, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Mitch Keller, and Steven Brault.

Chad Kuhl will return at some point in 2020 but it remains to be seen whether he will start or come out of the bullpen. After him, you have Clay Holmes and JT Brubaker (he too was injured in 2019). That’s basically it.

The Pirates desperately need starting pitching depth. Many cheap options still remain in free agency. Here’s some names.

Jason Vargas (age 37) 2019 fWAR: 1.8 - Last season with the Mets and Phillies, Vargas went 7-9 with a 4.51 ERA (5.44 xFIP) in 149.2 innings. With his 84 mph fastball (that he threw 49.5 percent of the time in 2019), Vargas relies on his curveball and changeup to finesse opposing hitters. He is an innings eater. He would be cheap. If he played for the Pirates last season, he would’ve been their second best starting pitcher.

Andrew Cashner (age 33) 2019 fWAR: 1.8 - Like Vargas, Casher played for two teams in 2019, the Orioles and Red Sox. He went 11-8 with a 4.68 ERA (5.11 xFIP) in 150.0 innings. Casher has a low to mid-90s fastball to go with a curveball, slider, and changeup. Once again, Casher would provide value in eating innings.

Aaron Sanchez (age 27) 2019 fWAR: 0.8 - Sanchez has been pretty dreadful since 2016. Not even the cheating Astros could fix him after the trade deadline last season (I’m sorry I couldn’t resist). That said, he tossed 131.1 innings in 2019. I’ll stress this again. The Pirates need innings. In total, Sanchez went 5-14 with a 5.89 ERA (5.15 xFIP) with the Blue Jays and Astros. He throws a low to mid-90s fastball, a sharp curveball, and changeup.

Some other names

  • Wade LeBlanc
  • Matt Harvey
  • Jeremy Hellickson
  • Trevor Cahill
  • Jhoulys Chacin

I would be extremely surprised if the Pirates didn’t add at least one starting pitcher by the start of the season. It seems impossible to me that they would enter the season with such little depth.