I don’t really want to write another article on why I don’t think it’s a smart move for the Pittsburgh Pirates to spend money and/or prospects to get relief pitching help. As I wrote last week, they’ve got a good track record of finding quality relievers without paying for it. They also have a good late inning combo of Mark Melancon and Tony Watson, which means their focus should only be on the middle innings.
Yet the Pirates are looking around at possible upgrades. They looked at Huston Street, and now they’re connected to Joaquin Benoit and Joakim Soria. We don’t know their level of interest. It could just be checking on the price of those guys. It could be deeper than that.
Rather than giving my thoughts on acquiring relievers again, let’s focus on the big bounce back candidate for the Pirates — Ernesto Frieri.
The Pirates didn’t exactly get Frieri for nothing. He came in a swap of struggling relievers, with Jason Grilli going the other way. So the trade didn’t send anyone of value away (although Grilli has rebounded a bit since the deal). Frieri does cost money, but they were paying slightly more to Grilli, so Frieri didn’t really cost more than what the Pirates had already committed.
The first few outings from Frieri were bad. Since giving up a walk off homer on July 8th, Frieri has looked a little better. He hasn’t allowed a hit or a run in four outings. His only bad outing came on July 12th, when he walked two batters to start the tenth inning, before getting bailed out by Justin Wilson. Obviously we’re dealing with an extremely small sample size here, so we can’t put much stock in the last few outings.
With only a week and a half left until the trade deadline, the Pirates are going to be limited to a small sample sized analysis with Frieri. Even if they don’t add a reliever through a trade, they will need to make a decision in their bullpen when Gerrit Cole returns. Cole will push Vance Worley to the bullpen, which will mean the Pirates will have to decide between Frieri, Stolmy Pimentel, or sending someone with good numbers like Justin Wilson or Jared Hughes down. The easy decision, based on the stats, would be to cut one of Frieri or Pimentel. However, both have good upside, and I can’t see the Pirates letting go of either pitcher easily based on the upsides.
If Frieri could bounce back, then he’d be the perfect example of adding a quality reliever for a cheap price. But there’s not much time to see if he can make this happen. And any other inexpensive reliever they get is most likely going to come with question marks, and will also need a quick turnaround, or to demonstrate success in a small sample. So the question is, can the Pirates fix Ernesto Frieri in time?
Links and Notes
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.