Pirates Sign Brad Lincoln

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed right-handed pitcher Brad Lincoln to a minor league contract. Lincoln was the Pirates first round draft pick in 2006, taken fourth overall. He was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays for Travis Snider at the 2012 trade deadline.

Lincoln pitched in the Phillies organization this year, making two relief appearances in the majors. He allowed three runs over 2.1 innings. He spent the rest of the season at AAA Lehigh Valley, where he made 22 starts and five relief appearances. Lincoln had 5.11 ERA in 123.1 innings, with 112 strikeouts and a 1.47 WHIP. In parts of five seasons in the majors (three with the Pirates), the 29-year-old has a 4.74 ERA in 222.1 innings.

UPDATE 9:44 AM: Thoughts from Tim Williams…

Lincoln’s best year of his career came in 2012. He put up a 2.73 ERA and a 3.46 xFIP with the Pirates before the trade. He struggled with Toronto after the deal, posting a 5.65 ERA, although his 3.62 xFIP looked fine. The following year, those numbers reversed. He posted a 3.98 ERA, but a 5.91 xFIP. He struggled with the Phillies in 2014, spending most of the season as an unsuccessful starter in Triple-A, and throwing just 2.1 innings in the majors.

A big change for Lincoln is that he saw a decline in his strikeouts, along with a slight decline in his ground ball rate. He also saw a massive increase in walks. FanGraphs shows that he started throwing a two-seam fastball in 2012, and gradually increased the use of the pitch after he left the Pirates.

Lincoln is just a flier at this point under a minor league deal. His signing has a bit more significance, due to the fact that he had success with the Pirates just two years ago. They need bullpen depth, and he could provide that if he can get back to doing whatever it was that he did right in 2011-12. The Pirates have done well to get pitchers back to their former, successful selves. We’ll see if that works for Lincoln.

  • We are building organizational depth. Benedict & Searage have been in the organization for a long time and are familiar w Lincoln. My guess is they see something a mile away that they can tweak ..i.e, as the article points out abandoning his 4 seam for a 2 seam .

    -Just depth. For the 1st time I am confident we are going to see some fairly liberal spending this off season , on real major leaguers.

  • I know hindsight is 20/20, but, man, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer were 3 of the next 7 picks in that draft right after Lincoln. Ugh!!!

    • Don’t do that to yourself.

      • You’re right, I’m looking away!!

        I know, every team has had many of those moments.

        Was just looking at the 1st round of 2005. The Mariners pick our old friend Jeff Clement with the 3rd pick. 4 of the next 8 picks were Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki and Andrew McCutchen.

        • Actually, I can’t pick on Clement too much when his knees fell apart. He did hit 100 career AAA HRs, though.

          He’s no Mike Hessman, but that’s pretty impressive.

          I know this is all a complete sidebar, but how in the world was Mike Hessman never given a legitimate shot at playing in the major leagues?? Was there something terribly wrong? I mean, the guys’s had 17 full minor league seasons and has never hit less than 16 HR’s (including 13 years of 20 or more)?

          I’m not saying he would have been a success, but how come Atlanta or Detroit didn’t just run him out there, for at least one full season to see if the power would play (in just the 250 PA’s he did get in the majors over 5 different seasons, he did manage to hit 14 HRs). It seems like he wasn’t even given a chance to fail!! He only started one season (2004) in the majors and they gave up on him after 29 games.

          Certainly if he had been in the Pirates org during those years, that power would have given him at least a few chances to play!

      • You’re right, I’m looking away!!

        I know, every team has had many of those moments.

        Was just looking at the 1st round of 2005. The Mariners pick our old friend Jeff Clement with the 3rd pick. 4 of the next 8 picks were Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki and Andrew McCutchen.

  • It’s one thing if Lincoln hit righty, but now he’s no help in our search for a right-handed platoon option at 1st base.

  • White Sox sign Zach Duke 🙁

    • Are they officially done with the Donnie Veal Experiment?

      • i believe the Donnie Veal Experiment is now a free agent 🙂

        • I just looked him up. Braves signed him last week.

          Two years ago I thought the Pale Hose finally unlocked the secret to Veal. But that didn’t last long.

  • Let’s all hope and pray he does not see any time in Pittsburgh this year whatsoever. Unfortunately, this bullpen is such a mess (and will get worse if they trade Melancon, which I think they will because they won’t want to pay a closer what he’ll make in arbitration) he might make the team right out of spring. If they move Melancon it becomes Watson, Hughes, and pray. Even with Melancon, it’s still not very good..

    • You didn’t watch baseball last September?

      • The big 3 pitched 35 innings out of the pen in September, and put up an ERA of 1.29. They’re the big reason why the pen was good in September. Yes, Holdzkom’s 9 strong innings helped too. But those are the only 9 innings he’s got in the Majors and in his last two outings (in Cincy, and then the WC Game) he pitched very poorly so it’s very possible teams finally had some film on him and were figuring him out. I’m okay with Holdzkom starting the year in the Pirates pen, just would not count on him in leverage situations yet.

        • Melancon, Watson, Holdzcom, Hughes are a hell of a start to a good bullpen. When middle relief and long men are your bullpen needs with five months remaining in the offseason, you’re in pretty good shape.

        • We have 4 solid relievers (3 of which appear to be a very solid 7-8-9) and Hughes being a more than capable middle relief type arm that gets grounders. This bullpen is merely a few arms away from being very solid, and they are only missing the relatively easier arms to find in a lefty specialist type and a long man.

      • He obviously doesn’t watch the same game as a lot of people. If you have anything positive to say about the organization, he will come back with a negative. Even when it makes him appear ridiculous.

    • Actually, the emergence of Holdzkom (sic, probably) was huge. Lincoln or LaFramboise have a chance to be good lefties to work behind Watson. They’ve also brought in a couple of other relievers from other clubs. Hughes, Watson, and Melancon mowed through guys down the stretch. Agreed, they can use a couple more guys for depth, but it’s still a good bullpen.

      • Lincoln is a RHP, so he has 0 chance of being a good lefty. Guys like Holdzkom and LaFramboise, IMO, need to show a lot more before they can be trusted in leverage situations.

        • I’m gonna go ahead and defer to Clint Hurdle – a man actually employed within the game of baseball – to judge when Holdzcom is ready for leverage situations. Thanks for your informed, wise opinion, marty34156.

        • He must have better than a zero chance. At least .0002% or something. Unless you’re rounding.

        • Agree. Look how Strickland got exposed in the post season.

        • A) You’re right. Lincoln bats left, throws right. B) LaFramboise cannot be trusted in leverage situations, but Holdzkom proved himself all September. Sure, it’s a short stint… but there’s no reason with his K-to-BB ratio and BA against that he cannot continue.

    • Very unlikely they’re trading Melancon.

      • Want to bet? No way they are willing to pay him what he’ll make in arbitration, IMO.

        • Do you have any clue what Mark Melancon is actually projected to get in arbitration?

          • Oooh, ooooh, I know!!

            Actually, my uneducated guess is that Melancon asks for somewhere in the $4-4.25m range, the Pirates counter somewhere around $3.5-$3.7m and they sign him for $3.75 or $3.8m.

            Although the Pirates did give Hanrahan $4.1 in year 2 of arb in 2012, so my values may be a little conservative.

      • Agree. I can’t see a scenario where MM gets moved this year. Next year, different story.

        Now, if Andrew Miller gets anything near the payday he thinks he deserves, I could see Neal shopping Watson if Neal feels confident he’s backfilled the rest of the pen well enough.

        • Trading Watson would also create a disastrous bullpen. Bucs need both those guys.

          • One of the things I’m still not at peace with is use of advanced metrics for bullpen guys. Their primary jobs, for the most part, are to limit inherited runs from scoring and hold leads.

            Watson hasn’t done well in save situations (along with an increase in blown holds), despite great peripherals. Morris let in an absurd number of inherited runners despite great perhipherals (even with Miami). Hughes, OTOH, did well limiting damage from inherited runners despite so-so peripherals (although he didn’t fare as well when starting clean innings).

            There’s something to be said for being able to pitch well when there’s heavy traffic on the basepaths or in high leverage situations). I’m not at the point where I can ascribe repeated failure to simply “bad luck”. Thus, I think Watson could make an appealing trade candidate given high perceived value – again, only if the bullpen is backfilled appropriately and someone is ready to assume the 8th inning role.

            • I don’t feel like looking up Watson’s and Hughes’s leverage #s, but Morris never had good peripherals in the majors.

              • Where’s that die-hard Morris supporter when you really need him?

              • Tony Watson had the lowest ERA(1.52) and FIP(1.65) of any Pirate pitcher with more than a 10 inning sample size.

                This is a perfect example of why counting stats are misleading.

                • Maybe it’s just old-fashioned romanticism, but I yearn for a day where “clutch” is not only measurable, but accepted by sabremetrics.

                  • This may be the most distorted traditional vs sabr arguments out there.

                    Sabermetrics absolutely measures “clutch”. FanGraphs literally has a metric called Clutch. Win Probability Added and Leverage Index are commonly used in sabr-type conversations.

                    What sabermetrics says is that clutch is not a defined, repeatable skill in it’s own right. As an example, anyone can easily agree that hitting a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th down by one run is a clutch performance. Where sabr differs is when traditionalists claim that certain players hit more home runs in those type of situations than low leverage ones. They don’t exist.

                    • I know there’s a metric called “clutch”. And Joe Biemel was the best clutch LOOGY in 2014.

                      I’m simply not buying that “that guy” doesn’t exist. Maybe he doesn’t to the extent of Jordan or Montana but IMO there’s got to be guys who’ve had an edge over an extended period of time.

                      I have not spent the time nor have the tools to examine this. I know others have and say pretty much what you’ve said.

                      However, I’d lose faith in humanity if that weren’t true.

                    • In the end, we’re all just numbers, maaaaan.

                    • And here I thought it was water and carbon.

            • For RP clutch, don’t you also have to examine how inherited runners score? It’s one thing to give up an XBH to score a guy from first and entirely different to give up a Sac Fly or weak grounder to score a guy from 3rd. If you and others want to continue making this argument about Morris, can you at least look at the game play by play and verify whether the scores were via hit, out, or other?

    • We aren’t trading Melancon. Normally, if we weren’t contending, would we trade him? Yes, but not now, and probably not next year either, although if we were out of the playoff hunt early then we may deal him.

  • AJ Burnett…. Brad Lincoln… we’re partying like it’s 2012, baby!! It’s a flier, but I always liked this kid. Hopefully, Searage and crew can get him back to where he was.

    • Erik Bedard will probably be next. NH will see him as a prime reclamation project.

      • Erik Bedard is a fine 5th starter.

        and no he doesn’t fit the prime reclamation project prototype and he wasn’t a reclamation project when he came here.

        I know you said this sarcastically, but at least pick someone who is actually really bad like Jonathan Sanchez if you’re going to poke fun at the whole “reclamation project” thing.

        • 4.76 ERA, with a FIP and xFIP to back it up last year. The year before, over 4 walks per 9, an ERA of 4.59, and again a bad FIP and xFIP. Then there was the 2012 train wreck with the Pirates. Yup, he’s been a real good 5th starter the last 3 years!

          • your opinion of the average 5th starter is too high.


            Also, sorry if you mentioned Bedard in a joking “let’s get the 2012 team back together” way as opposed to an angry “bahhh payroll is low and i hate reclamation projects” sort of way.

            • Not winning a pennant with a guy like that taking the ball every 5 days, sorry.

              • Oddly enough, you can win a WS with him though. Because the entire SFG rotation not named Bumgarner was garbage in the postseason.

                • If we can get a top of the line starter at the expense of a garbage 5th starter by some universal law of averages, i’d take that. But we have no baumgartner

                  • Cole’s periphs actually show a few similarities in his first two years to that of Bum. In no way does that mean the end result is the same, but the talent could be similar. First big year for Mad Bum was his second full year, or the next year for Cole. Interesting to see how it plays out.

              • Agree with you here. I’d rather that #5 guy be someone with upside. 2012 was a different year when there were not enough young arms ready, and the Bucs had to try Bedard. I’d rather have a Cumpton or a Kingham here. Even Volquez had an upside last season (and Worley, also, with his youth), and worked his way in an up the rotation.

        • IIRC, at least Sanchez worked fairly quickly. And gave better interviews.

  • William Wallace
    November 18, 2014 9:47 am

    At one time he was a very good option. Hopefully he can get back to that form.

  • At this point does Lincoln have a descent shot to be our 7th inning guy? Too optimistic?

    • That is probably very optimistic, but it’s possible that they believe they can get him back to where he was prior to the trade. He had a decent ERA last year for the Blue Jays in 22 games, but he issues a ton of walks, so there was some luck involved too. This year he got hit hard at AAA, so I can’t imagine him being an Opening Day option at this point in any role.

      • Do you believe we have our 7th on the current roster John.. maybe not out of the gate but maybe ready by midyear? I see a glaring need, just hoping it’s cause I don’t know enough

        • I’m not John, but I’m guessing there will be a signing or two for the bullpen.

          Zach Duke (or just go with Lafromboise?) could replace Wilson, and a nontender candidate like Ronald Bellisario looks like a Neal Huntington bullpen acquisition prototype.

          • Buccos were even tied to bellisario at the deadline last year weren’t they..

            • I think they will sign at least one legit reliever that should be able to handle the seventh inning duties full-time and about 5-6 AAAA types that they hope to get something out of

              • After seeing Hurdle’s trust in him down the stretch, I’d be surprised if John Holdzcom isn’t given the first shot at 7th inning duties.

                • Steamer would agree with you. Holdzkom, Watson and Melancon are the only pen members projected to have positive WAR in 2015.

            • I don’t remember seeing that they wanted him, but who knows.

              I just see the height, the high ERA / low FIP combination, the ground balls (career over 60%), and the still-decent velocity (94) and i just see a NH prototype.

              I don’t know if he’s ACTUALLY still any good. Just those Pirate-y indicators are there.

      • Hey… a lefty who lost his way with walks for awhile until getting fixed in the minors. Sounds familiar. I think he’s got as much a chance of being that late-inning lefty as LaFramboise, at this point.

      • I’d respectfully disagree. If he performs well and gets his control back in spring training, there is no reason to think he can’t make the team as a middle relief option, especially if there is a minor injury or two

  • Does this mean a reunion with Daniel Moskos is on the horizon?

    I vividly recall all the hand-wringing and whining over Lincoln being swapped for Snider as one of Neal’s worst moves ever. To think that not long before the Snider swap Lincoln was the key component is discussions for acquiring Pence and Victorino but was deemed too valuable to part with… Good thing Neal got better with experience.

    • Worked out alright though. Snider has been good.

      • Worked out terribly in 2012 if I recall.

        • Sure. But i can’t blame them for wanting several years of Snider over a few months of Victorino.

        • Agreed. I didn’t want Victorino, I wanted to keep riding Lincoln to the playoffs. Took one year longer to make the playoffs than it should have, and then it took Snider until this season to show some life. You are right though – Snider looks like a keeper now. That’s one impressive young man.

    • William Wallace
      November 18, 2014 9:49 am

      Maybe Daniel McCutchen — let Hurdle blow his arm out again like he did in the 18 inning Atlanta debacle.

      • Hurdle would of needed security to remove McCutchen from that game. He told Hurdle not to take him out until they had the lead. Even recall D. McCutchen flying down base lines when he was hitting.

    • Wait, wait, wait…Lincoln was the KEY component in potential trades for Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino?

      Brad Lincoln?

      Formerly of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club?

      • He was a popular guy once.

        • Sure as hell wasn’t THAT popular.

          • He had 1st round pedigree and up until that point was looking pretty decent. Not impossible to believe other teams wanted him. Let’s also remember pretty much every one of Neal’s potential trade partners wanted to abuse the Pirates given the pathetic nature of the franchise at that point.

    • More likely Zach Duke actually. Makes a weird amount of sense to go get Duke and put him in the pen.

  • good depth. why not.