The Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired left-handed pitcher Phil Coke in a minor league deal with the New York Yankees for cash considerations, the team announced via press release. Coke is expected to join the Pirates tomorrow, at which point they will make a corresponding 40-man roster move.
Back when the Pirates traded Xavier Nady to the Yankees, they received Jose Tabata and Ross Ohlendorf, and had a choice between two sets of players in the second part of the deal. They went with Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen. The other option was Coke and George Kontos. Eight years later, they finally added Coke, although at this point he doesn’t look like a guy who has much value, unlike his 2010-2012 seasons with the Tigers.
He had a 2.96 ERA and a 2.97 FIP in Triple-A with the Yankees this year over 70 innings, with a 7.8 K/9 and a 2.7 BB/9. He also allowed one run on six hits and no walks, with 18 strikeouts in 16.1 innings during the Triple-A playoffs. He had three appearances in the majors this year, and they didn’t go well, leading to a 7.54 xFIP in six innings. Those came in May, and he has been solid ever since in the minors.
This is a pretty low-key move, but you wonder why it was made when you consider how many lefties are in the bullpen right now. The Pirates have Tony Watson as their closer, with Felipe Rivero and Antonio Bastardo as their primary lefties. They also added Wade LeBlanc this month in another small deal, and he has put up some good numbers in just six innings. They still have Jeff Locke in the bullpen, and brought up Zach Phillips, who has only pitched an inning. My guess is that Coke will replace Phillips as the 6th(!) lefty in the bullpen.
This wouldn’t be a situation like LeBlanc, where the Pirates can keep Coke around under team control if they like what they see. He would be a free agent at the end of the year. So this appears to be an attempt at a cheap boost late in the season, with the Pirates having the ability to throw a parade of left-handers at any team down the stretch.