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Meet ‘The Value Menu': the Pirates starting staff is the best bargain in baseball


SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – So when Neal Huntington pulled up to baseball’s symbolic drive thru and ordered off of the discount pitcher menu this offseason, who knew he would be getting this return?


We’re inching close to June and throughout the first two months of the season I think you can argue the Pirates are enjoying the best values in baseball when it comes to starting pitching. (This is a story we might explore in greater detail in the print version.)


Entering today, the Pirates have the second best ERA (3.29) in Major League Baseball, trailing only division foe St. Louis. And they’ve done it at a minimal cost.


*While it’s just three starts, Francisco Liriano has looked a lot like the guy he was in 2006 and 2010, posting a 1.00 ERA, 3-0 record, and a 25-to-6 K-to-BB ration over 18 innings … all for $1 million.


(He can reach nearly $4 million more in incentives, but still it’s looking like quite a bargain).


Did I mention I was not only a member but the president of the Liriano fan club? I’ve always liked the swing-and-miss slider and changeups, and the rare 93 mph fastball velo for a lefty starter, but if he keeps up his improved fastball command – he’s throwing the fastball at 68-percent clip for strikes for his vs his career average of 55 percent per Brooks Baseball – this could be very real.




There’s no better value menu than what the Pittsburgh rotation is offering


*A.J. Burnett leads the NL in strikeouts with the Yankees picking up $8.5 million of his $16.5 million salary.


*Wandy Rodriguez has been a stabilizing presence with the Astros paying $5 million of his $13.5 million salary.


*Jeff Locke earns a mere pittance $497,000 and does Jeanmar Gomez $500,000.


*James McDonald ($3 million) and Charlie Morton ($2 million) are also relatively cheap options.


*Gerrit Cole signed for a historic bonus, but he’ll earn the major league minimum when he arrives.


The current starting five is earning $18.5 million .


Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are earning $65 million combined and the Phillies have a 4.14 ERA.


The Cardinals lead baseball in ERA and currently have a starting-five with a $14 million payroll, thanks to a number of cheap home-grown talents like Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn… but the Cards have another $20 million in starting pitchers on the DL.


All in all, you can make the case the Pirates have done the best bargain hunting in baseball.


That’s a big deal at a discount price.


– TS

Twitter: (@Sawchik_Trib)



  1. Clemson Travis,
    It might be appropriate to mention in your imaginary Taco Bell drive-through scenario that the only reason Francisco Liriano’s price tag is only $1 million this season is because Liriano banged his non-pitching arm against that same Taco Bell bathroom door, breaking it (his arm, not the door!). You see, Neal Huntington had already placed his order for Liriano at the outside speaker, but before Huntington paid at the window, Lirlano celebrated the order + biggie fries by banging the wall and breaking his arm!
    It’s tough to give Neal Huntington credit for a $1 million steal . . . . . . when Neal had already agreed to a $12.75 million for 2 years with Liriano——before Liriano, either unfortunately or foolishly, broke his arm prior to taking his final physical and signing his contract.
    Full disclosure is the “special sauce” that makes the burger better!!! Imagination does make the story better though.

  2. NMR says:

    So Liriano personally donated all but $1m of his originally agreed upon contract? Tsk tsk Groaty!
    Huntington deserves just as much, if not more, credit for not only sticking to his signing but negotiating a ridiculously team-friendly reduction.

    Remember when Huntington was getting criticized for sticking with the signing even though Lirinao would miss one whole month *GASP* of the season?

    Silly, silly silly.

  3. Travis Sawchik says:

    Even if Liriano was still signed to his original deal at $6M per, it would still represent a major bargain.

  4. Skip says:

    Groat – Travis is correct: even under the original terms, Liriano was a bargain (in the world of MLB finances). And if he keeps up this pace, then it’s a ridiculous bargain.

    Also, Groat, since when are biggie fries available at Taco Bell? In your world, are chalupa’s available at Wendy’s, too?

  5. JohninOshkosh says:

    Precisely why I will not fault the FO for acquiring Jonathan Sanchez. Although Jonathan did not work out, this team needs to make those kind of investments. Like playing the market-buy low and hope it goes high. Sometimes you make enough to send the daughter to college (Burnett). Sometimes you lose enough to have to owe the financial adviser (Sanchez). Groat-I’ve got no one to talk NBA with. My boy got injured and that was that for OKC.

  6. NMR says:

    It’s a crying shame that nobody has complemented you on your avatar, John.

  7. NMR says:

    Another blog criticized the Liriano signing this winter using the justification that the Twins gave up on him in favor of Kevin Correia, which apparently meant something.
    The Twins have one starter with an ERA under 5.00, the aforementioned Correia. He of the 6.75 May ERA.
    The Twins also have just one starter with more than 5 K/9, Pedro Hernandez(5.33 K/9).
    The Twins are awful at acquiring starting pitchers.

  8. JohninOshkosh says:

    Thanks. Can’t wait for Sunday.

    Your “Yinzer alert” comment still has me chuckling!

  9. Chuck H says:

    The Bucs do, indeed, have a wonderful group of starting pitchers, and a best in the league
    array of relievers, so far. Let’s hope they can keep it up for this next road trip and return to home against the hated Brewers and power laden Tigers. Those two series are going to tell us a lot about the direction of this year’s team. I always thought that good pitching would silence good hitting teams. GO, BUCS!!!

  10. Chuck H says:

    Poor AJ, can’t ever get any run support, and the Pirates cannot win in Milwaukee. Why???
    The grass is the same color, the bases are the same distance apart, but it doesn’t seem to matter who’s pitching. They could probably start their batboy and he would win, too. I give up. There’s no answer to that one.

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