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.