The Pittsburgh Pirates could strengthen their biggest weakness with two moves. And it could also give them a legitimate opportunity to win their first division title since 1992.
Furthermore, the moves likely wouldn’t cost an excessive amount of money. That is always important to a Bob Nutting-owned entity.
Yet the Pirates, at least in some people’s eyes, would also be selling their souls in the eyes of at least some fans if they signed left-hander Julio Urias and right-hander Trevor Bauer as free agents.
With all due respect to 2023 All-Star Mitch Keller, the two former Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers are better than anyone currently in the Pirates’ projected rotation for the upcoming season. Urias and Bauer would certainly make the Pirates contenders in the so-so National League Central, joining Keller and newly acquired lefties Marco Gonzales and Martin Perez.
The 27-year-old Urias has a 60-25 career record and 3.11 ERA while spending all eight seasons of his career with the Dodgers. He led the NL in wins in 2021 with a 20-3 record then had a league-leading 2.16 ERA a year later.
Bauer, 33, is 83-69 with a 3.79 ERA over 10 seasons. He was the National League Cy Young Award winner during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season while pitching for the Cincinnati Reds.
However, there is one huge reason why Urias and Bauer are both still unsigned on the last day of January – without even a hint of a rumor linking them to any big-league teams — and could be gotten on the cheap.
Urias was arrested last Sept. 3 on suspicion of corporal injury on a spouse. Major League Baseball placed him on administrative leave three days later and he did not pitch the rest of the season.
During the 2019 season, MLB suspended Urias for 20 games after he was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery.
Bauer hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2021. MLB suspended him for 324 games – two full seasons – under its joint domestic, sexual assault and child abuse policy.
An arbitrator eventually reduced the suspension to 194 games, but no MLB showed interest in signing Bauer last year and he spent the season pitching in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.
It should be noted that neither Urias nor Bauer has ever been charged with a crime. However, they are stained by their suspensions to the point that very few – if any – teams seem to have the stomach to sign either pitcher.
However, from a baseball standpoint, Urias and Bauer should pique the Pirates’ interest. General manager Ben Cherington and the rest of his staff would be negligent in their duties by not at least discussing the duo internally.
The Pirates, along with each of the other 29 Major League Baseball teams, would certainly anger a segment of their fans if they signed either Urias or Bauer. How large a segment is impossible to know.
With that in mind, PittsburghBaseballNow.com decided to gauge how Pirates’ fans would react to either pitcher – or both – coming to Pittsburgh by conducting a poll on X (formerly Twitter) earlier this week.
Granted, social media polls are hardly scientific. Yet the results were a bit eye-opening.
Of the 313 respondents, 63.6% said they would be OK with the Pirates adding Urias and/or Bauer.
Again, the poll can be taken for what it’s worth. However, I would have bet heavily that the no’s would have it.
Would the possibility that potential fan backlash be less expected give the Pirates a little more reason to feel they could sign Urias and Bauer? It’s hard to say.
Whether to pursue Urias and Bauer is an interesting decision for Cherington and the Pirates. It could easily pay off with a postseason berth and cap the organization’s interminable rebuild. Or it could blow up in their faces.
I’m glad it’s a decision I don’t have to make,