Free agent starting pitchers are quickly coming off the board. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, they’d still like to add to their rotation this offseason.
The Pirates can certainly go the trade route to fill their need, as they did earlier with Marco Gonzales. However, if they decide to sign a free agent, there are still a handful of remaining options who make sense as potential targets.
General manager Ben Cherington already tapped into the free agent starting pitching market once this winter by signing veteran left-hander Martín Pérez to a one-year, $8 million deal.
With the list of viable options dwindling, the Pirates will have to act if they want to again make a strike in free agency to help shore up their rotation.
Here are some remaining free agent options the Pittsburgh Pirates could look to for help.
RHP Michael Lorenzen
Lorenzen was named an All-Star for the first time in his career as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2023. In his first season in Motown, the right-hander went 5-7 with a 3.58 ERA across 18 starts.
Detroit traded Lorenzen to the Philadelphia Phillies during the trade deadline. Once he got to Philadelphia, the recently-turned 32-year-old didn’t match the same level of success he had in Detroit, though he did throw a no-hitter.
Lorenzen represents a reasonable target for the middle of the Pirates’ rotation. He’s shown he’s capable of handling a rotation spot since converting back to a starting pitcher from the bullpen.
RHP Yariel Rodríguez
The Pirates have been linked to the Cuban right-hander throughout the offseason. They attended his October workout and are reportedly eyeing him as a starting pitcher.
Rodríguez has experience both as a starting pitcher and a reliever during his foreign career in Cuba and in Japan. While some teams may want him for their bullpen, he could think about the possibility of joining Pittsburgh as a starting pitcher if a deal could be worked out.
The Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros are among the other teams with interest.
LHP James Paxton
When healthy, Paxton has been a very solid starting pitcher throughout his career. Between stops with the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, Paxton has gone 64-38 with a 3.69 ERA in 156 starts across 10 seasons.
However, Paxton has never eclipsed 30 starts in a season. He made 28 with the Mariners in 2018 and a career-high 29 starts the following season with the Yankees.
In his lone season with the Red Sox in 2023, the now-35-year-old went 7-5 with a 4.50 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 96 innings.
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
At this stage of his career, Ryu would probably like to pitch for a more clear-cut contender, but the Pirates could offer him a guaranteed rotation spot.
Like Paxton, Ryu has battled injuries, but he’s been an effective starting pitcher when he’s been healthy. Ryu, who turns 36 years old in March, was an All-Star in 2019 and finished in the top three of the Cy Young voting in 2019-20. In 10 big league seasons, Ryu has a very respectable 3.27 ERA in over 1,000 innings pitched.
Over the last two season’s, injuries have limited the veteran southpaw to 17 combined starts. He did manage a 3.46 ERA with the Blue Jays last season when he was out there (20er/52ip).
LHP Alex Wood
Wood presents the Pirates with yet another left-hander with potential, but also one that comes with some injury history.
The 11-year major league veteran is 76-65 in his career with a 3.74 ERA. He was an All-Star as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 and has pitched the last three seasons in San Francisco with the Giants.
Wood, who turns 33 on Friday, went 5-5 with a 4.33 ERA across 29 appearances/12 starts last season.
RHP Vince Velasquez
Last winter, the Pittsburgh Pirates liked Velasquez enough to sign him to a one-year deal as a free agent. Maybe the two sides will explore a reunion for 2024.
After all, Velasquez impressed in his stint with the Pirates before suffering a season-ending injury to his pitching arm. Before he was lost for the season, the 31-year-old went 4-4 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts. He was on pace for the best season of his career prior to landing on the injured list.
If he’s cleared medically, a reunion could make sense for both parties.