If you recognize the picture shown above, it is because Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens has been leaning on a dugout rail while wearing a sweatshirt for the entire 2013 season. Karstens is a solid pitcher when he is healthy, but the problem is that healthy isn’t often an adjective used when talking about him.
When the Pirates non-tendered Karstens after the 2012 season, it raised some eyebrows among media and fans of the Bucs. He was due to make somewhere around $3.8 million in 2013, but the Pirates ultimately decided he wasn’t worth that much money. Later in the offseason, after Karstens couldn’t find a better deal elsewhere, the Bucs were able to bring him back on a one-year, $2.5 million deal to compete for one of the final rotation spots and saving $1.3 million.
Unfortunately, and quite frankly not unexpectedly, Karstens had surgery in June and he missed the entire season. As it would turn out, the Pirates wouldn’t truly miss Karstens that much. Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton all exceeded expectations and pitched like front-of-the-rotation starters for the Pirates. If Karstens had been healthy, either Morton or Cole may not have seen any action with the Pirates in 2013.
In 2011, Karstens’ last season with more than 150 innings pitched, he went 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA. He didn’t strike many hitters out (5.32 K/9), but he also had a 1.83 BB/9. In 2012, Karstens pitched effectively again, but only pitched 90.2 innings. He went 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA with more strikeouts (6.55 K/9) and fewer walks (1.49 BB/9) than he had in 2011.
Despite being an effective pitcher as a starter and a reliever, and also a fan favorite, the Pirates simply need to move on from Karstens. His inability to stay healthy is a problem, and the Pirates don’t have the budget to be paying players to be on the disabled list for over half of the season. While the Pirates will have more money than usual this offseason, there are much bigger needs to be filled.
Karstens will probably sign a minor league deal somewhere, but it shouldn’t be with the Pirates.