Being a small market team, the Pittsburgh Pirates have to be very smart when adding talent to their roster. This means they have to take chances on high-risk, high-reward type players if they want to add impact players. In recent years, the Bucs have made a decent living on high-upside signings and trades.
Two of the most notable high-reward moves the Pirates made were trading for A.J. Burnett and signing free agent Francisco Liriano. The team traded for Burnett prior to the 2012 season from the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers had grown tired of Burnett’s personality and disappointing on-field performance.
The Pirates agreed to take Burnett off of their hands while giving up two minor prospects and having the Yankees pay some of his remaining salary. Liriano had been one of the best pitchers in baseball at one point, but had fallen off of the radar after miserable seasons due to a high walk rate. In his first season with the Pirates, Liriano had a great K/9, ground ball percentage and lowered his BB/9 to a decent number.
Johan Santana may just be the next reclamation project for the Bucs. Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that the Pirates have requested Santana’s medical records, indicating that they have legitimate interest in signing him at some point.
When healthy, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has a career 3.20 ERA with an impressive 8.83 K/9. In his most recent season, 2012, Santana was still very good. He maintained his high 8.54 K/9 while being a bit unlucky in terms of his HR/FB ratio. His .301 BABIP also indicates that he was unlucky in that department as well.
Santana still has the talent and ability to be an effective pitcher, but proving to be healthy for the duration of the 2014 season could be a challenge. Signing Santana would be a worthwhile risk for the Pirates.