In a move that sort of came out of nowhere, the Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired former Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Vance Worley. The Pirates are sending cash to the Twins in exchange for the right-handed hurler. Worley was acquired by the Twins, along with pitching prospect Trevor May, last offseason in exchange for center fielder Ben Revere.
The Pirates entered Spring Training with plenty of pitching depth, but injuries have taken a toll on said depth in the past week. The team’s Opening Day starter, Francisco Liriano, suffered a groin injury in his previous start, leaving his status a bit uncertain. Top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon is going to miss at least the first month of the season at Triple-A with right-elbow discomfort. Jeff Locke isn’t on track to be ready for the start of the season, as he is still trying to build up his arm strength and pitch count.
In his career, Worley has a 4.05 ERA with a 3.86 FIP. The addition of Worley not only gives the organization more pitching depth, but it gives the Pirates yet another pitcher that was good at one point in his career. The Pirates have established themselves as a great pitching organization from top to bottom. If any organization can get Worley’s career back on track, it’s the Pirates.
Luckily for Worley, there are obvious indicators as to what went wrong in recent seasons. First of all, he has clearly been unlucky on balls put in play against him. In the past two seasons, opposing hitters have posted BABIPs of .340 and .401 respectively. Both numbers, especially the .401 in 2013, would appear to be unsustainable. Also, in 2013, Worley’s strikeout rate dropped from his career 7.25 K/9 to a mere 4.62 K/9 while his control numbers actually got better.
The trade for Worley is a move to get excited about, but it is certainly one to keep in mind as the season progresses. Acquiring a pitcher who has done what Worley has in his career on a minor-league deal is never a bad move. The Pirates will undoubtedly need to utilize as much pitching depth as possible throughout the season, so don’t be surprised if Worley’s role shifts from Triple-A depth to emergency starter at the MLB-level at some point this summer.