It’s almost hard to believe that a team could have too much pitching, but the Pittsburgh Pirates encountered that exact problem at the end of Spring Training. The Bucs had eight bullpen arms competing for seven spots, and the four guys who weren’t locked in to their roles were all without minor league options. The odd man out would have to be traded or designated for assignment.
The four pitchers who had their roles guaranteed were closer Jason Grilli, setup man Mark Melancon and the two lefties Justin Wilson and Tony Watson. The four competing for the three available bullpen spots were Stolmy Pimentel, Jeanmar Gomez, Vin Mazzaro and Bryan Morris. Pimentel has a ton of upside and can start if need be, Gomez doesn’t have high upside, but he is also able to start in a pinch. The eventual odd man out was Mazzaro.
The Pirates designated Mazzaro for assignment, and he eventually was placed on waivers after the team was unable to trade him. GM Neal Huntington didn’t even expect him to reach the waiver process as he expected to find a trade partner, but he certainly couldn’t have expected Mazzaro to clear waivers. Nonetheless, the other 29 teams inexplicably decided to opt against putting a claim on the reliable bullpen arm.
In a league that preaches “a team can never have enough pitching”, seeing a relief pitcher the caliber of Mazzaro clear waivers is shocking. A team would have had three years of control over Mazzaro as he just reached his first year of arbitration, resulting in a $950,000 deal for 2014.
In 2013, Mazzaro had a breakout season with the Pirates, pitching 73.2 innings with a 2.81 ERA. He doesn’t rack up a ton of strikeouts, but he has decent control and he induces ground balls. Mazzaro posted a 2.6 BB/9 and a 52.2 ground ball percentage last season. Now that he has cleared outright waivers, the right-handed reliever has three days to choose between free agency and accepting an assignment to triple-A.
The Pirates are surely hoping their good luck can continue and that Mazzaro will choose to take a trip to triple-A.