On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Pirates took an important step toward solidifying their starting rotation. According to Robert Murray of FanRag Sports, the Pirates have re-signed free agent pitcher Ivan Nova to a three-year, $26 million contract. The deal also includes a $2 million signing bonus.
$2 million signing bonus, rather. https://t.co/65HaaOXcMc
— Robert Murray (@RobertMurrayFRS) December 22, 2016
Pirates Re-Sign Ivan Nova for Three Years
The Buccos struggled to compete last season in a tough NL Central divison. The Chicago Cubs, of course, proved impossible to catch, and the St. Louis Cardinals, while not quite as formidable as usual, still proved resilient. The Cubs will once again be favorites next season, and the Cards aren’t going anywhere. A bevy of injuries and a down year from Andrew McCutchen exacerbated matters, dooming Pittsburgh’s season
Given that, the Pirates need all the help they can get if they want to have any hope at all of nabbing a Wild Card spot. Nova represents a key piece of that puzzle. The 29-year-old righty never quite lived up to his promise as a starter with the New York Yankees. Since making his big league debut in 2010, Nova struggled with his command and tended to allow far too many home runs and walks. His career 1.36 WHIP and 379 home runs allowed in 793.2 innings clearly indicate that.
His best season as a starter came in 2013, when he won nine games and posted a 3.10 ERA across 20 starts. However, he failed to build off of that strong campaign. The next year, he tossed only 20.2 innings and allowed 19 earned runs. The following year, he finished with a 5.07 ERA, and was on his way to another poor season in 2016 before being traded to the Pirates. After that, everything changed.
Whether it was the change of scenery or a different comfort level with his new coaches, Nova looked like a completely different pitcher once he arrived at PNC Park. His control issues all but vanished; in 64.2 innings of work, he issued just three free passes and notched 52 strikeouts. His 3.06 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with the Pirates contrast starkly with the 4.90 and 1.36 marks he was pitching to for the Yankees. After the Pirates shipped Mark Melancon off to the Washington Nationals, Nova did a great deal to mitigate the loss. Overnight, it seemed, Nova turned himself into one of the league’s more valuable starters.
With Nova back in the fold, the Pirates will have less to worry about when it comes to their pitching staff. If McCutchen sticks around and Pittsburgh’s starting pitchers remain healthy, they could sneak into the playoffs. If the can pull off a trade for Jose Quintana, whom they are reportedly after, that will start looking a lot more likely.