Pittsburgh Pirates Make Two Moves on Day Three of the Winter Meetings

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MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 15: Ivan Nova #46 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 15, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Pirates continued their penny-pinching ways Tuesday, trading starting pitcher Ivan Nova and his $8.5 million salary to the Chicago White Sox for 19-year-old right-hander Yordi Rosario and international signing bonus money.

Bucs Deal their Highest-Paid Pitcher in Ivan Nova

Nova, 31, was the most experienced and highest-paid pitcher for the Bucs. He was acquired from the New York Yankees in 2016. Wildly inconsistent at times, Nova was 5-2 with a 3.06 Earned Run Average in 11 starts for the Bucs after the August trade.

He never pitched as well again for the Bucs, sporting an 4.14 ERA with an 11-14 record in 2017 and a 4.19 ERA with a 9-9 record last year. He was a workhorse, though, pitching 187 innings in 2017 with 31 starts. Last year, he pitched 161 innings in 29 starts.

A 19-year-old right-hander, Rosario was 1-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 11 starts and three relief appearances last year in the Dominican Summer League and Arizona Rookie League. He struck out 70 in 56 innings.

Pirates Sign Jordan Lyles

The Bucs then signed right-hander Jordan Lyles who pitched for the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers last year. He was claimed by the Brewers after the Padres put him on waivers. Last month, the Brewers declined his $3.5 million option for next year, making him a free agent. No terms of his deal with the Pirates were announced Tuesday.

Lyles, 28, was 3-4 with a 4.11 ERA last season. He made eight starts and 27 relief appearances.

A first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros, Lyles made it to the majors in 2011 but his ERA was over 5 for three straight years. He was traded to the Colorado Rockies where he did have a 4.33 ERA in 2014 in 22 starts. But his ERA jumped to 5.14 and 5.83 in the next two seasons. He was moved to the bullpen in in 2017 but didn’t have much success with his ERA being 6.94. He was released and signed by the Padres, where his ERA was 9.39 in five appearances.

Last year, his ERA was 4.29 with the Padres in 24 games with eight starts. His ERA with the Brewers was 3.11 in 11 relief appearances.

Nova Trade Makes Little Sense

The Nova trade made little sense for the Bucs as they could have used his experience and durability on the mound. Pitcher Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove both underwent surgeries in the off-season but are expected to be ready for spring training. Starter Chad Kuhl will be all out season with an arm injury.

The Pirates do have two solid starters Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, who both had 14-10 records last year. Taillon’s ERA was 3.20 while Williams had a 3.11 ERA.

Options for the fifth spot include Nick Kingham, who was 5-7 with a 5.21 ERA, and Stephen Brault, who was 6-3 with a 4.61 ERA. Kingham and Brault made 15 and five starts respectively. Lyles could be in the mix, but he’s fared much better as a starter rather than a reliever.

Another possibility is highly touted Mitch Keller, who was 3-2 with a 3.82 for Triple AAA Indianapolis Indians.

Overall, though, the Bucs would have been wise to have kept Nova. Or they could have tried to get a starting pitcher in a trade for him. Unless the Pirates use some of that money to sign another veteran starter, the Bucs could be hurting on the mound next year, especially if one of their other starters comes down with an injury.

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Mark O'Keefe, 66, is a lifelong follower and fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. A 1976 graduate of Penn State University with a degree in journalism, O'Keefe worked in the newspaper business as a sportswriter, reporter and editor for 46 years, starting as a sports stringer while a high school senior. He covered the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1976 to 1978. A native of Monaca in Beaver County, he's lived in Uniontown, Pa. for the past 37 years.

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