The Pirates announced that they have acquired left-hander Kyle Lobstein from the Tigers in exchange for cash considerations.The Tigers had designated the 26-year-old for assignment last Friday in order to clear a spot on the roster for newly signed utility man Mike Aviles.
Since making his Major League debut with the Tigers in 2014, Lobstein has had a fairly significant role with the club, totaling 103 innings across 20 appearances, 17 of which came out of the rotation. His results haven’t been great — a 5.33 ERA, 5.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 — but he has capably soaked up innings as the Detroit rotation battled through injuries. He’s struggled due to an inability to miss bats, as evidenced by the low strikeout rate and the fact that he’s yielded 113 hits in those 103 innings.
While there are certainly some unimpressive elements there, Lobstein could be effective in a different role. He’s displayed the ability to throw multiple innings as a reliever, and lefties have batted just .234/.307/.321 against him over the course of his relatively brief career. The Pirates (and perhaps other clubs, as well) may have been drawn to that trait and been intrigued by Lobstein’s 3.19 FIP and 3.41 xFIP against left-handed pitching, believing him capable of working as a relief option. His 49.7 percent ground-ball rate undoubtedly piqued Pittsburgh’s interest as well, as the Bucs have shown an affinity for pitchers that can keep the ball on the ground. And, his superior Triple-A numbers — 4.08 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 in 236 innings — may simply have made him an appealing depth option for the Pirates, especially when weighed against the minimal cost of acquisition.
Lobstein will land in what appears to be a favorable situation. The Pirates have had a good bit of success in elevating the stock of newly acquired pitchers in recent seasons, and the club’s aggressive infield shifting will mesh nicely with his ground-ball tendencies should Lobstein log significant time in the Majors in 2016 and beyond. He’s totaled just over one year of Major League service time, so the Pirates could conceivably control him through the 2020 season if he establishes himself as a consistent Major Leaguer in some capacity.