8:26pm: Bonilla received a $575K guarantee on his deal, tweets MLB.com’s Adam Berry. Considering the right-hander’s lack of big league experience, the minimal guarantee isn’t much of a surprise.
5:25pm: The Pirates announced on Tuesday that they’ve designated left-hander Jeff Locke for assignment and signed right-hander Lisalverto Bonilla to a Major League contract. The 29-year-old Locke has long stood out as a non-tender candidate due to his recent struggles and his projected $4.2MM salary for the 2017 season (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz).
[Related: Updated Pittsburgh Pirates Depth Chart]
Locke functioned as a serviceable back-end starter for the Pirates from 2013-15, pitching to a 3.98 ERA with 6.6 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 with a ground-ball rate north of 51 percent across 466 innings. However, Locke also averaged fewer than six innings per start in that time, and his numbers declined in 2015 before taking an even more drastic downward turn in 2016. This past year, Locke logged a lackluster 5.44 ERA with a diminished 5.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 and a career-low 47.2 percent grounder rate. Right-handed opponents teed off against Locke this year as well, hitting him at a .299/.368/.508 clip in his 127 1/3 innings.
Presumably, the Pirates marketed Locke to other clubs to gauge interest in him and will continue to do so over the next week, but if no deal materializes then Locke will be released into a dismal market for free-agent starters. If it comes to that, it’s certainly plausible that Locke will end up with a 40-man roster spot and perhaps a smaller base salary than his arbitration projection represented in addition to some incentives based on innings pitched. There will be no shortage of teams on the hunt for cheap rotation arms, and Locke is just one year removed from that previously mentioned solid three-year run. (Speculatively speaking, the Marlins could make sense as a landing spot, as former Pirates special assistant/pitching guru Jim Benedict is now in the Miami front office.)
As for Bonilla, the 26-year-old once rated as one of the better prospects in the Phillies and Rangers organizations — he went from Philadelphia to Texas in the 2012 Michael Young trade — but saw his career stall in the upper levels of the Rangers’ system. He landed with the Dodgers on a minor league deal last winter and enjoyed a nice season pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he recorded a 3.97 ERA with a 118-to-40 K/BB ratio in 111 innings (13 starts, 18 relief appearances).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.