The Pirates are among multiple teams that have expressed interest in free agent righty Noah Syndergaard, reports Robert Murray of FanSided. According to Murray, both Syndergaard and right-hander Michael Lorenzen threw a bullpen session in front of teams today.
While it’s unclear which teams are involved in Lorenzen’s market, Pittsburgh is apparently considering Syndergaard as a rebound target. He’ll certainly settle for a one-year contract for a third straight offseason. After locking in a $21MM guarantee from the Angels in 2021-22 and a $13MM pact from the Dodgers last winter, he’s looking at a cheaper deal this time around.
That’s a reflection of Syndergaard’s trouble finding his form since he returned from Tommy John surgery. He underwent the elbow procedure in March 2020, essentially wiping out two seasons. During his first year back, he turned in a 3.94 ERA over 25 appearances for the Halos. While that’s decent run prevention, the righty wasn’t nearly as overpowering as he’d been before the surgery. He fanned just 16.8% of opposing hitters, nearly eight percentage points below his 2019 mark.
The Dodgers hoped that Syndergaard would rediscover that level in his second year after surgery. Instead, the lack of missed bats caught up to him. He was tagged for a 7.16 ERA over 12 starts in Los Angeles. The Dodgers placed him on the injured list and flipped him to the Guardians in a change-of-scenery swap that sent infielder Amed Rosario to Southern California.
Things didn’t get much better in Cleveland. Syndergaard returned from the IL to start six games. He pitched to a 5.40 ERA while allowing 10 home runs in 33 1/3 innings. The Guardians released him at the end of August. He didn’t sign elsewhere and finished his year with a 6.50 ERA across 88 2/3 frames. His 14.3% strikeout percentage and 8.2% swinging strike rate were each personal lows, while he allowed a career-worst 2.23 home runs per nine innings. Once one of the sport’s hardest throwers, the righty has lost a lot of velocity in recent seasons. His fastball was down around 92 MPH on average last year.
Syndergaard is still just 31 years old, so it stands to reason some clubs have optimism about helping him rediscover some of that lost arm speed. He has excellent control and has walked fewer than 6% of opposing hitters in each of the past two seasons. If he can even find the 93-94 MPH he brandished in 2022, he’d be a potential back-of-the-rotation starter.
The Pirates would benefit from that kind of production. Pittsburgh’s rotation is led by Mitch Keller. They’ve already targeted Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales as rebound fliers, while players like Luis Ortiz, Bailey Falter, Roansy Contreras and Quinn Priester could vie for back-end jobs.
Pittsburgh’s signing of Aroldis Chapman pushes their projected player payroll to roughly $79MM, above last year’s $73MM Opening Day figure. It’s unclear how much budgetary room remains at the front office’s disposal.