April 8: Siegrist doesn’t want to pitch in the minors for the Pirates or anyone else, general manager Neal Huntington told Liz Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other reporters Sunday. Conversations between the Pirates and Siegrist’s side have been “very respectful,” per Huntington, but: “His agent was very clear: This is not about the Pirates. This is about minor league baseball. … This is about not wanting to pitch in the minor leagues, period, so I’m not sure how that solves itself without him pitching.”
Huntington added that Siegrist could be part of the solution for the Pirates sometime this year, though that’s probably not going to happen if he doesn’t work his way back via the minors. “He’s a good pitcher, and we wanted him to go to triple-A to build up arm strength, to get back to Kevin Siegrist because that guy can help us,” Huntington said. “We would love to keep that door open and hope that there will be a change of mind at some point in time.”
April 6: The Pirates have issued another statement clarifying Siegrist’s status (Twitter links via Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic). It seems that Siegrist is not a free agent and has instead been placed on the team’s suspended list for failing to report to Triple-A.
As Biertempfel explains, the left-hander’s minor league contract allowed him to opt out at the end of Spring Training if another club was willing to place him on its MLB roster. If not, he’d be assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis. No club offered Siegrist a 25-man roster spot, but the left-hander subsequently chose not to report to Indianapolis and has been suspended by the team. Biertempfel notes that Siegrist does have a full opt-out on June 1, at which point he can become a free agent. It’d be a surprise to see Siegrist ultimately sit out until that point, but it’s not clear at this time if he intends on reporting to Indianapolis at all.
April 5: Left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist, who was in camp with the Pirates on a minor league contract, has refused an assignment to Triple-A in favor of free agency, the team announced on Thursday (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Adam Berry). Siegrist’s deal came with a clause that allowed him to opt out if he did not make the Opening Day roster, and he’d reportedly been mulling over whether to take the assignment to Indianapolis or pursue other opportunities.
The 28-year-old Siegrist posted sub-3.00 ERAs with the Cardinals in 2015-16 before struggling to a 4.81 ERA last year in season during which he logged DL time for both a forearm issue and a spinal sprain. Siegrist averaged a career-worst 5.03 walks per nine innings pitched last season, and his 92 mph average fastball was down noticeably from his peak, when his heater averaged 93.7 mph.
That said, Siegrist has a fairly long track record of missing bats at the big league level. He’s averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings since debuting with the 2013 Cardinals and has been largely effective against both left- and right-handed hitters — albeit with somewhat curious reverse splits. Lefties have batted .233/.344/.357 in 381 plate appearances against Siegrist, while righties have been stymied to the tune of a .192/.276/.349 slash. And while the five runs he allowed in 5 2/3 spring frames with the Pirates makes for an unappealing ERA, Siegrist also posted a substantially more encouraging 9-to-1 K/BB ratio in that tiny sample of appearances.
Siegrist finished out the 2017 season with four years, 116 days of big league service time, meaning that any club which signs him would have the option of controlling him through at least the 2019 season via arbitration. As we noted late last week, the free agent market is hardly flush with left-handed bullpen options — Antonio Bastardo and Eric O’Flaherty are currently the two most notable names available — so Siegrist should generate some interest elsewhere.