Dec. 13: The Pirates have formally announced a one-year deal with Velasquez. Their 40-man roster is now full. Pittsburgh has yet to formally announce the signing of lefty Jarlin Garcia, who agreed to a deal on the same day as Velasquez. They’ll need to make a corresponding 40-man move for Garcia once his physical is complete and that deal is official.
Dec. 6: The Pirates and righty Vince Velasquez are in agreement on a one-year deal, reports Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.com. Velasquez will make $3.15MM, according to Robert Murray of FanSided. Velasquez is represented by CAA Sports.
Velasquez, 31 in June, has pitched in each of the past eight MLB seasons, mostly with the Phillies but also with the Astros, Padres and White Sox. He has occasionally tantalized with some high strikeout numbers but has rarely been able to be consistently effective for extended stretches. His lowest ERA in a single season is 4.12, which came back in 2016, though he’s also been above 5.00 in three separate seasons, including one above 6.00. His career high in terms of strikeout rate is 29.9%, in the shortened 2020 campaign, but it’s also been as low as 21.6%. His walk rate has been as low as 7.8% but also as high as 11.8%.
All told, Velasquez has 726 1/3 innings in his career with a 4.93 ERA, 25.1% strikeout rate and 9.4% walk rate. Those numbers vaguely resemble an effective back-end starter, which Velasquez has occasionally been, just not reliably. Last year, he signed a $3MM deal with the White Sox and began the year in the rotation but was hit hard and bumped to the bullpen before the end of May, only making two starts for the rest of the year.
It’s unclear if the Pirates plan to use him as a starter or a reliever, but he fits the mold of the low-cost rotation addition they have done in recent years. They signed Tyler Anderson to a $2.5MM deal in 2021 and traded him to the Mariners at the deadline for prospects Carter Bins and Joaquin Tejada. Going into 2022, they inked Jose Quintana to a $2MM deal and later flipped him to the Cardinals, alongside Chris Stratton, for Johan Oviedo and Malcom Nunez. It’s possible that they have similar designs on Velasquez this year, with the veteran ideally holding down a rotation spot and pitching well enough to become a midseason target of other clubs.
The Pirates have been aggressively rebuilding in recent years, finishing last in the National League Central in each of the past four seasons, tying with the Reds in 2022. It’s unlikely they will suddenly jump into contention in 2023, but they have been looking to bolster their young roster with some veteran additions on short-term deals. They acquired Ji-Man Choi from the Rays and signed free agent Carlos Santana for their first base/designated hitter mix, then signed Jarlín García for some left-handed relief. It was reported earlier this morning that starting pitching was on the list with the club looking to potentially add a couple of arms into the rotation. If Velasquez is indeed one of them, he will join Mitch Keller and Roansy Contreras, with JT Brubaker likely taking up a spot as well. There are some in-house options who could be in the mix as well, including Oviedo, Luis Ortiz, Bryse Wilson and Zach Thompson, with health and performance likely determining who gets the nod most frequently. If they find enough success in that group to bump Velasquez to the bullpen, he posted a 4.25 ERA as a reliever in 2022 compared to a 5.26 as a starter.