Ray Searage has become a bit of a pitcher whisperer for the Pirates. He got more out of Burnett than any other coach in the league, helped J.A. Happ go 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts, got Francisco Liriano back on track, harnessed Antonio Bastardo, while also helping Gerrit Cole emerge as an ace. Niese, acquired from the New York Mets in the Neil Walker trade, is the type of pitcher who could prosper with Searage. From 2012 to 2014, Niese went 30-28 with a 3.49 ERA in 84 starts. His 2015 campaign blew up in his face, and he fell out of favor with the Mets as the quartet of young aces came to power.
Niese needs to get himself back on track, and he seems like the type of pitcher who should thrive in Pittsburgh. He’s not a dominant pitcher, but if he throws strikes and plays to the defensive strengths of the Pirates, his ERA will come back down — just in time for free agency. The Pirates will likely buy his option years out following the conclusion of the 2016 season.