29-year-old right-hander Daniel Hudson has agreed to a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates worth $11 million. Hudson, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks, had a tough year in 2016, posting a 5.22 ERA and allowing 9.7 hits per nine innings. However, digging deeper it’s clear to see what the Pirates liked when they signed Hudson. The reliever also had 3.81 FIP and struck out over eight batters per nine innings, the second-highest mark of his career. The Pirates love peripheral numbers and GM Neil Huntington clearly liked what he saw in Hudson’s.
Despite the ERA in 2016, the Pirates — a team that puts heavy emphasis on team defense — clearly felt that they could capitalize on that FIP and help Hudson regain the form he had in 2015, when he posted a 3.86 ERA and struck out a career-high 9.4 batters per nine. Fans also should remember that the Pirates employ a wizard by the name of Ray Searage as their pitching coach, a man who has helped pitchers like Charlie Morton, Ivan Nova, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke all reach their potentials and far exceed expectations. Take Nova for example: in 15 starts for the Yankees in 2016, the starter had a 4.90 ERA and was then shipped to Pittsburgh, where he recorded a 3.06 ERA in 11 starts. Seriously, Searage is a wizard.
Searage has a lot to work with too, as Hudson is still armed with a fastball that sits around 95 and a slider-changeup combo that keeps batters guessing. Moving from Welington Castillo to Francisco Cervelli as his catcher will surely help Hudson too, as Cervelli is a top-ten catcher when it comes to framing and game management, whereas Castillo is behind the likes of Dioner Navarro and Eric Fryer in those rankings.
The Pirates have said that Hudson will have every opportunity to be the closer in Pittsburgh, and ever since reading Jeff Passan’s The Arm, which detailed Hudson’s recovery from two Tommy John surgeries, the pitcher has been a personal favorite of mine and I hope he succeeds in Pittsburgh.