The Pittsburgh Pirates have plenty of options for late-inning relief roles after signing Daniel Hudson to a two-year deal. Here are a few scenarios.

With the addition of Daniel Hudson, the  Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen got a little deeper for 2017. However, along with the addition, more questions were raised for how the back end of the bullpen will be handled this upcoming season.

Here’s what we know. At this time, Hudson will be joining a bullpen featuring incumbent closer Tony Watson and presumed set-up man Felipe Rivero. Juan Nicasio, Antonio Bastardo, Jared Hughes, Wade LeBlanc and possibly A.J. Schugel are all in the mix.

It must be noted that recent off-season chatter has the Pirates shopping Tony Watson as a trade chip. Should be switch clubs, it would cause a ripple effect that could lead to an entirely new bullpen structure.

Today, however, we are going to project the late-inning duties among the Pirates’ bullpen as presently constructed.

With Watson as Closer

7th- Hudson

8th- Rivero

9th- Watson

Should the Pirates stay with what they have, it is very likely Watson will retain the closer role he inherited last season following the trade of Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals. Watson had previously been the set-up man for Melancon until the trade, a role he was superb in.

Rivero would slip into the set-up role much like the role he fulfilled after joining the Pirates following the Melancon trade. In his short time with Pittsburgh, Rivero demonstrated closer-like capabilities with an electric fastball and excellent off-speed pitches.

Hudson would enter the seventh inning role in this scenario, although with the lefty-heavy back-end it’s not unheard of to think he could split Rivero and Watson and throw in the eighth inning. Hudson boasts a heavy-fastball and quality sinker which bodes well for potential success with the Pirates.

The key for the back-end of the bullpen and the Pittsburgh Pirates to have success this season is to keep the trio fresh and healthy. Watson has been seemingly overworked the previous three years appearing in 78, 77, and 70 games respectively. Hudson has seemingly put his injury woes behind him, and Rivero had his first significant workload last year. The team will have be ensure that Rivero does not fall prey to the overuse that has now become Watson’s calling card.

Without Watson as Closer

7th- Hudson

8th- Nicasio

9th- Rivero

Should the Pittsburgh Pirates move Watson via trade, their bullpen would still be in great shape.

Nicasio, who has the stuff to pitch anywhere from long relief to the late-innings, would likely bump into the set-up role vacated by Rivero as the young lefty becomes the de facto closer.

Hudson – who has a strong sinker and heavy fastball – will be the guy to induce ground balls and blow it past weaker hitters. This complements Nicasio, who with a simplified approach consisting of a fastball/slider combination can give a different look. They would then serve as a nice table-setter for Rivero’s stuff.

The addition of Hudson adds depth for the bullpen and provides a quality right-handed pitched they desperately needed to have. He can close – in fact his contract has incentives based on number of games finished – but his talent and stuff gives the Pittsburgh Pirates a myriad of options.

It will be curious to see if Clint Hurdle starts the year as he did in 2016. In the season’s early goings, he mixed and matched Watson and Neftali Feliz situationall. The addition of Hudson may point him towards that path once again.

Image Credit – Flickr Creative Commons

Jarrod Prugar

Jarrod Prugar is 5 and a half feet tall and you can’t teach that. Jarrod grew up watching future Pirates light up the Eastern League for the Altoona Curve before going off to Robert Morris for college.

Jarrod also covers Penn State for the Pittsburgh Sporting News. Ban the DH!

  • this really concerns me, the pen is in rough shape. Usually i’m pretty optimistic but looking at our bull pen makes me want to cry.

    • Peter Rauch

      Wait what why

      Watson will be fine this year, Rivero will be very good and while we don’t know what we will get out of Hudson, it seems like Uncle Fay will fix him up. Nicasio will pitch pretty well too. Bastardo, Hughes, and Schugel project to have successful seasons, we aren’t serious about LeBlanc, and we also have rule 5 pick Tyler Webb. We are in good shape.

      • I hope you are right.. but I don’t think so.

        Watson might not even be here in spring and if he is i have worries he may not be a closer, but sure is one of the best setup men the past few seasons. He did have some struggles last year even before taking over.

        Rivero hasn’t done much yet, he had half of an excellent season and the rest of his pro ball is sketchy.

        Bastardo probably won’t be here and if he is, he ‘should be’ fine middle relief

        Nicasio as well probably fine middle relief, along with Hughes and Schugel.

        LaBlanc is depth and Webb has to stay on the 25man.

        Of those Watson, Rivero, Bastardo, LaBlanc and Webb are all lefties and four of those pretty much need to be on the 25 man either because we have no one better or the Rule 5.

        Wason Bastardo and Nicasio are all free agents after this season.

        The Pen is not fine, but getting hudson looks to be a step in the right direction.

        IMO Trade Bastardo for whatever you can get. Make a hard push for Greg Holland and also keep tabs on Joe Blanton

        • Peter Rauch

          Makes sense I guess. I like Holland. Bastardo to Marlins for Brice, Cervenka, and try to sneak the latter through waivers (because he is another lefty). Problem is, there are simply too many options. I think it’ll be fine tho.

  • Bobby Ewing

    Second that