With the search for a starter is likely over for the Pirates, Drew Hutchison could have the inside track to the fifth starter job in the rotation.

 

With pitchers and catchers just days away from reporting to Bradenton, any chances of the Pittsburgh Pirates making a move for a legitimate veteran starting pitcher at this point are very slim.

Jose Quintana and Chris Archer won’t be joining the Pirates in Bradenton any time soon.

With Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova and likely Chad Kuhl likely locking down rotation spots, one of the biggest camp battles will be for the fifth spot in the rotation.

While there are plenty of candidates, including Tyler Glasnow, one name will likely have the edge over the competition to begin camp.

That man is Drew Hutchinson.

Hutchinson is coming off a 2016 season to forget in which he made only nine total MLB appearances (three starts), with a 5.25 ERA. Six of those appearances came in a Pirates uniform where the right-hander posted a 5.56 ERA in 11.1 innings pitched.

So why would the Pirates be leaning on Hutchinson when prized prospects Glasnow and Nick Kingham are also in the mix?

There are a few outside factors that may give Hutchinson the edge.

First off is the trade that brought Hutchinson to Pittsburgh.

Neal Huntington and his staff were ripped by plenty for the Francisco Liriano salary dump at last season’s trade deadline that also saw prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays. Huntington made it known how much they liked Hutchinson as a pitcher so you have to think he will be given every opportunity to crack the rotation this season, even if it just to save face.

Then there is the contract.

Hutchinson will be making $2.3 million this season. Truth be told, the Pirates aren’t going to want to pay Hutchinson over $2 million to spend most of the season in the minors. They are going to want to get value for their dollar and you can bet Hutchinson is going to be afforded every opportunity at winning a spot in the rotation during spring training.

Finally, Hutchinson is out of options. Unless he is extremely terrible in spring training you can bet he isn’t going anywhere.

But there are also a few outliers that would make you think Hutchinson could be a decent back of the rotation pitcher in a Pirates uniform as well.

Hutchinson went 13-5 just two years ago.  Of course that came with a 5.57 ERA.

If Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage can work his magic with Hutchinson, he may have a chance at developing into a decent back of the rotation option.

In his two seasons in Toronto, Hutchinson posted a 4.03 FIP and 3.96 xFIP.

Those aren’t Clayton Kershaw numbers, but the MLB average for FIP last season was 4.19. In terms of xFIP, the 3.96 number Hutchinson posted in 331.2 innings pitched as a Blue Jay, is the exact number that Jeff Samardzija put up a season ago and is right in line with American League Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.

By comparison, Quintana had a 4.03 xFIP last season.

That isn’t the tell all measurement of a pitcher, but Hutchinson does line up well as a potential back of the rotation starter.

Hutchinson has swing and miss stuff as well, especially if Searage can get his slider back on track.

He struck out nearly a batter per inning as a Blue Jay and limited opponents to a .224 batting average off his slider. That pitch also produced a 46 percent ground ball rate, which the Pirates love.

But Hutchinson has a lot of work to do.

He has to throw strikes and more important keep the ball in the ballpark, which a move to PNC Park from the Rogers Centre should help.

Add all that up and it shows that Hutchinson has the chance to turn things around and be a decent back of the rotation option.

The Pirates have turned around pitchers before, but Hutchinson doesn’t have the talent of a Liriano, A.J. Burnett or plenty of others the Bucs have had success with so there is no guarantee,

But given the trade that brought him here, the money they are paying him and the fact that Hutchinson is out of options, he is going to have to be downright brutal to not be a part of the Pirates rotation in 2017.

Only time will tell if that is a good thing or bad thing.

Image Credit – Keith Allison via Flickr Creative Commons

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.

  • Chris Bender

    Also the Bucs have to rely on this guy, who else can they lean on? If they chose Kingham, Glasnow or anyone in the minors, they likely will exceed minimum time in the majors, which typically means the Pirates can pay them less for a year. Pirates are too cheap and wont do that so we are stuck.

    This doesn’t bode well when Hutchinson is going to make us miss Jon Neiss if that is at possible but he hasn’t a chance nor the skill tp depend on.

    This is a bad business decision, what company hinges a lot of their future on something that has little chance of success, and has very little back up plan.

    If we lose one of the top three pitchers this year, and one can assume that will happen at least a little while, then you can bet the wheels come off this thing…..

    Sorry but the writing is on the wall.

    • The clock is already ticking on Glasnow – Pgh has zero incentive to keep Glasnow at AAA, which is exactly why he’ll get far more starts in Pgh than Hutchison.

      • ishman

        Hutch will be nothing more than a temporary place holder. A few good starts from Glasnow in AAA and Hutch is out of the rotation. And with Kingham right behind him the same may happen with Kuhl. I see no future for Hutchinson in Pittsburgh other than just being filler.

        • Chris Bender

          Well that sounds good, however you are assuming that we get 200 innings from Cole (Injuries), Tallion (never done that) and NOva (never done that). If the backup is Kuhl and Glasnow (control issues), tooooo much risk. We need a solid inning eater to be a good rotation.

    • ishman

      Glasnow already accumulated ML service time last year. He could pitch the majors basically all year and still avoid super 2. Only reason for him to be in AAA is to work on things, which he obviously needs. Brault probably in the same boat tho I don’t see that as much of a concern with him. I see our depth with SP as a strength. If someone goes down we have Glasnow, Kingham, and Brault all capable of taking the job.

  • Well with a rotation looking like Cole Taillon, Nova, Kuhl…. of course Hutch has a legit shot at the rotation.. so does Brault glasnow and anyone else they bring in they could bring back Niese and he could have a good shot at being the number three guy.

    Face it.. our rotation has nothing close to a guarantee. Cole’s health.. Taillon and Kuhl are rookies and Nova has never been anything more than a back end pitcher (out side of a handful of games here and there)

    I think it’ll be alright.. but really one slip up can open the door to anyone.

    • Chris Bender

      Yea a number 2, and 3, and several number 5 starters and of course Hutch is number 9.
      This is NOT going to go well then we will make a trade like Gerrit Cole for Charlie Morton cause we will have more control of morton’s contract and a player to be named later. That player will be why we made the trade.

  • “…the Pirates aren’t going to want to pay Hutchinson over $2 million to spend most of the season in the minors…”

    The Pirates also don’t want to throw away games/wins for the sake saving face on a crap trade.

    I don’t buy the logic of $$contract = playing time/starts. Pgh has paid more money to worse players to sit in the minors.

    Glasnow is the #5 SP.

  • Lee Foo Young

    If you’re going to write a whole article on the man, get his name correct.

    There is no “N” in Hutchison. Your headline and lede are correct, but after that………….

    I quit counting after 10.

  • leadoff

    I think he can be a good pitcher. He has shown flashes in the past. I am not as sold on Searage fixing him as some are, but if he does pitch well Searage will get the credit.

  • AJ Stewart

    I have watched a lot of Hutch over the past few years (advantage of living in Canada!) and was always irked at how the Jays treated him. I’m pulling for him to lock that final spot up.
    I am a big fan of his drive and attitude as anyone could tell it hurt going 13-5 and then being dumped in the minors. But he never complained and he answered the call when needed. Definitely a good guy to have around the rookies.
    He’s 26 still and I think if given a good shot and with some work on slider as mentioned, he could be a very solid addition to the rotation. Probably will help that he’s out of the AL East as well (although the NL Central isn’t a treat anymore either). If Searage can get production out of guys like Worley and Nova, I have no doubt they can get some quality out of Hutch too.