It would appear that the Pirates’ strategy at this trade deadline is to do exactly what they did at the last one: acquire a once-promising young pitcher that hasn’t been any good for a long time for pennies on the dollar with the assumption that they can turn him into an asset for this season’s stretch run.
This year, that player is Ivan Nova, who they acquired from the Yankees for two players to be named later. Nova’s career with the Yankees got off to a decent start, but his 2013 season ended with Tommy John surgery and he’s never been quite the same since coming back. From 2014-2016, he’s got a 5.31 ERA and a 5.17 FIP.
As you’d expect with any pitcher the Pirates acquire, this is the part where I tell you why it’s possible he could be better than those numbers indicate: his groundball rate this year is a career-best 54.3%, which makes his continually high home run number uncharacteristic and possibly a product of Yankee Memorial Little League Bandstand. He also throws pretty hard (his fastball/sinker average around 93 mph and he’s has topped out at ~98 this year). His curveball also has a good reputation. You know the formula here: move to a pitcher-friendly environment, re-work his aproach to build from the fastball, work in the secondary pitches once that’s done, hope for the best. Certainly, the Pirates have gotten good results from this process in the past, though it’s obviously no sure thing with a guy that’s as far removed from his last good years as Ivan Nova is.
The Niese-for-Bastardo trade is hilarious from a Circle of Life perspective, but it makes a lot of sense for the Pirates. Bastardo is having a rough year with the Mets, but the Pirates pulled him out of a rough start last year to get a very useful reliever. He adds depth to a bullpen that still has an unreliable middle (Caminero, Hughes, etc.), and it gets rid of Niese, who never fit in. Since Bastardo is signed relatively reasonably for next year ($6.7 million), he helps provide that depth next year, too. You can’t go back and undo the Neil Walker trade at this point, you can only go out and get what you can get for the guy.
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