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Bucs sign Vogelsong to 1-year deal

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates brought back a familiar face to round out their rotation on Friday, signing right-hander Ryan Vogelsong to a one-year contract.

Vogelsong, 38, pitched for the Pirates from 2001-06. Since he last donned a Pittsburgh uniform, Vogelsong has pitched overseas in Japan and penned a remarkable comeback story with the Giants, making the National League All-Star team in 2011 and helping San Francisco win the World Series in 2012 and '14.

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At this point, Vogelsong is expected to slot into the Pirates' rotation alongside right-hander Gerrit Cole and left-handers Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese and Jeff Locke. His contract includes a $2 million base salary, according to an industry source, with another $3 million in possible performance bonuses.

"We see Ryan as a veteran rotation guy for us that is not far removed from two real quality seasons. Our scouts still saw quality stuff," general manager Neal Huntington said. "There's some things we think we can help him with. He's a very motivated man to come back to Pittsburgh, which allowed us to reallocate some dollars elsewhere on the club to strengthen our roster."

Vogelsong, who was raised in Pennsylvania, is coming off a rough season with the Giants. He finished 9-11 with a 4.67 ERA in 135 innings over 33 appearances, including 22 starts. Still, Vogelsong put together one particularly solid stretch last season, as he went 6-4 with a 2.70 ERA in May and June.

Vogelsong spent most of the first half as a starter, going 6-6 with a 4.23 ERA in 95 2/3 innings. He bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation in the second half, posting a 5.72 ERA in 15 appearances.

"Our scouts still saw quality pitches," Huntington said.

For Vogelsong, the deal represents a homecoming of sorts. He left the Pirates as a struggling reliever, compiling a 6.39 ERA in 20 appearances for a club that lost 95 games in 2006. He went on to pitch three years in Japan and another year in the Minors before returning to the Giants, who drafted him in 1998 and traded him to the Pirates in 2001 for Jason Schmidt.

"He is fired up to come back to Pittsburgh. He feels like he has some unfinished business," Huntington said. "He likes the club and the upside and likes our defense and the group that's going to be around him. I think he's motivated to show that things are different, that the Pirates are different and that he's different.

"We've respected him across the field, the way he's gone about it, the stuff he's had and the battle that he'll give you, the effectiveness that he's had as he's helped some teams win World Series championships."

While Vogelsong likely fills out their Opening Day rotation, barring another move, Huntington said the Pirates are still looking for ways to address their other needs this offseason.

"We feel very good about the core of Liriano and Cole," Huntington said. "We're looking forward to helping Jon Niese have a real quality season again. We're looking forward to Jeff Locke continuing to advance and reduce the inconsistencies. We're looking forward to Ryan Vogelsong eating some innings for us and those five guys giving us a chance to win.

"We'll continue to look for ways to improve the club. We're looking to allocate our available dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible across as many spots as we can upgrade, and we'll continue to do so."

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

Vogelsong has produced a 4.63 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP over the past three seasons, so he should not garner attention in 2016 standard-league drafts. But those in deeper formats may wish to give the right-hander a second look, considering several starters -- including Liriano, Edinson Volquez and J.A. Happ -- have improved dramatically under the tutelage of Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage in recent years. Currently slated to be a member of Pittsburgh's starting five, Vogelsong could be a deep-league factor if he can post a 4.00 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in '16.

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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