PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have signed former Cardinals left-hander Tyler Lyons to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training and a legitimate opportunity to make the big league team.The Pirates have not officially announced any Minor League free agent signings this offseason. PiratesProspects.com first
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have signed former Cardinals left-hander Tyler Lyons to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training and a legitimate opportunity to make the big league team.
The Pirates have not officially announced any Minor League free agent signings this offseason. PiratesProspects.com first reported the news of Lyons' Minor League deal.
Lyons was stretched out to pitch longer stints after St. Louis sent him outright to Triple-A last August, but his clearest path to the Pirates' Opening Day roster is through the bullpen. Pittsburgh only has two left-handed pitchers on its 40-man roster: closer Felipe Vazquez and fifth starter/long relief candidate Steven Brault.
Lyons, 30, put up excellent numbers in the Cardinals' bullpen in 2017. The lefty posted a 2.83 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 2.86 FIP with 68 strikeouts in 54 innings over 50 appearances. He struggled last season, however, recording an 8.64 ERA and 1.92 WHIP in 27 outings before St. Louis designated him for assignment on July 27.
Lyons was sidelined last year by a mid-back strain in May and an elbow sprain in June. The lefty relies heavily on his slider, which he threw 56.5 percent of the time last season. He also throws a four-seam fastball that clocks in around 90 mph, a sinker and a changeup.
Lyons has been more effective against left-handed hitters throughout his Major League career, limiting them to a .203/.286/.320 slash line while right-handers have slashed .254/.312/.450 against him. He has kept the Pirates in check, too, holding their hitters to a combined .232/.271/.369 line since his debut in 2013.
The Pirates' bullpen appears to be mostly set. Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez will handle the high-leverage innings. There should be two long relievers from the trio of Brault, Nick Kingham and Jordan Lyles, with the other pitcher likely rounding out the rotation. That leaves one or two open spots, depending on the Pirates' roster composition; they began last season with eight relievers.
Right-hander Nick Burdi is still bound by Rule 5 restrictions that enhance his odds of making the Opening Day roster, and the Pirates believed in righty Michael Feliz enough to make him a setup man early last season. Lyons would have an advantage as an experienced lefty, however, especially if he returns to his 2017 form.
No go on Tulo
Veteran infielder Troy Tulowitzki agreed to sign a league-minimum contract with the Yankees, according to multiple reports, eliminating one logical (and low-cost) shortstop option for the Pirates. Pittsburgh reportedly expressed interest in signing Tulowitzki, who was released by Toronto last month, but the five-time All-Star reportedly elected to sign with New York.
The Yankees can offer Tulowitzki early season playing time while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery -- unless they sign free agent Manny Machado to play shortstop. The Pirates also could have offered Tulowitzki a shot at their starting job ahead of internal options Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman.
Pittsburgh could choose to move forward with Gonzalez and Newman, but there are a handful of qualified free agents still available and few everyday shortstop opportunities up for grabs. The most notable free-agent shortstops are Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis and Adeiny Hechavarria. The Pirates got a close look at Hechavarria after acquiring him in August, and the New York Post reported that the Bucs have interest in Galvis.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog.