Since the beginning of the new millennium, the Pirates have had their fair share of disappointing free agents signings. There was the infamous “Operation Shutdown” with Derek Bell, who was paid close to $10 million in 2001 while posting a .576 OPS in 183 plate appearances. He then famously quit on the team after losing his job in Spring Training the following year, sailing off into the sunset on his yacht. This was one of the many failings of Cam Bonifay, but his replacement Dave Littlefield said “hold my beer”. It only took Littlefield’s big free agent signing of 2004 Raul Mondesi two months to quit on the Pirates, forcing them to release the former all-star slugger after signing him to a $1.15 million deal. Two years later he would outdo himself with the double signing of Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa, two guys way past their prime and were paid a combined $10 million for the 2006 season.
Although those deals may have been done by two of the men responsible for spearheading the franchise’s darkest days, current GM Neal Huntington has had his share of mistakes as well. A few that come to mind are Ramon Vasquez in 2009, Akinori Iwamura in 2010, Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz in 2011 and Erik Bedard in 2012. Iwamura, Overbay , Diaz and Bedard didn’t even make it a full season in Pittsburgh while Vasquez was released by the club prior to the start of the 2010 season. That’s a lot of bad baseball to think about. Unfortunately, Huntington may have possibly outdone himself with this time with the signing of Daniel Hudson.
When you looked at this signing back in December using conventional baseball wisdom, or for that matter common sense, anyone would question what the hell the Pirates were doing. Not only did Hudson post a horrendous 5.22 ERA in 60.1 innings with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, he was only a few years removed from two Tommy John surgeries. And did Huntington sign what looked like a new project for Ray Searage at an affordable rate for a “small market team”? Nope. He signed to a 2 year, $11 million deal, not an option deal, a straight up 2 year contract. So the Pirates bring in a pitcher with a history of arm issues at $5.5 million a year, what could possibly go wrong? Well, everything for that matter.
Clint Hurdle questionably made Hudson the setup man at the start of the season after allowing two runs in eight games in Spring Training. In 12 appearances in April, he gave up 11 runs including getting shelled for 5 runs in a 10-3 loss against Miami, ending the month with a whopping 9.90 ERA. Things got even worse for Hudson in his next outing where he gave up a game winning RBI double to Billy Hamilton in a 4-3 10 inning loss after facing the bottom of the Reds order. The Hamilton double was set up by a throwing error by the right hander after he tried to pick off Arismendy Alcantara, who was pitch running after a Tucker Barnhart walk.
Since then, Hurdle has regulated Hudson to the spot that was previously reserved for Antonio Bastardo. Despite trying to avoid using the right hander in key points of the game, the Pirates skipper has been forced to use him in crucial situations with disastrous results. Hudson was on the hook for another 10 inning loss last week in Los Angles, once again facing the bottom of the opponents’ order. The appearance that would take the cake for the righty, though, was against his old club in Arizona. With Felipe Rivero unavailable with a sore neck, Hurdle reluctantly called on the former Diamondback to keep the Pirates lead at 4-3. As you already know, this did not work out as planned despite once again matching up the righty with the lower portion of their opponents lineup. After getting Chris Herrmann to pop out, Hudson walked three of the next four batters to load the bases and was given the hook by Hurdle. A Wade LeBlanc walk to the next batter, Jeff Mathis, scored the only run of the inning, which was obviously charged to the former Diamondback. Somehow he earned a hold for this inning, the fourth time this season where he was credited with a hold despite giving up at least one run.
I understand the Pirates just passed a quarter of their season so far, but honestly I have seen enough of Hudson to know this signing is not going to pay off. Every time this guy goes out on the mound fans have to collectively hold their breath that a big inning isn’t going to occur. You know Hurdle does. I still can’t believe he chose these damaged goods over the hard throwing Rivero for the setup man job. Yes the team is paying him $5.5 million, but you don’t have to pitch him in a certain spot to ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. In this case that should not have mattered, Hudson sucks. There is no way around it. His arm looks like it is going to fall off every time he is out there. This is some scary stuff from what was been a pretty good bullpen so far in 2017.
Huntington needs to see the error in his ways and designate Hudson for assignment. Not put on the 10 day disabled list to give Uncle Ray time to tinker with him in his pitcher’s shop. Not sending down to AAA Indianapolis where he can gain confidence facing a bunch of minor leaguers. Cut him now, admit your mistake and get him off this roster. No one is going to trade for him unless the Nationals decide they are that desperate even though they are on DEFCON 2 for bullpen help. So what if there is dead money from his contract, either way the team is going to have to pay this guy whether he is sitting out in the bullpen or at home in front of TV. It’s Bob Nutting’s money, who cares? The fact is, Hudson does a lot more harm to this team with him on the 25-man roster than good. Even if he brings his ERA down like he did for portions of last season, it is still going to skyrocket again at some point this year. Please Neal, if you want this team to at least resemble a contender Hudson has to go before it is too late. Sadly, it might already be.