HomeMLB RumorsPirates To Sign Eric Lauer To Minor League Deal

Pirates To Sign Eric Lauer To Minor League Deal

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Left-hander Eric Lauer will be heading to the Pirates on a minor league deal, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The CAA Sports client will presumably be invited to major league camp.

Eric Lauer | Benny Sieu-USA TODAY SportsLauer, 29 in June, has been a viable big league starter at times in his career but is coming off a frustrating season. He opened the year in the Brewers’ rotation but struggled. He had a 5.48 earned run average through nine outings when he was placed on the injured list in late May due to an impingement in right, non-throwing shoulder. He was activated off the IL in mid-June but optioned to the minors.

Things didn’t go much better down on the farm as he posted a 6.39 ERA in 56 1/3 innings down there. He was recalled to the big league club for an outing in late September, after the Brewers had already clinched the division. But that turned into a nightmarish outing, as the lefty was tagged for eight earned runs in four innings. He revealed at that time that he had been battling shoulder and elbow issues throughout the year, per Curt Hogg of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The Brewers could have retained him for 2024 via arbitration, with MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projecting him for a salary of $5.2MM. But Milwaukee outrighted him off the roster in the middle of October, which was effectively an early non-tender.

The Bucs will be hoping that those health issues are behind him and he can return to his previous form. Over 2021 and 2022, Lauer tossed 277 1/3 innings for Milwaukee with a 3.47 ERA, striking out 23.8% of batters while giving out walks at an 8.7% clip. Lauer struggled in the shortened 2020 season but was also effective in the two seasons prior to that. With the Padres in 2018 and 2019, he posted a 4.40 ERA with a 20.6% strikeout rate and 8.4% walk rate.

Lauer’s never shown any kind of ace-level upside but he has a proven ability to be a back-of-the-rotation guy, which could be enough for him to be valuable to the Pirates. Their rotation is currently fronted by Mitch Keller but he is followed by a series of question marks.

Veterans Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales were acquired this winter to serve as veteran stalwarts but each of them is coming off a frustrating campaign. Pérez struggled enough last year to get bumped out of the Rangers’ rotation and had some good results out of the bullpen but ultimately finished with a 4.98 ERA on the year as a starter. Gonzales required surgery for a nerve issue in his left forearm after logging just 50 innings over 10 starts.

There are two spots available at the back end, with guys like Jared Jones, Roansy Contreras, Quinn Priester, Luis Ortiz, Bailey Falter and Kyle Nicolas in the mix for those roles. Everyone in that group is either fairly limited in terms of experience or struggled badly last year or both. JT Brubaker and Mike Burrows could be options in the second half but both are currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Given the general rotation uncertainty behind Keller, and the inevitability of pitcher injuries, there should be an opportunity for Lauer if he can get back into his 2021-2022 form. He averaged around 93 miles per hour with his fastball over 2021 and 2022 but was down to 90.8 mph last year, perhaps lending some credence to the fact that he wasn’t fully healthy and providing an explanation for his poor performance.

If things work out especially well for Lauer this year, he could also be kept around for the 2025 season. His service time count is currently at four years and 111 days, meaning he would come up shy of six years even if he made the team out of camp and spent the whole season on the roster. He is out of options, however, so the Bucs would have to remove him from the 40-man entirely if they want him off the active roster at any point.

Lauer will have to earn a roster spot before any of that becomes a concern, of course, but it’s a good fit for both sides. Starting pitching is an obvious weakness for the Pirates and Lauer could find some runway to launch a bounceback campaign for himself.

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