Jeff Karstens Shut Down Indefinitely

Some bad news here:

Karstens, who was on the comeback trail in his rehab stint, won’t be pitching for a while. He’s been dealing with this discomfort all spring and will be examined next week (via Sawchik).

When Karstens re-signed with the Bucs this winter, it looked like a good deal. They had non-tendered him a couple months prior to agreeing to a new contract; if they did tender him, the club likely would have had to pay him much more. He tested the free agent market and ultimately came back to Pittsburgh for $2.5 million. This seemed like a friendly deal, especially since Karstens himself claimed that he was healthy:


However, that hasn’t been the case at all in 2013. He simply cannot stay healthy. Will he pitch at all this season? Who knows. More information should be available after he gets evaluated next week, but it sounds like Karstens could be sidelined for quite some time.

In 27 Days…

Jeff Karstens (27) days until Opening Day.

After being non-tendered in November, Karstens returns to Pittsburgh on a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Acquired from the Yankees in 2008, he’s currently the longest tenured Pirate.

One big question about number 27…

1. Can he stay healthy? Health has been a huge concern for Karstens. It was thought that he was non-tendered due to an apparent injury, making it a surprise when the Bucs decided to re-sign him. A large part of that decision was because of Francisco Liriano‘s freak injury, which will force the new Bucco lefty to start the year on the DL. However, Karstens is already injured; shoulder soreness has prevented him from seeing any Grapefruit League action thus far. He only threw 90.2 innings last season, which was a letdown after a steady 2011 campaign. In terms of production, you know what you’re getting with Karstens; he’s certainly not overpowering, but can be a solid pitch-to-contact guy who will excel with a good defense behind him. The main issue is how often you’ll be receiving that production, as injuries always seem to stand in the way. If Karstens can manage to stay healthy in 2013, the Bucs could get a solid arm at $2.5 million. If he cannot, that money may be classified as a colossal waste. There are a few young pitchers, such as Kyle McPherson and Jeff Locke, that could potentially perform at the same level as Karstens, so his health will ultimately justify his new contract.

Karstens derp 2

Go Bucs

Jeff Karstens Returning to Pittsburgh

Despite an apparent fallout with Jeff Karstens and non-tendering him in November, the Pirates are bringing back the 30 year old righty, according to Bill Brink:

The deal is said to be worth $2.5 million. It’s a surprising move, but good to have Karstens back at a cheaper rate. He made $3.1 million last season. It is a little bit of a shock that he didn’t get a better deal on the free agent market; here’s what Dejan Kovacevic had to say on November 30th:

[quote_center]”…this won’t be one of those where the pitcher agrees to come back at a lower rate. He’s out of here.”[/quote_center]

There are plenty of questions about Karstens’ health, but he offered this on December 15th:

Karstens is projected by Bill James to post a 3.86 ERA in 105 innings in 2013. The Pirates definitely need rotation help (we wrote about this earlier) and Karstens will compete for a spot.

UPDATE – January 17th

Karstens is officially back and sounds excited:

To make room for Karstens on the 40-man roster, Zach Stewart has been designated for assignment

Pirates re-sign Morton, non-tender Karstens

The tender/non-tender deadline was Friday at midnight, and the Bucs had decisions to make on several players. They dealt Chris Resop, who was a non-tender candidate, and Yamaico Navarro earlier in the evening.

It surfaced yesterday afternoon that the club was going to non-tender Jeff Karstens. This one was a bit confusing as he’s a pretty reliable pitcher, despite a few injuries. Regardless, the Bucs decided to cut ties with him after five seasons. The longest-tenured player is now Andrew McCutchen, who debuted in June of 2009.

The team also re-signed Charlie Morton to a one year, $2 million deal. Morton, who went 2-6 with a 4.65 ERA before hitting the disabled list, will be out until midseason. He made $2.445 million last season, so he is taking a bit of a pay cut to remain with the team.

Finally, the Pirates tendered contracts to five other players: Neil Walker, James McDonald, Joel Hanrahan, Garrett Jones, and Gaby Sanchez.

MLBTR: Pirates Arbitration Eligibles


MLB Trade Rumors takes a look at the Pirates arbitration eligible players. The article is to-the-point and informative; here it is in full length:

“The Pirates are next in our 2013 Arbitration Eligibles series.  Matt Swartz’s salary projections are below.

Hanrahan remains an asset for the Pirates, though this year’s return to a big-time strikeout rate came with the unwanted side effects of a high walk rate and a lot of flyballs.  On the surface, the Bucs have a guy who’s converted 76 of 84 save opportunities the last two years with a 2.24 ERA and two All-Star game appearances.  Hanrahan will be entering his walk year.  With draft pick compensation for relievers mostly a thing of the past, GM Neal Huntington has to decide whether to trade Hanrahan or extend him in the neighborhood of $10MM per free agent year.

Elsewhere in the bullpen there’s Resop, who added groundballs this year at the expense of strikeouts.  The 29-year-old is hittable yet serviceable, and he’s not terribly expensive.

The Pirates have three arbitration eligible starting pitchers.  McDonald’s ERA sat at 2.37 after a July 7th win; through 110 innings it seemed as if he’d turned a corner.  He was brutal over his next 13 outings, with a 7.52 ERA in 61 frames.  It was an odd season, but McDonald is expected to begin next year back in the Pirates’ rotation.  Now is not the time to consider trading or extending him.

Morton had hip surgery a year ago, but was able to make his season debut in mid-April.  He lasted only nine starts before succumbing to Tommy John surgery.  He has to be considered a non-tender candidate, as otherwise the Pirates would have to pay him a projected $2.6MM in 2012 to pitch at most three months.  Huntington must decide the value of the chance to control Morton for the 2014 season.  The GM was noncommittal on the subject of Karstens, who had an injury-shortened 2012 as well.  Since Karstens finished the season healthy, he might be on firmer ground than Morton.

Jones needs a platoon partner, but he did hit .289/.332/.556 with 25 home runs in 434 plate appearances against right-handed pitching.  I think he’s safe, though this could be the last raise the Pirates are willing to give him.  Walker had another nice year, and the Pirates have flirted with extending the Pittsburgh native before.  In March, I suggested five years and $27MM for the Super Two second baseman.

The Pirates acquired Sanchez from the Marlins at the July trade deadline.  The 29-year-old was better for the Bucs, but still fell well short of the production of a typical starting first baseman.  There’s a decent chance he’s non-tendered.

If only Hanrahan, Jones, Karstens, McDonald, Walker, and Resop are retained, the Pirates would be looking at an estimated $22.3MM for six arbitration eligible players.

Matt Swartz’s arbitration projections are available exclusively at MLB Trade Rumors.  To read more about his projection model, check out this series of posts.

For more, visit MLB Trade Rumors.