Pittsburgh has done great work recently turning around the careers of pitchers, grabbing guys like Francisco Liriano, Vance Worley, and Edinson Volquez off the scrap heap and getting tremendous value out of them at low costs.
Now the Pirates will try to do the same with Radhames Liz, a one-time Orioles top prospect who left MLB for Korea after posting a 7.50 ERA in 110 innings from 2007-2009.
Liz spent three seasons pitching in Korea, posting a 3.57 ERA, and then returned to America at Double-A and Triple-A for the Blue Jays this season. He pitched pretty well with a 2.95 ERA in 12 starts, but his 44/24 K/BB ratio in 61 innings was nothing special.
He throws hard and the Pirates think enough of Liz’s upside at age 31 that they gave him a big-league contract with a spot on the 40-man roster.
Liz was the No. 69 prospect on Baseball America’s top-100 list for 2008, three spots behind Max Scherzer and two spots behind Chris Tillman.
J.C. Gutierrez, who appeared in 61 games for the Giants this season, has been designated for assignment and dropped from the 40-man roster.
Gutierrez posted a 3.96 ERA and 44/16 K/BB ratio in 64 innings working mostly in a low-leverage role, but with a raise to around $1.5 million due via the arbitration process the Giants decided the 31-year-old right-hander wasn’t worth keeping around for 2015.
Gutierrez pitched reasonably well and averaged 94 miles per hour with his fastball, so he should land another big-league gig somewhere.
Zelous Wheeler made his big-league debut this season when injuries wrecked the Yankees’ roster, but now the 28-year-old career minor leaguer is headed to Japan.
Wheeler has been sold to the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese League, removing him from the Yankees’ roster.
He hit just .193 for the Yankees, but Wheeler batted .296 with nine homers and an .834 OPS in 82 games at Triple-A and has the defensive versatility to potentially have stuck in a bench gig.
Juan Nicasio, whose career was derailed by a broken neck from a line drive in 2012, has been designated for assignment by the Rockies.
Nicasio came back from the broken neck only to suffer a knee injury as well and has posted an ERA above 5.00 in three straight seasons.
However, he’s still just 28 years old and showed some promise after shifting to the bullpen this season by throwing 21 innings with a 3.48 ERA and 17/5 K/BB ratio.
In fact, as recently as mid-September manager Walt Weiss was talking Nicasio up as a reliever for 2015. But the front office disagreed, or at least didn’t want to keep him around for the projected $2.4 million salary via arbitration.