Free agent reliever Daniel Hudson signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, fortifying a bullpen in need of late-inning help and offering the hard-throwing right-hander a potential path to the closer’s role, sources told Yahoo Sports.
The deal, which became official when Hudson passed a physical Monday, brought the 29-year-old into the warm embrace of the Pirates pitching factory, where coach Ray Searage has helped draw success out of live arms. Hudson certainly qualifies, as his average fastball clocked in at nearly 96 mph last season.
While Hudson’s ERA with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season was an unsightly 5.22, the Pirates are betting his raw stuff – Hudson complements the fastball with a strong changeup and improved slider – will translate far better at PNC Park and with an overhauled Pirates outfield, where Starling Marte is expected to shift to center field and Andrew McCutchen to left.
Outside of an inconceivably bad five-week stretch during which he allowed 31 runs in 9⅔ innings, Hudson was dominant for Arizona this year, posting a 1.60 ERA in 50⅔ innings. It was his second full season after back-to-back Tommy John surgeries, which put Hudson’s career in peril and made him question whether he wanted to weather another grueling year-plus of rehabilitation.
He did, and his shift to the bullpen not only landed Hudson the ninth multiyear deal for a relief pitcher in this hot market but $1.5 million each season in incentives for games finished. While Tony Watson is expected to start the season as closer, he is a free agent after 2017, and rivals expect the Pirates to trade him at some point. Hudson closed over the last month this year for Arizona and saved three games with a 1.54 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 11⅔ innings.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays all expressed varying degrees of interest in Hudson, and each is expected to acquire at least one more reliever this offseason. After the signing of Hudson and Miami nabbing Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa, the best remaining free-agent relief pitchers include right-handers Neftali Feliz, Joe Blanton, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, and left-handers Boone Logan and Jerry Blevins.