Pirates sign lefty reliever Erlin

During PiratesFest Friday, general manager Ben Cherington said he was still looking to add pitching. On Wednesday, he added an option by inking left-hander Robbie Erlin to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

The deal was first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Erlin, 29, will make $1.5 million if he is on the major-league roster and has an additional $100,000 available in incentives. He also has an opt-out if he is not on the opening day roster.

The Pirates currently have 39 players on their roster, leaving them with one open spot. The only left-handed pitchers on the roster are Steven Brault, who will likely be competing with Chad Kuhl for the fifth starter spot, and Sam Howard, a waiver claim from October.

Erlin will be joined by Williams Jerez, Nik Turley and Blake Weiman and Miguel Del Pozo as left-handed non-roster invitees who are looking for a roster spot this spring.

Erlin is a starter by trade, but finally stuck in the big leagues in 2018 as a reliever. He recorded a 2.05 ERA with 44 strikeouts over 52.2 innings pitched for the Padres in 2018.

He struggled in 2019, finishing with a 5.37 ERA over 55.1 innings pitched, but his peripherals were far more encouraging. His FIP was a far more appealing 3.61, and his fastball and curveball both get good spin. His curveball picked up a lot more spin as the season progressed as well. From Baseball Savant:

Erlin's fastball averaged 90.7 mph. His fastball moved 1.2 inches more vertically than league average in 2019, and his curveball averaged seven inches more vertical movement than the average curve.

Erlin is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season. He spent the first six years of his major-league career with the Padres.

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