PITTSBURGH (AP) Ivan Nova rejuvenated his career during a solid two-month stint with the Pirates at the end of 2016. The pitcher hopes to build on that with Pittsburgh.
A person with knowledge of the deal said Thursday that Nova has agreed to a $26 million, three-year contract to give Pittsburgh's young rotation an established starter behind ace Gerrit Cole. The person spoke to Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the agreement had not been announced.
Pittsburgh acquired Nova from the New York Yankees at the Aug. 1 trade deadline. Though the Pirates faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012, Nova was a pleasant surprise. Working with pitching coach Ray Searage, Nova went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 11 starts for Pittsburgh. Nova was particularly effective at PNC Park, going 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA and giving up just two walks in 40 1/3 innings, a marked improvement over the 7-6, 4.90 ERA he posted in 15 starts for the Yankees.
Nova figures to in the middle of Pittsburgh's rotation behind Cole and Jameson Taillon. While there in-house prospects to flesh out the rest of the rotation, the Pirates are still working to acquire at least one more proven starter before the team reports for spring training in February.
The Pirates approached Nova about a new contract before the season's end. Nova instead opted to test the market before opting to remain in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are spending the offseason trying to bolster a rotation that was in tatters by the end of 2016 due to injuries, ineffectiveness or trades.
Cole had trouble staying healthy. Francisco Liriano's control abandoned him and he was sent to Toronto at the trade deadline. Jon Niese never found a rhythm and was sent back to the New York Mets, who had traded him to the Pirates in exchange for second baseman Neil Walker last winter. Left-hander Jeff Locke ended up leading the team in innings pitched (127 1/3) in 2016 despite working primarily out of the bullpen over the final three months and Pittsburgh's team ERA soared from 3.21 in 2015 to 4.21 last season.
Searage has enjoyed success working with older pitchers in search of rebirth, including Liriano and A.J. Burnett, both of whom flourished under Searage's tutelage after having control problems elsewhere. The early returns on Nova followed a similar pattern. Nova's walks and home runs allowed per nine innings took a significant drop once he arrived in Pittsburgh.
The signing is the second significant move by the Pirates this week. Pittsburgh gave reliever Daniel Hudson to an $11 million, two-year deal, and he figures to serve as the setup man for closer Tony Watson.