Pirates sign righty reliever Nicasio

Pirates sign righty reliever Nicasio

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Pirates added another intriguing power arm to their bullpen Thursday, signing right-hander Juan Nicasio to a one-year contract on the final day of the Winter Meetings.

Nicasio, 29, mostly struggled as a starter for the Rockies from 2011-14. He moved to the bullpen last season, his first with the Dodgers, and put together a 3.86 ERA in 58 1/3 innings over 53 appearances.

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Nicasio struck out 65 batters and only allowed one home run all year, figures that led to an impressive 2.83 Fielding Independent Pitching mark. He still occasionally struggled with his control, however, walking a career-high 4.9 batters per nine innings.

"Juan Nicasio is an experienced pitcher with the pitch repertoire and versatility to fill a variety of roles on our pitching staff," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. "He had a strong season, pitching primarily as a relief pitcher last year, and we look forward to Juan's impact on our Major League club."

Nicasio's deal is worth $3 million, according to an industry source. He was non-tendered by the Dodgers last week, but he is still eligible for salary arbitration after the 2016 season. Nicasio was a "Super Two" player, making 2017 his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility.

The Pirates will primarily use Nicasio out of the bullpen, but they discussed both roles before signing him. He leaned heavily on his fastball as a reliever last season, a pitch that clocked in at 95.72 mph on average, according to Pitch f/x data. He also throws an 86-87 mph slider and occasionally mixes in a changeup.

The Pirates have had some success working with hard-throwing relievers who have struggled to consistently find the strike zone. Right-hander Arquimedes Caminero turned into a weapon out of the bullpen last season, posting a 3.62 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 74 2/3 innings in his first full season in the Majors.

At this point of the offseason, the Pirates' bullpen includes closer Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Caminero and Nicasio. Lefty Bobby LaFromboise and right-handers Allen Webster and Jorge Rondon are out of Minor League options, while right-handers Rob Scahill and Guido Knudson could be sent to Triple-A if necessary.

There is still some uncertainty in their bullpen, as Melancon is a potential trade candidate heading into his final year under club control, but Nicasio further solidifies the Pirates' depth at the position.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.