As a small market club, the Pittsburgh Pirates are due to take some risks. They took a relatively big one back in 2016 when they made a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Drew Hutchison.

The 27-year old righty has never been a big time prospect, but Toronto certainly thought they had found gold in the 2009 15th round pick when he hastily rose through their Minor League ranks. Whether it be in Toronto or Pittsburgh, Hutchison has made easy work of the minors minus a stretch in 2013. Otherwise, he’s sitting around a 3.2 ERA and 1.3 WHIP.

After three years in the Jays’ system, he made the Opening Day roster in 2012. He was hit around a bit his rookie season but had a strong back half of May that included a seven inning shutout performance at home against Baltimore. He also pitched back-to-back six inning, one run outings on May 12th and 17th against the Twins and Yankees.

In the middle of an at-bat to Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence during a June 15th contest, Hutchison exited his start after recording two outs and eventually came down with the Tommy John bug.

2012 was half-lost and 2013 completely gone. Hutchison returned in 2014 and started a triumphant 32 games for the Blue Jays. A 4.48 ERA has proved to be his career-best thus far and he struck out a batter per each of his 184 innings.

He supplied the team with 28 more starts in ‘15 but flipped to a career-worst 5.57 ERA, allowing almost 11 hits and three walks per nine innings.

Prior to the 2016 season, after two formal contract renewals, Hutchison won his salary arbitration hearing and jumped to $2.2 million in value. On the first of that August, he found a new home with the Pirates.

Pittsburgh was dumping their 2013 postseason darling Francisco Liriano halfway through his three-year, $39 million deal and also sacrificed prospects Harold Ramirez and 2013 first round catcher Reese McGuire to do so. Hutchison was the sole return and it was a clear buy low from the Pirates with three more years of team control to Drew’s name.

Hutchison was mediocre during his 2016 sample in Toronto and the shining of his 2012 rookie brilliance had faded into memory. Pittsburgh didn’t buy with the intent to keep him down and called him up in September. He was as impressive in a brief cameo for the Pirates’ Triple-A Indianapolis club as he was for Buffalo Bisons and once again bore a big league uniform.

He threw 11.1 late season innings for the fading Buccos and was hit around as much as he had been in the past two seasons. He appeared six times —starting once in his first game with his new team— and managed 3.1 scoreless innings to finish the campaign.

2017 once again saw him pitch very well in the minors. He was top 10 in the International League in ERA and strikeouts, 12th in WHIP and tied for the league lead in starts (26) as well as innings (159.1), even with Columbus’ Shawn Morimando in both categories.

Obviously the usage is two-fold as Hutchison never appeared with the big league club in 2017. Pittsburgh outrighted him off the 40-man after the season and he was granted free agency in October.

The free agent market clearly won’t revolve around his status but it’s another chance to buy low (this time for thousands instead of millions) on Hutchison, who will have a new home in 2018 and eyes on returning to the big league stage.

Comment