Perhaps no player has improved their free agent stock more since the All-Star break than right-hander Ivan Nova. The Yankees traded Nova to the Pirates, with whom he's gone 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA (141 ERA+) in nine starts and 55 1/3 innings.
The upcoming free agent pitching class is very thin -- Dodgers lefty Rich Hill is the best available starter and he's not someone you can pencil in for 30 starts in 2017 -- and Nova's success with the Pirates could translate to big dollars. Pittsburgh has a great reputation for fixing pitchers, after all.
Not surprisingly, the Pirates are reportedly trying to get out ahead of the market by signing Nova to an extension now. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the team has made the righty two offers already:
The Pirates began conversation with Nova and his agent, Greg Genske, in late August and made an offer the first week of September. Nova's representatives told the Pirates they were looking for a deal in the range of five years and $70 million, according to a source.
The Pirates made a second offer, a source said, and discussions are ongoing.
On the surface, $70 million seems like an awful lot for a pitcher who has a 4.52 ERA (93 ERA+) in 246 2/3 total innings since returning from Tommy John surgery last year. Remember though, Jeff Samardzija received a $90 million contract this past offseason after leading the AL in hits, home runs, and earned runs allowed.
Also, the crummy free agent pitching market is going to help Nova. It's simple supply and demand. Lots of teams need pitching, but there are only a few quality starters available. All it takes is one team to buy into the "new" version of Nova for him to land a big contract. Teams have plenty of money these days and few places to spend it.
The Pirates are smart to open contract talks with Nova's agent, and he's smart to hear them out. It never hurts to listen. If nothing else, talks with the Pirates can help him understand his market value. Free agency can be exciting and difficult to pass up when you're as close to it as Nova, but perhaps he enjoys Pittsburgh and wants to stay.
Five years and $70 million is only Nova's opening ask and those are always high. You can't get what you don't ask for. With the free agent pitching market so thin, expect to see other hurlers with underwhelming track records floating huge numbers in the coming weeks.