The Oakland A’s made their first offseason move Thursday, acquiring left-handed reliever Nik Turley from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations.
The A’s have three bullpen arms — Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria and T.J. McFarland — potentially leaving in free agency. General manager David Forst has made clear that Oakland would be looking to add some bullpen depth through trades or free agency, and 31-year-old Turley fits the A’s reclamation project mold.
Turley, who was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 50th round of the 2008 MLB draft, doesn’t have the prettiest numbers. His 0-3 and 4.98 ERA with 11 walks and 20 strikeouts in 21.1 innings with the Pirates in 2020 was in keeping with his career marks. He is 0-5 with a 7.78 ERA in 35 games, including three starts, in two big league seasons.
He made his debut in 2017 with the Minnesota Twins and missed the 2018 and 2019 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
So, what do the A’s see in this guy?
Similar to past reclamation projects, there’s a clear upside the A’s coaching staff may try to bring to the light. Turley’s fastball spin rate ranked among the top 5% in baseball last season, and his curveball spin rate ranked in the top 15%, according to Statcast. He throws those two pitches only, so far, with a fastball at 94 mph on average.
He also had a .212 expected batting average against and a 3.98 ERA.
Perhaps Turley can have a similar career jump to right-handed reliever Burch Smith, who capitalized on an impressive fastball spin rate with a strong 2020 A’s debut derailed by a forearm strain.
Turley is a quintessential low-risk acquisition that could turn into a high-reward arm.