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Pirates

Pirates agree to 3-year deal with Ivan Nova

| Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, 9:57 a.m.
Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova delivers during the first inning against the Cubs Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova delivers during the first inning against the Cubs Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova delivers during the first inning against the Nationals on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova delivers during the first inning against the Nationals on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova delivers in a steady rain during the sixth inning against the Cubs Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova delivers in a steady rain during the sixth inning against the Cubs Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, at PNC Park.

Luring back right-hander Ivan Nova, who Thursday agreed to a three-year, $26 million contract, was the Pirates' first step in revamping their starting rotation.

The deal will be finalized when Nova passes a physical. According to industry sources, it includes a $2 million signing bonus and up to $2 million per year in performance incentives.

Nova, who will turn 30 in three weeks, will be at the front end of the rotation with homegrown right-handers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.

Adding a veteran starting pitcher was general manager Neal Huntington's offseason priority. However, many MLB insiders believe Huntington isn't ready to stop reshaping the roster.

The Pirates remain in contact with the Chicago White Sox about a possible blockbuster trade for lefty Jose Quintana.

Quintana, 27, is an innings eater with star power, two qualities the Pirates desperately need. He also is under team control — on a reasonable $26.5 million contract — for up to four seasons.

The acquisition cost for Quintana could be as high as top prospects Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell and Kevin Newman.

Signing Nova and reliever Daniel Hudson, whose $11 million deal was finalized Wednesday, pushes the Pirates expected payroll close to $100 million.

If the Pirates pick up another significant piece, such as Quintana, Huntington likely would seek to trim some payroll by trading Andrew McCutchen ($14 million in 2017), Josh Harrison ($7.5 million) or Tony Watson (projected to get $5.9 million via arbitration).

Huntington has been trying to sign Nova to a multi-year deal since late last season.

On Aug. 1, the Pirates dealt two minor leaguers to the New York Yankees for Nova. The move sparked a turnaround for Nova, who then went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 11 starts.

Over 64 23 innings with the Pirates, Nova racked up 52 strikeouts and issued just three walks.

It was another successful reclamation project by pitching coach Ray Searage, whose previous re-inventions made wealthy men out of A.J. Burnett, Edinson Volquez and J.A. Happ.

Searage had Nova pitch inside more often and trust his offspeed stuff enough to throw it early in the count. The impact was dramatic.

After the trade, Nova's walk rated dropped from 5.9 percent to 1.1 percent. He reduced his WHIP from 1.36 to 1.10 and lowered his home run rate from 4.5 percent to 1.5 percent.

In September, the Pirates gave Nova two different contract extension offers. He instead opted to test free agency.

At the outset, Nova's camp sought a deal in the range of five years and $70 million. But, with a shallow pool of free agents, the market was slow to develop, and Nova drew limited interest.

Huntington remained persistent in his hunt and wound up getting Nova at a bargain rate.

Barring another offseason move, candidates for the other two spots in the rotation include Chad Kuhl, Glasnow, Drew Hutchison, Trevor Williams and Steven Brault. Nick Kingham, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, also could make his big league debut sometime in 2017.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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