As the trade deadline approaches, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in a familiar category: sellers. Their season has gone off the rails in true Pirates-fashion. It is a shame but it is the reality as the August 1st deadline approaches. Pittsburgh is in a good spot, however. None of the Pirates trade assets necessarily are seen as sought-after pieces. However, the guys they could trade will still hold value to contending teams looking to add filler-type players to their roster.
The Pirates have seen a handful of their top prospects graduate to the major leagues in the past few weeks. RHP Quinn Priester will add his name to that list as he’ll start on Tuesday. The prospect system has been reloaded in recent seasons due to the perpetual state of losing the Pirates find themselves in. The fruits of those labors are starting to make their way to the big leagues. This is a big reason why the Pirates don’t need to trade any big fish at this deadline.
They can hold on to their franchise cornerstones and deal off veteran pieces that can add depth to their prospect system and minor league pipeline. Trading these guys will open up spaces for the young guys to get full-time spots on the team. Pittsburgh heads into the trade deadline in fairly good position for being a selling ball club. It’s time to break down pieces they could be shipping out to contending teams in the coming weeks.
Pirates Trade Assets
What kind of market does a 43-year old pitcher have? Well we will find that out in the coming weeks with LHP Rich Hill. Anytime a lefty-starter is available, they often bring back a shockingly good return for the selling team. Knowing that Hill is 43 and throws 89 MPH fastballs may dampen that return just a bit.
Hill turned out to be a good signing for the Pirates. While his 4.76 ERA may suggest otherwise, Hill mentored a group of young starters in Pittsburgh. The knowledge they’ve learned from the wily veteran is unmeasurable. The Pirates are a better team for it. However, keeping Hill in Pittsburgh for the next few months is borderline pointless. Hill is old enough that he would want to go to a team that will win. If someone comes to the Pirates looking for an inning-eating left-hander, the Pirates should oblige.
With Priester set to make his MLB-debut and Osvaldo Bido pitching well enough to continue to deserve innings, the Pirates should move Hill. When Hill is on, he dazzles with his 89-MPH fastball on the corner paired with his fall-off-the-face-of-the-earth curveball. If he doesn’t have his stuff, you can find him barking at his teammates and getting hit around.
Hill was a solid signing by Ben Cherington and he served his purpose. If the Pirates were competitive, having a pitcher just like Hill would be huge. Unfortunately, they are not. Hill should be moved for whatever the Pirates deem fair in return.
I love Rich Hill's intensity pic.twitter.com/rIyMuV0piX
— Platinum Ke’Bryan (@PlatinumKey13) July 15, 2023
Teams that don’t plan on contending make these types of moves on purpose. They acquire older veterans that will be valuable to someone at the trade deadline. Carlos Santana fits into the same mold that Hill does.
Santana is a good player. He won’t wow anyone and the 30-home run power that once existed no longer does. However, he is heating up as of late and that is good news for the Pirates as they’ll certainly look to move him. Santana did state a few weeks back he wants to stay in Pittsburgh but the decision is ultimately not his.
Over the last month, Santana is slashing .235/.294/.412 and while those numbers don’t jump off the page, they are usable for a team looking for a bench bat with pop. He is currently the Pirates’ designated hitter/first baseman. A contending team needs more than that out of an everyday hitter at those prime offensive positions. Thus, the Pirates should look to move on.
Part of the problem there is the lack of depth at the position in their system. For nearly the last decade, the Pirates haven’t really had a single guy come up through the minors as a first basemen and succeed. They’ve mostly moved guys to that spot in hopes they’d learn on the fly. No one really took the bull by the horns.
Santana, 37, represents a guy that was never going to be a long-term fixture at first base. Ji Man Choi is the Pirates’ only other true first baseman. Maybe a team with a high-floor, low-ceiling first base prospect would be willing to swap with the Buccos. They could use a guy like that to bolster their depth at first base.
One of the Pirates’ best hitters to open the season, Connor Joe has regressed back to Connor Joe-levels. There is nothing wrong with that as he is a perfectly usable player. However, he was playing at an all-star level for the first month and a half.
Joe is a former first-round pick of the Pirates and reunited with them this past offseason. He has played mostly outfield but did experiment at first base as well as DH. He is batting .239 on the season with a .750 OPS. Those numbers are very much on line with his career numbers at .245 and .736 respectively.
I don’t know that Joe will have an extensive market. The Pirates could elect to hold on to him to help cover innings at first base the rest of the season assuming Santana is traded. However, as a veteran, it would be rather derelict of duty not to include him on this list.
David Bednar and Andrew McCutchen
I include these guys together on the list because they would qualify as the Pirates biggest trade assets. I expect neither will actually get moved but they are at least pieces the Pirates could trade.
David Bednar is one of the best closers in all of baseball. The market for those type of players is always high. Bednar is from Pittsburgh, however, and the good will the Pirates’ front office has started to build up could take a hit with such a move. With the Pirates likely heading towards contention beginning in 2024, having a closer like Bednar seems like a must.
Andrew McCutchen is 36-years old and, in most cases, would be a candidate to trade. However, it is widely known his history and meaning to the Pirates’ franchise. They can’t possibly trade him again, right? Well, they could.
I expect both guys to stick with the Pirates beyond August 1st. The PR-nightmare that would ensue from trading them when the Pirates already have a nice prospect system would be damaging to the trust the front office is trying to re-build with the fanbase. I guess there is the possibility one or both are, in fact, moved. I wouldn’t bank on it if you’re a rival fanbase looking to acquire one or both of these guys specifically, however.
The #Pirates are very reliant on David Bednar to close out victories. But it doesn't come readily. Those pitching in a relief role for the club this season not named Bednar have a collective ERA of 4.62. #LetsGoBucs
— Kenneth Mihalik (@HoldBackTheNite) July 14, 2023
Photo Credit- Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports