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Rumor: Pirates and Athletics Trade of Slugging Outfielders Possible

The Oakland Athletics could be willing to trade JJ Bleday to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jack Suwinski and Liover Peguero. At least that’s what an MLB executive suggested to Noah Hiles of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

There’s no evidence that either general manager has proposed such a deal. But if there’s anything to this rumor, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington should jump on it – yesterday.

Pirates Trade Rumor: Eyeing Outfield Depth

Bleday is a 26-year-old center fielder. Why would he be attractive to the Pirates? Let me count the ways. He’s not eligible for arbitration until 2026 or free agency until 2029. Entering Friday’s action, he’s batting .255/.355/.467, 10 HR, 27 RBI, and 136 OPS+. That home run total would tie him with Andrew McCutchen and Bryan Reynolds for the team lead. The short distance to the right field stands in PNC Park is tailor-made for a left-handed power hitter like Bleday. The Pirates got a first-hand look at his power last April. The Pirates’ center field platoon of Suwinski and Michael A. Taylor is badly underachieving on a team that sorely needs offense yet finds itself in the thick of the National League wild-card race.

Moving On

After leading the Pirates with 26 homers last year, Suwinski is batting a paltry .174/.267/.308, 6 HR, 18 RBI, and an OPS+ of 65. He’s never been much of a hitter for average. His career batting average is .207. The Pirates decided to send the struggling left-handed hitter to triple-A Indianapolis on May 23. Whenever the Pirates send a hitter back to Triple-A, a plan usually involves a long stay. However, Suwinski was back in Pittsburgh 11 days later. It wasn’t a promotion based on merit. Ji Hwan Bae had gone on the injured list, leaving the Bucs without a left-handed platoon partner with Taylor in center field. After three seasons of low batting averages and the current slump, the Pirates may be ready to move on from Suwinski and trade him for a player with Bleday’s resume.

Likewise, the Pirates will also be ready to move on from middle infielder Peguero. Once a highly regarded prospect, he failed to survive a spring training competition for the second base position. Now that he’s started to reach his potential as a hitter, Nick Gonzales looks entrenched at second base for a long time to come, or at least until 20-year-old prospect Termarr Johnson moves up the ladder to Pittsburgh. Nobody is moving Oneil Cruz from shortstop. However, the best defensive shortstop in the organization is Alika Will, who is currently in Triple-A. In the event of an injury to Cruz, Williams is more likely to get the call. Jared Triolo, displaced as the second baseman by Gonzales’ resurgence, is the organization’s favorite as the major league utility infielder. As these players grow, Peguero shrinks.

Making Sense for the A’s

How this trade of Bleday to the Pirates would make any sense for Oakland is anybody’s guess. Bleday was a No. 1 pick in the 2019 June Amateur Draft out of Vanderbilt by the Miami Marlins. At the time, his offensive skills were highly regarded. After three so-so minor league seasons and an unsuccessful major league trial in 2022, Miami dealt him to the A’s for AJ Puk. After hitting just .195/.310/.355, 10 HR, and 27 RBI in 2023, the A’s might wonder if 2024 is an aberration. They may feel they’d be selling high.

It could also come from a desire to build some organizational depth. Before the 2024 season began, MLB Pipeline ranked the Athletics’ farm system 25th out of 30 teams. With the Athletics scheduled to play in Sacramento’s minor league ballpark next year, their primary concern may be keeping their head above water while building up the organization in time for the move to Las Vegas.

Then again, if Suwinski regains his power stroke and Peguero begins to live up to his once-top prospect hype, this deal could be suitable for the A’s in the future.

The Last Word on a Possible Trade of Bleday to the Pirates

Cherington should act quickly if there’s anything rumored about the trade of Bleday to the Pirates. A strong starting rotation and a relatively weak NL have put the Pirates in the wild-card race. This year’s trade deadline will have more buyers than sellers. It’s hard to know where Cherington’s thoughts are in this regard. He plays his cards close to the vest, but he must move fast to improve his team and get a head start on the other buyers.

Main Photo: © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


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