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Report: Pirates Discussing Trade for Angels Outfielder

The Pittsburgh Pirates are reportedly discussing a possible trade for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Taylor Ward, per Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The rumor comes one day after a report that Pirates front office employees were “furious” over remarks by owner Bob Nutting in June. That report stated that Nutting had misled the public into believing that the Pirates had room to add to their payroll at the trade deadline while telling his front office the opposite. Team president Travis Williams and general manager Ben Cherington have pushed back on that report. They say the money has been authorized to make additions to the team.

None of this meshes with Cherington’s recent comments about looking toward “internal improvement” as opposed to trades. Rather than try to cut through all this hash, let’s deal with facts. How close the Pirates are to making a deal and their chances of completing a deal are unknown. But we know they’re talking.

Pirates Discussing Trade for Taylor Ward

So, let’s consider what a deal for Ward would mean for the Pirates. The Angels are in fourth place in the American League West Division with a 37-54 record after 91 games. They’re twelve games out of first place and 13 1/2 games out of the wild card race. Baseball experts contend that the Angels should be sellers at the trade deadline. Ward would be one of their most desirable commodities. The 30-year-old is hitting .238/.321/.417, 14 home runs, 44 RBI, and 105 OPS+. He’s played left field all season long but has major league experience at all three outfield spots and third base.

If Ward’s average doesn’t exactly conjure up thoughts of Ted Williams, note that as of this writing, there are only 11 major league qualifiers who are hitting .300 in 2024. His home run total would tie him with Oneil Cruz for second place on the Pirates. He’s just two years removed from his best season. In 2022, he hit .281/.360/.473, 23 HR, 65 RBI, and 134 OPS+. He doesn’t grade out highly defensively. However, he has a strong arm and should be more than adequate to patrol PNC Park’s cozy right field.

Ward is signed for $4.8 million for 2024. He becomes arbitration-eligible in 2025 and free-agent-eligible in 2027. He’ll surely be due raises in each subsequent year, but not enough to bust the Bucs’ payroll budget.

Where Ward Fits

If the Pirates pull off a trade for Ward, right field would be his best fit. All-Star Bryan Reynolds is firmly entrenched in left field. Despite the subpar production, the Pirates are getting from their center-field platoon combination, they seem committed to Jack Suwinski and Michael A. Taylor. Suwinski, at least, is hitting like his old self, with two home runs in his last five games.

With Ward being a right-handed hitter, that would seem to limit the path Edward Olivares has to return to the Pirates after being sent to Triple-A Indianapolis this week. The guy who would be squeezed out of some playing time might be Joshua Palacios. He’s added a spark to his offense since rejoining the team recently and is a favorite of manager Derek Shelton. Of course, he could always force his way into a platoon situation with Ward. Palacios might even get a look in center field.

What It Might Take

What would the Angels want in return if they traded Ward to the Pirates? The Angels should be looking at adding some prospects to their organization. The Pirates say they’d be willing to deal from their surplus of prospects. Before the season, ranked the Angels’ system 30th out of the 30 major league teams. The Pirates’ system, on the other hand, ranked ninth.

Some baseball sites have posited that Cherington would be willing to part with Termarr Johnson in a deal for an outfield bat. Johnson is the Pirates’ No. 2 prospect. Johnson is a second baseman and the Pirates’ No. 1 draft pick in the 2022 June Amateur Draft. He will be at the Futures Game on Saturday. The guess here is that Cherington won’t part with Johnson under any circumstances. Given the patience Cherington has shown with other players he’s drafted in the first round, i.e., Henry Davis and Nick Gonzales, it would be uncharacteristic of him to surrender Johnson, who’s performing well in the minors.

Where the Angels’ system is lacking is in the area of left-handed pitching. They have just one lefty hurler among their top 30 prospects in Francis Texido. He is presently at Single-A San Bernadino and is projected to arrive in the majors in 2028.

The Pirates might offer from their surplus of left-handed pitching prospects. These include Anthony Solometo (their No. 3 prospect), Hunter Barco (No. 12), and Michael Kennedy (No. 13). Perhaps one or more of these would entice the Angels. If the Pirates get a trade for Ward done, it will excite their fan base as the Bucs make their wild card push.

Main Photo: © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


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