Pittsburgh Pirates: Niese and Locke Trade Block

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

According to Rob Biertempfel the Pittsburgh Pirates are trying to trade pitcher(s) Jon Niese and/or Jeff Locke by Tuesday’s game.

His quote on twitter

"“Glasnow not listed in @indyindians rotation yesterday. #pirates trying to move Niese and/or Locke to open spot in their rotation.”"

So let the speculation begin.  We have been hearing for weeks now that the Pittsburgh Pirates were trying to move Jon Niese.  In fact, at his last start many scouts from teams around the league were in attendance.  The Pittsburgh Pirates front office called these teams and asked them to come out and gauge their interest.  This is all part of trying to sell a player.  However, it became interesting when Jeff Locke came out of the bullpen.

When Locke was warming up, the Pirates play-by-play announcer said he was available due to the all-star break.  Which, obviously that makes sense.  However, then some started to speculate that this was the Pirates seeing how Locke would respond to throwing innings out of the bullpen. Now, of course it may have been that the Pittsburgh Pirates brass wanted to showcase their other pitcher on the market.

When Jon Niese started to get hit hard, they may have known that the scouts in attendance would not be impressed.  If they were willing to look at Niese, maybe they would be interested in Locke as well.  In fact, some of these teams may have had interest in Locke and that is why the Pirates decided to put him in.  Regardless, it seems as if the Pirates are willing to move at least one of these pitchers, if not both.

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Who would be worth trading more?  There are positives and negatives to both.  To start with Niese, he is the pitcher, performance wise, you would want to move.  He is making more money than Locke, having a horrible season, and has been hated by most fans since arriving.  That is the flip side of the argument.  The Pirates would not get much for Niese at this point.  Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates traded a top 25 prospect in Adrian Sampson for JA Happ, who had similar numbers.  With that, there would be an out-cry from fans that the Pirates traded Neil Walker for a essentially a prospect.  This would not look good on the Pirates management, or  on the public relations side of things.

The other side is Jeff Locke.  Locke has had a so-so year for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In fact, it is just a typical year for him.  He has had some really good starts and some really bad starts.  His ERA is over five, but this is because of a small handful of road starts that has inflated his numbers.  If anything, Jeff Locke brings an experienced, cheap, and back-end of the rotation arm to a team that needs some inning eaters.  The flip side of the Locke argument is, that he is better than Niese.  If you are the Pirates you want to keep as many of the better players as possible, and get rid of the bad ones.  That is just logic that I cannot believe I typed.  However, Locke could also net you something of use back.  The Pirates maybe able to grab a bullpen arm and a solid prospect for Locke, rather than a lower-level prospect for Niese.

Both Niese and Locke do have two similarities that could help the Pirates make a trade.  First, they are both lefties, teams are always looking for experienced left-handed pitchers.  The other is they both have two more years of team control.  Locke has two years of arbitration left, and with his career line he likely will not get a significant raise over his next two seasons (made about 3.5 million in 2016).  Jon Niese has two more years of control via club options.  An acquiring team would have the option to keep him around, at below market rate (10.5 million), or cut ties with him if he is not working out.  Either way, having years of control of players always intrigue teams looking to acquire.

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Teams that are interested are the Blue Jays, Royals, Tigers, Dodgers, Houston, Baltimore, and potentially the Mets.  It will be an interesting couple of days as we see if things truly heat up leading up to Tuesday’s game.