Editorial: The Pittsburgh Pirates are second to last in the NL Central. Many analysts around the league believe that the Pirates will sell at this year’s deadline.
With the Pittsburgh Pirates on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned, it is likely that they will look to do some selling at this trade deadline. Now, things could change as the Pittsburgh Pirates have the Cardinals for three games and four games against the first-place Brewers. If the Bucs take both of the two series, then things could change in the tight NL Central standings. However, many experts around the league believe that even if they climb back into things, then they could approach the deadline with a soft sell mentality. This is a similar approach that they took last year when they traded away pending free agents while picking up MLB ready assets.
So with that, who are the players that will likely be popping up over the next few weeks in trade rumors? Below will be a list of players that will be listed from most likely to least likely in terms of trade potential. The list will also consist of teams that could be interested in making a deal for said player.
Juan Nicasio: Nicasio may be the most sought after non-closer relief pitcher this deadline. He has been straight dominant over the last two seasons. This year he has posted a 2.50 ERA and is striking out over a batter per inning pitched, with 41 strikeouts in 39.2 innings pitched. Teams looking to bolster their bullpen: Nationals, Rockies, Astros, and possibly the Twins.
Tony Watson: Watson has pitched better since being removed from the closer’s role. Although his numbers are still not what he is used to seeing, he still is valuable on the trade market as a left handed reliever with a solid track record. Watson owns a 3.86 ERA this season. Teams looking for left handed reliever help: Nationals, Astros, Brewers (unlikely with division rival), and the Dodgers.
John Jaso: The left handed bench player had just about the worst start of a season as anyone in the league. Jaso ended April with a slash line of .143/.265/.238. Since then he has been better. For the month of May, he finished with a slash line of .271/.338/.457. June was even better for him posting .319/.385/.660. He also has been regarded as one of the Bucs best clutch, pinch hitters this season. He also can play a solid first base. Jaso will likely be brought in by a team looking for a left handed bat off the bench, or a platoon mate at first base. Teams who could be interested: Dodgers and Yankees.
Andrew McCutchen: The story of McCutchen is well known at this point. A terrible 2016 stat line, offseason trade rumors, and now a bounce back 2017 thus far. The Bucs are in a tough spot with Cutch. Many want the Pittsburgh Pirates to extend him, however his resurgence may put himself back out of the Pirates market. Even if he was willing to settle for a bit less, the analytical Pirates will not be willing to give the years the former MVP will be looking for in a new deal.
So the question is whether he will go at the deadline or after this season. Cutch is under a modest $14.5 million salary next season, assuming his option is picked up. Some teams who could use outfield help now: Nationals, Rockies, Dodgers, Twins, Diamondbacks. Teams who may look to get him for next season and not so much this season: Rangers, Mariners, Mets, Phillies.
Control Beyond 2017
David Freese: Freese is having an average season. This is mainly because he is no longer an everyday player, but is being used as one. On the year Freese is batting .244/.374/.362 with six home runs. Freese has dropped off in terms of his power, but he is still getting on base at an impressive clip while providing solid defense at the hot corner. Freese also is under contract in 2018 for a very affordable price of $6.5 million. The biggest team looking for third base help are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and St. Louis Cardinals.
Josh Harrison: Harrison received his second all-star game nod in the last four years this season. He is known as a spark plug. He is a player who can collect hits in different ways due to his aggressive plate approach and speed. However, Harrison is getting on base at a .361 clip, about 35 points higher than his career rate. Meanwhile, he provides above average defense at second base and can also play an adequate third base, and even play some corner outfield. He also is guaranteed about $19 million over the next two seasons, a salary that should be affordable if he continues to put up solid numbers. Teams of interest: Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, Dodgers, and any other playoff caliber team.
Gerrit Cole: Gerrit Cole’s name has been on the rumor mill over the last month. With many playoff teams looking to upgrade their rotation, and a lack of quality starters available, Cole could garner a big time package in return. Also, Cole has seemed disgruntled with the Pirates over the last two seasons. This goes back to the 2015-2016 offseason when he was unhappy with his salary. He also showed some animosity this season when arguing with Clint Hurdle in the dugout and when he showed up rookie Josh Bell on the field. With his rising arbitration cost, a lack of quality starting pitchers on the market, and uneasiness with the organization, the Bucs may look to deal him if the right package comes across the table. Teams of interest: Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, Rockies, and most other teams.
Jordy Mercer: Many fans have forgotten that Jordy Mercer’s final year of team control is 2018. Mercer is putting together a solid all-around season playing above average defense and batting .267 with seven home runs. Still, it will be unlikely to see Mercer dealt. There are not many contending teams that need help at the shortstop position. Also, the Pittsburgh Pirates do not have a true shortstop ready to fill in for the hole Mercer would leave. Teams of interest: Nationals