With the trade deadline less than three weeks away, the rumor mill is starting to heat up. The Pittsburgh Pirates have seen some of their players come up in rumors already.
The Pittsburgh Pirates look like they could be climbing back into the NL Central race. Since the all-star break, they have won three out four games against teams in front of them in the standings. Although the trade deadline is weeks away, teams are already making some moves, we saw this with the Cubs and the Nationals so far. The Pittsburgh Pirates are making an acquisition tonight by activating Starling Marte from his suspension.
Even with all these positive things happening, the Pittsburgh Pirates still may look to sell off some of their players. They did this last season as well. Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates were only two games out of the wild card, but they still decided to sell off some pieces. This will likely be the case again this year. The Pirates will likely look to sell some pieces while acquiring big league ready talent, or they will look to move and get out of some contracts that they are wary of going forward.
There are two specific players that have come up in trade rumors that have questionable contracts going forward. The two players are David Freese and Josh Harrison. Both players are being scouted by the Boston Red Sox according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. Silverman reports that the Sox have had scouts watching the two recently. Of the two, the Pittsburgh Pirates will likely move David Freese before Josh Harrison. Freese has been abysmal of late, and is he locked up through next year at $4.25 million, with a $6 million option for 2019.
Now for the Red Sox, Freese represents a proven commodity to plug in at a position that has been very unstable for them. He is not the player he used to be, but he still plays a solid third base, draws a good amount of walks, and will likely hit for a better average than their current third base rotation. Also, for the Red Sox, a prorated $6.5 million this season and $4.25 million next year is a very doable contract, while for the Pirates it represents a significant portion of salary they could use elsewhere this offseason.
The biggest issue with trading Freese is that he will likely not bring back much value. Although he will be a useful player for the Red Sox, he is not a slam dunk pick up for them either. The Bucs will likely get a lower level prospect or two that will not grab any headlines. The more important part would be to open up more at-bats for players like Jose Osuna and Adam Frazier while clearing his contract for next season.
This is why Josh Harrison being traded could be more attractive for Neal Huntington. Harrison, a 2017 all-star, is under control for at least two more seasons with options for 2020 and 2021. He also could be of interest because the Sox would not only be getting a third baseman, but when their top prospect Rafael Devers makes it to the big leagues, Harrison can move into his best role as a super utility player. Boston is one team that really appreciates a super utility player, they have had a lot of success with these types of players in the past such as Brock Holt.
Meanwhile, on the Pittsburgh Pirates side of things, it would open two possibilities. One, they would be able to free up $19.5 million between the next two seasons. So really, they would free up more money than if they moved Freese. The second part is the biggest difference between trading Harrison and Freese. Josh Harrison is still in his prime, is under team control, and at this point is a better player than Freese. For those reasons, Harrison would grab a much more notable package of prospects. Not only would he get better prospects, but he also could grab closer to MLB ready players who could help this team as soon as this year or next.
Package a Reliever?
So it is kind of a toss up on which option would be better for the Pirates, get less for Freese and get out from his contract, or trade a better player in Harrison and get a better return. One factor that could also impact trade talks is that the Sox are also looking for another reliever. So if the Pirates could add in one of their pending free agent relievers like Watson or Nicasio, it could help boost the return in a Freese deal. The Red Sox have plenty of other options at third base. Players like Todd Frazier, Eduardo Nunez, Yangervis Solarte, Jed Lowrie, among others are also available. So it is not a slam dunk that either Freese or Harrison will go to the Boston. Still, it is interesting to find out that the Sox have been scouting the two players in the recent days.