Pittsburgh Pirates Mailbag: June 15, 2018

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 13: Jameson Taillon #50 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a first inning pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 13, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. Pirates won 5-4. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 13: Jameson Taillon #50 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a first inning pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 13, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. Pirates won 5-4. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

It’s that time of the week again everyone – mailbag time

How close are the Pittsburgh Pirates to being legitimate contenders? Who could be traded at the deadline if the Pirates are out of contention? Can they turn their recent struggles around? And more in this week’s Pittsburgh Pirates’ mailbag.

As always, thank you to everyone who participated in the mailbag by submitted questions this week. Now, let’s begin.

As always in baseball, this will hinge on one thing – pitching.

By adding a slider Jameson Taillon has really taken off his past five starts and appears to be on his way to reaching that ace status the organization needs him to achieve. The Pirates also appear to have a pair of young starters that can help anchor the rotation for a long time in Joe Musgrove and Nick Kingham.

If these three can continue to develop and the team can then add Mitch Keller to the mix next season then you’re looking at a postseason caliber starting rotation. And if you make the postseason, you’ve always got a shot.

If the Pirates do not view this as possible then they should absolutely sell off a lot of pieces. But, I’m sure Neal Huntington and company believe they are close to being legitimate contenders.

Regardless, it would not be a surprise to see Josh Harrison and/or Francisco Cervelli traded this July or in the offseason. Harrison is set to hit free agency following the 2020 season and Cervelli following 2019. And with Kevin Kramer and Elias Diaz the Pirates appear to have both of their successors waiting in the wings.

There is still a little over a month until the July 31st non-waiver trading deadline. But the Pirates have lost 18 of their last 25 games, they are 8 games out of first place in the National League Central, and they are already 5.5 games out of the second National League Wild Card spot. So, odds are, the team will be selling.

The first player that comes to mind is Corey Dickerson. When the Pirates acquired Dickerson his main purpose was to be a stopgap until Austin Meadows arrived. Well, Meadows has arrived and is setting the world on fire. Additionally, Dickerson is set to hit free agency after next season and – both offensively and defensively – he has been one of the best left fielders in the NL this season. So his trade value should be quite high and, in turn, he should be able to net a great return in a trade.

Francisco Cervelli and Josh Harrison are two players to watch as well. As mentioned above, both will hit free agency soon and both have replacements waiting in the wings. Harrison would bring value to a team looking for help at second or third base, as he would be a plus defender at both positions while providing slightly above league average offense.

Meanwhile, Cervelli has been one of the best catchers in baseball this season. A team looking for catching help would likely sell the farm for Cervelli, especially since he would be under team control for 2019 as well.

David Freese, Ivan Nova, and Sean Rodriguez would be names to monitor as well, however, there are questions as to how much trade value, if any in the case of Freese and Rodriguez, that these three players would have.

Does this team have what it takes to get back on track? That’s a question I am unsure of an answer to.

They did start the season 26-17 and looked like one of the best teams in the National League through the first seven weeks of the season. However, many people, myself included, predicted the Pirates to finish with a losing record for a reason and these reasons have been on full display during the 7-18 stretch they’re currently mired in.

The offense has been inconsistent, the bullpen has been bad more often than it’s been good, and the defense is terrible. Those are the trademarks of a sub-.500 team, which is exactly what the Pirates are right now.

Next: The Secret To Chad Kuhl's Recent Success

That will do it for this week. If you ever have a question for our Pittsburgh Pirates’ mailbag keep your eyes peeled for our Tweet asking for questions each week.