Pittsburgh Pirates Offseason Trade Target: Nick Ahmed
By Marty Leap
Could the Pittsburgh Pirates look to the impending Arizona Diamondbacks fire sale to try and address their need at shortstop?
It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Pirates have plenty of questions surrounding the shortstop position. As you can read about here, a potential free agent target at the position could be the slick fielding Jose Iglesias. But, could the Bucs look to a different defensive first shortstop this offseason? This one being via the trade route.
Now that the World Series has ended the MLB offseason is close to kicking into high gear. When that happens, it is widely believed that the Arizona Diamondbacks will be orchestrating a bit of a fire sale this offseason in an effort to rebuild. Due to this, one player that could be on the block is shortstop Nick Ahmed.
The 28-year-old Ahmed is a defensive first shortstop that still has two years of team control. While Ahmed has always struggled offensively since making his MLB debut in 2014, 2018 was the best offensive season of his career.
During the 2018 season, Ahmed slashed .234/.290/.411 with a .176 ISO, .300 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 84. Other than on-base percentage and slugging percentage, all of these numbers were new career highs. That said, all of them, minus his ISO, remain below league average.
What Ahmed does best is play defense. Like Iglesias, Ahmed is an above average fielder at the shortstop position. During his time in the Majors, Ahmed is responsible for 58 defensive runs saved at the shortstop position. This includes leading the NL in DRS last season at +21.
As we have covered, the Pirates may pursue a defense first player to serve as a late inning replacement when Kevin Newman gets the start. What could be intriguing about Ahmed is that he has the potential to be a quality every day player at the position if Newman comes out and struggles in 2019.
While Ahmed remains a below average hitter, he has quietly developed some power the past two seasons. Ahmed owns a .174 ISO and a 10% extra-base hit rate since the start of 2017. Last season he hit a career-high 16 home runs. His increased power and defensive prowess combined to give him a career-best 1.7 fWAR in 2018.
The most encouraging sign in terms of Ahmed’s power is that it was not solely due to the hitter’s haven that is Chase Field in Arizona. On the road last season Ahmed’s ISO (.180 vs .173) and slugging percentage (.414 vs .408) were both higher on the road.
If Ahmed’s power continues to develop to go with his Gold Glove quality defense then he can be a strong every day shortstop in the National League. This could make him an intriguing trade target for the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason.