The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff already seems set for the 2019 season. However, should they look to upgrade it still?
This past trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a trade to bring in Chris Archer. Part of the reason they made that deal was to help make a push in the 2018 season. However, even more so, the Pittsburgh Pirates knew that Archer came with control and could help this team next season. So in a way, the Pirates made upgrades for the 2019 season before the offseason even started.
So as of now, the Pirates rotation will be led by Jameson Taillon as the staff’s number one. Following him will be Chris Archer, who pitched very well in September and hopefully will bring that success at the beginning of next season. The back three of the rotation will be breakout pitcher Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, and Ivan Nova.
However, should that be set in stone for next season? While the rotation performed very well in the second half of the season, the team could always look to improve. A Major League Baseball team can never have too much quality starting pitching. Also, they could open up another spot in the rotation by dealing away one of their current starters.
The most obvious candidate to trade away would be Ivan Nova. Nova is entering the final season of his contract. He is set to make a base salary of $8.5 million next season. While this is not overly expensive, the team could look to unload his salary while improving. Or at least take his contract and reinvest it into another starter.
The biggest need for the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation is they need a left-handed pitcher. The biggest names on the free agent market are Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel. Both of them likely will get upward of close to $100 million, so it is highly unlikely that the Pirates will not be in on one of those pitchers.
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So who is another starter Neal Huntington and the Pirates could consider? James Paxton. It has been reported that the Seattle Mariners are looking to reshape their roster. Many insiders are under the impression that the Mariners could look to trade their number one pitcher in Paxton.
The immediate issue with the Pittsburgh Pirates being in those trade talks is that they would have to be ready to trade away more of their upper tier prospects. They already did this at this past trade deadline when the gave up Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, Shane Baz, and Taylor Hearn, all who were ranked in the Pirates top 10 prospects at one point over the last two years.
However, James Paxton has a lot of qualities that the Pittsburgh Pirates look for in acquiring players. First, he is a big left-hander who has put up really good numbers over the last few years. Now that the obvious is out of the way, what else does he bring? Paxton has two more years of team control with his last two years of arbitration. So he has at least one more year of a relatively cheap deal and another year of control after that.
Last year, Paxton made $4.9 million. So say he doubles that in arbitration, his contract will be at $9.8 million. If the Bucs traded Ivan Nova, Paxton’s salary for the 2019 season would be nearly covered. When comparing James Paxton to Ivan Nova, Paxton would be well worth that price tag. Paxton threw 160.1 innings last year and posted 3.76 earned run average with a 3.02 xFIP. His most impressive number is that he struck out just over 11 batters per 9 innings pitched, recording 208 punch outs in those 160.1 innings.
Still, Paxton is not in that uppermost tier of starting pitcher. While he is very good, he does have some flaws. For instance, last season he only produced a 39 percent groundball rate, which is not very good. The Bucs normally see their starters have a rate of 45% percent or higher. Also, he has had a lot of injury concerns over the years and has only surpassed 160 innings one time, this past season.
So should the Pittsburgh Pirates bring in “Big Maple”? The Canadian born pitcher would be a really good add. He is a big lefty who can overpower hitters. Also, he would come with multiple years of control, not just a pure rental. While he may cost a few bigger names prospects, the Mariners should not expect multiple elite prospects back due to some of his concerns. Regardless, he would make the Pirates a better team in 2019.