Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Target: Robbie Ray

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Robbie Ray #38 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: Robbie Ray #38 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 14, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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With the Arizona Diamondbacks in the midst of selling off MLB talent, could a lefty starting pitcher entice the Pittsburgh Pirates?

With Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings looming, the Pittsburgh Pirates remain in the market for pitching help. When baseball GMs convene in Las Vegas tomorrow to kickoff the 2018 Winter Meetings, Neal Huntington will continue to look for pitching help.

While the Pirates return their top five starting pitchers from 2018, the team could still use a starting rotation boost. They could especially use a left-handed pitcher. This could make Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks a trade target for the Bucs.

The Diamondbacks entered the offseason prepared to sell away MLB talent. This sale kicked off in a big way last week when they traded their best player, and franchise face, Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, the team is looking to move former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.

With Goldschmidt gone and Greinke on the market, every member of the Arizona roster could be available in trade talks. This includes left-handed starting pitcher Robbie Ray. Ray is a pitcher that makes a lot of sense as a Pirate trade target.

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The 27-year-old Ray has quietly been one of the better lefty starters in the National League the past four seasons. The Diamondbacks acquired Ray from the Detroit Tigers prior to the start of the 2015 season, since then Ray owns a 3.84 ERA, 3.81 FIP, and a 9.8 fWAR in 107 starts for the D-Backs.

Among starting pitchers with at least 450 innings pitched, Ray ranks third in the Majors with a 30.6% strikeout rate since the start of the 2016 season. However, he has struggled with his control. His 10.8% walk rate during this three-year stretch is the highest in the Majors, and his 13.3% walk rate in 2018 was his highest yet.

But, Ray has been able to work around it thanks to his strikeouts. Additionally, there may not be a pitching coach in baseball better than Ray Searage at helping pitchers with control issues.

Ray currently has two years of team control remaining. He made $3.95 million in arbitration last season, and is set for a raise this offseason. If the Pirates were to target and acquire Ray, a trade of veteran starting pitcher Ivan Nova could soon follow. Nova has is entering the final year of his contract and is slated to make $9.17 million this season. While this is not a large amount, the Pirates paying what would then be their sixth best starting pitcher roughly 10% of their payroll would not be a wise move.

Sliding Ray behind Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer, and in front of Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove, would make the Pirate rotation quite formidable. Earlier this week, MLB.com rated the Pirates’ starting rotation as the tenth best in baseball. Adding Ray would put the Pirate rotation on the doorstep of the five best in baseball, as well as potentially making in the best in the NL Central.

All five of these starting pitchers are controlled beyond 2019, too. So, adding Ray, much as adding Archer at the trade deadline last summer, would help the Pirates both now and in the future.

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