It’s time for an All-Star week Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag here at Rum Bunter
If the Pittsburgh Pirates are buyers at the trade deadline, what should they look to add? What happens when Gregory Polanco gets healthy? Is there any scenario in which the team would trade Felipe Vazquez? And more in this week’s Pirate mailbag.
As always, thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week and participated. Now, let’s dive in!
Pitching, pitching, and more pitching.
As the old adage goes, you can never have too much pitching. Right now, the Pirates do not even have enough pitching let alone too much.
The bullpen has started to settle in. Vazquez has done his thing all season long at the back end, Francisco Liriano is a reliable setup man, Richard Rodriguez has not allowed a run in almost two months, Michael Feliz and Chris Stratton have been sneaky good, and Clay Holmes has pitched well outside of three bad outings.
The starting rotation? Well, it’s a mess. Which makes it the team’s biggest need as July 31st quickly approaches.
Jameson Taillon, like Kela, does not appear close to returning. Steven Brault had been pitching superb baseball for over a month before going on the injured list this past weekend. Jordan Lyles is starting to pitch like, well, Jordan Lyles, which is not a good thing, and Chris Archer is having the worst season of his career.
If the Pirates are still in contention for a postseason berth at the end of the month, then Neal Huntington needs to be doing all he can to add a starting pitcher. As currently constructed, the Pirate starting rotation is not good enough to make the postseason. Starting pitching must be the team’s first, second, and third priority as the trade deadline approaches. It would be beneficial to add a relief pitcher, too.
This could hinge largely on what the team does between now and the end of the month.
If the Pirates remain in contention, then, odds are, Corey Dickerson is going nowhere. If Dickerson is still around and hitting the way he always has, it’s tough to keep him out of the lineup. And the one thing that is a certainty with the outfield is that Starling Marte and Bryan Reynolds will be out there on every day.
My guess is that if the Pirates are still in contention, we see some sort of rotation between Polanco and Dickerson with Clint Hurdle primarily playing the hot hand. If the team falls out of contention before the end of the month, then Dickerson is likely to be traded, Melky Cabrera as well, which would open up a spot in the lineup for Polanco.
Things could change between now and July 31st. But as of now, there is no scenario in which a trade of Vazquez should even be entertained.
Vazquez is one of the best, most dominant relief pitchers in all of baseball. Combine this with him being under contract through 2023 on a very team friendly contract and he could net a king’s ransom in a trade. Now is not the time, however.
The reason that now is not the time is the Pirates are in the thick of the postseason race. The Pirates currently sit just 2.5 games out of first place in the National League Central, as well as in the race for the second NL Wild Card spot.
This team is in contention. If they remain in contention, they can not move Vazquez. Even if they netted a massive return, it would destroy the clubhouse. Moving arguably the best reliever in baseball in the middle of a postseason chase is a move that demoralizes a clubhouse and causes players to quit.
Now, if the Pirates stumble the next three weeks and fall out of contention then things change. While they still should not actively shop Vazquez in that scenario, if they receive an offer that blows them away then it could be worth saying yes. But if they remain in contention, trading Vazquez should not be even a remote possibility.
This is a good question. With Josh Bell at first base, Colin Moran at third base, and Ke’Bryan Hayes looming at Triple-A for third base, Will Craig is definitely blocked at the moment. Due to this, I would expect to hear his name tossed around a good bit in trade talks this month.
That said, I am not sure how high Craig’s trade value is.
There is no denying his power. He slugged .448 with a .200 ISO and an 11% extra base hit rate at Double-A last season. This season, he’s slugging .464 with a .214 ISO and a 10.2% extra base hit rate at Triple-A. However, it’s possible that Craig is right handed Pedro Alvarez.
His on-base percentage at Double-A was just .321, and it’s just .327 this season. He also strikes out a good bit, owning a 23.3% strikeout rate last season and that number has risen to 24.3% this season.
Additionally, Craig projects best as a designated hitter. This, most likely, would give him more trade value with an American League club than a National League one.
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