The Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Deadline Mistake
By Marty Leap
What mistakes did the Pittsburgh Pirates make at the trade deadline?
The Major League Baseball trade deadline was 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Prior to the deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates swung a pair of trades.
On Monday, the team traded Jordan Lyles to the Milwaukee Brewers for Double-A pitcher Cody Ponce. Wednesday afternoon, the team traded outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Philadelphia Phillies for international pool money and a player to be named later.
All of this led to a lackluster trade deadline for the Pirates. Especially after rumors swirling of the team potentially moving relief ace Felipe Vazquez. It was also a trade deadline that saw general manager Neal Huntington make a mistake.
Holding onto Vazquez was not his mistake. Vazquez is arguably the best reliever in baseball and under team control through 2023 season. So, unless a team was willing to give Huntington exactly what he wanted for Vazquez keeping him was 100% the correct move.
Where Huntington made his mistake was not trading all of the team’s pending free agents. Yes, he moved Lyles and Dickerson. However, he did not move reliever Francisco Liriano or outfielder Melky Cabrera. Both of whom are set to become free agents at the end of the season. Catcher Francisco Cervelli and infielder Jung Ho Kang were not included because due to injuries (Cervelli) and ineffectiveness (Kang) these two players have zero trade value right now and are untradable.
Both Liriano and Cabrera are having strong seasons for the Pirates and would have had value for a contender. In 51 innings pitched this season Liriano owns a 3.18 ERA, 4.50 FIP, and a 21.8% strikeout rate. He can also pitch multiple innings of need be.
There is no doubt that a contending team could have used Liriano in their bullpen. However, the Pirates held onto Liriano. Which is the same mistake they made with Cabrera.
Cabrera, like Liriano, has had a resurgent season. The veteran switch hitter is slashing .304/.338/.443 with a 104 wRC+. Combine his strong offensive numbers with Cabrera’s great clubhouse presence, postseason experience, and veteran leadership, and, again, there were multiple contenders that could have used Cabrera’s services.
The Pirates, who currently own a 46-61 record, are going nowhere this season. For this reason they would have been better off getting anything at all for Liriano and Cabrera instead of losing them for nothing in free agency this offseason.
Furthermore, the Pirates should be playing for 2020 and beyond the rest of the season. Giving innings to Liriano and at bats to Cabrera is not playing for the future. Younger players that could be a part of the team in 2020 and beyond should be pitching these innings and getting these at bats, not two pending free agents.
Huntington made a mistake at the trade deadline by not trading Liriano and Cabrera. While the Pirates did not need to move Vazquez, they did need to move their pending free agents that have contributed this season. However, Huntington failed to do so, leading to him hurting the future of the Pirates in more ways than one.