Pittsburgh Pirates: Top 10 Trades Of The 2010s
By Noah Wright
Number 10 – Pirates Acquire Oneil Cruz
We’re going to start off with a fairly recent trade. At the 2017 trade deadline, the Pirates were 5.5 games out of the NL Central, and had a rental reliever on hand. Southpaw Tony Watson was on the last year of his deal, and was struggling. He had a 3.66 ERA, 4.70 FIP, and 1.52 WHIP. All of which were career highs since his rookie year in 2011.
Watson had given up an astounding amount of hits (11.8 per 9), and home runs (7, he gave up only 10 combined between 2013 and 2014 for comparison). Despite his recent struggles, Watson still had a solid track record.
The Pirates sent the then-struggling lefty to the Dodgers who were in need of left-handed bullpen help. In exchange, the Pirates acquired 3B/SS Oneil Cruz, and pitcher Angel German. Cruz was struggling at the time of the trade, however he has blossomed into a top 60 prospect in all of baseball.
The 21-year-old infielder currently ranks as the 57th best prospect in baseball, and the Bucs’ 3rd best prospect. During 2018, Cruz slashed .286/.343/.488 with 14 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 443 PAs. However, Cruz missed part of 2019 after a foot injury.
Cruz is an interesting player. Even though he doesn’t have the frame of a shortstop (6’7, 175 LBS), Cruz has been given decent fielding ratings at the position, and has the arm (70 rating by MLB.com, the highest of any top ranked SS prospect) to move back to third base. He also has enough speed (55 run rating by MLB.com) to take over a corner outfield position. The latter is the most likely outcome with the Pirates young depth up the middle, Ke’Bryan Hayes currently the Pirates’ 2nd best prospect in the Pirates’ system, and with Cruz’s overall profile fitting more of a right fielder than shortstop. Regardless, he is seen as a high ceiling prospect.
Watson pitched decent in the regular season for the Dodgers (2.70 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.05 WHIP), and very good in the postseason, but pitched in only 27 innings in Dodger blue. He was signed by the San Francisco Giants in the following off-season.
The only reason this trade is so low is because Cruz is still a prospect. There is a high possibility that this ends up as one of the top 5 trades of the decade for the Bucs if Cruz does pan out.