If there is a 2020 season, it will likely be shorter than 100 games. So how does that affect the Pittsburgh Pirates three most valuable pieces?
If a 2020 season ever gets underway, the MLB will see a shortened season with different rules than normal. As fun as it would be to watch a 162 game season that lasts through Christmas, that just isn’t practical for multiple reasons. In all likelihood, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest of the MLB will probably play somewhere between 80 to 100 games with something closer to 80 being more likely.
But the big question that will arise for a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates is how it affects trade values. One of the best times during the regular season to trade rental pieces is during July and up until the trade deadline. But we don’t even know if or when there is going to be a trade deadline.
Right now, I would consider the Pirates’ most valuable trade pieces to be Josh Bell, Keone Kela, and Adam Frazier. Out of the three, Kela’s overall value is going to be way diminished with a shortened season. It’s not that he is ineffective, quite the opposite. Kela was outstanding last season with the Pirates, especially after coming back from the injured list. During the second half of the season, Kela struck out 22 batters in 18 innings. He also issued just seven walks, and allowed 1 earned run. Batters couldn’t touch Kela as the right hander limited opponents to a .131/.232/.197 line.
But Kela is currently in the last year of his contract. Although rentals don’t usually bring back much in return, high-end rental relief pitchers attract a lot of attention most of the time. But usually the trade deadline comes with two full months of playing time left and teams know if they’re contending or not. Right now, a team isn’t going to give up the package they would usually give up in a normal length season for a rental like Kela. If they were playing a full season and Kela was healthy, the Pittsburgh Pirates might even get back a low top 100 prospect (70-100 range) from a team desperate for bullpen help. There’s always one team that gets to that point at the deadline.
Frazier’s overall value is probably the least affected by the different season. Frazier is controllable through the 2022 season, so the Pittsburgh Pirates have no real rush to move him. Last season, Frazier batted .278/.336/.417 with 10 home runs and 33 doubles. Overall his offense was worth a 97 wRC+ mark. His defense was pretty good at second base with +11 outs above average, 2.9 UZR and 1.6 range runs above average. You know what you’re getting with Frazier – an overall average bat who can put in good glove work at second base, and the outfield.
But Bell’s value is also affected, but in a positive way, and not by a shortened season. Like Frazier, Bell is controllable through 2022. But what really affects Bell’s value is the universal designated hitter. It’s no surprise to anyone that Bell is an outstanding batter. Bell hit .277/.367/.569 with 37 home runs and doubles, and being given a 135 wRC+ mark. Plus with an exit velocity, and hard hit rate in the 90th+ percentile, there is room for improvement.
Bell’s defense at first base is atrocious. In his career, the switch hitter has -31 DRS, -17 UZR, -8.8 UZR/150, and -6 range runs above average at first base. Last year, he had -8 DRS, -7.5 UZR and -1.3 range runs. Bell was worth -4 outs above average, ranking 121 out of 139 qualified fielders. Bell is the perfect designated hitter candidate. With Bell not being a rental, plus the universal DH likely to continue after the 2020 season, Bell’s value could rise significantly, especially if he can either continue to hit at an elite level, or even improve on his 2019 season.