Pittsburgh Pirates: What to Target at the Trade Deadline

The 2020 trade deadline is just around the corner. With the pieces the  Pittsburgh Pirates have, what should the team look to acquire in trade?

The 2020 trade deadline is approaching rather fast. It might seem like the season just started, but we’re just a few weeks out from it. The Pittsburgh Pirates will definitely shop around some of their rental pieces.

With so many injuries around baseball, Derek Holland will surely get some interest. Any arm that’s durable now that seems like they’ll hold up throughout the rest of the season and postseason might actually draw a lot more interest than one may think. Even Jarrod Dyson might garner some interest. We’ve seen many teams utilize pinch runners and defensive replacements deep into postseason runs, like Terrance Gore, Albert Almora, and Cameron Maybin.

Keone Kela may also be a rental relief pitcher available. Relief pitchers recently have gotten a lot back in return. But it’s really hard to pinpoint how much rentals will go for this deadline.

Adam Frazier will also likely be dealt. The Pittsburgh Pirates need to find a way to get Cole Tucker regular reps at shortstop, and move Kevin Newman at second base. Currently, Frazier has blocked second for the team to play Newman and Frazier up the middle. Plus, Frazier’s production isn’t irreplaceable. Entering this year, Frazier had a career .279/.342/.420 line and 101 OPS+/103 wRC+ entering 2020 His 2018 looks more like an outlier as his 2019 season looked a lot more like his 2016-2017 seasons.

The Pittsburgh Pirates obviously are going to be looking for prospects in these trades. But what kind of prospects should the team target?

Right now, the team has the 6th best farm system according to FanGraphs, and entered the year as the 5th best system. They have five prospects in the top 100. Of their top five, they have one shortstop, third baseman, second baseman, outfielder, and pitcher. Liover Peguero ranking just outside the top 100 at 102. But with Dustin May, and Jesus Luzardo on the verge of graduating from prospect status, he should also join the top 100 by the end of 2020.

The position the Pirates need the least is either shortstop or second base. Currently, they have Newman, Peguero, Oneil Cruz, Nick Gonzalez, and Ji-Hwan Bae as options up the middle. Even if Cruz moves to the outfield, this still gives the Pirates a handful of options at shortstop and second base.

Obviously, the position the Pittsburgh Pirates need the most is catcher. Currently, they don’t have a backstop in their top 45 prospects. The closest are Jommer Hernandez and Geovanny Planchart, but both haven’t even reached rookie ball yet. On the Major League roster, Jacob Stallings is a top tier defensive catcher who has some potential with the bat, but he’s already 30. By 2023 when most of the Pirates’ current prospects are ready and when they’ll probably re enter competition, Stallings will be 33.

Travis Swaggerty is the team’s only top outfield prospect. But with Bryan Reynolds under control for multiple years, the possibility of him being extended, and the likelihood of the team moving one of their young middle infielders to outfield, it outfield isn’t nearly as desperate of a need as the middle infield.

A team can always use pitching. Sure they have a lot of potential future rotation and bullpen arms on the prospect list, but no team is ever going to turn down a talented young pitcher if offered to them.

In any trade, the Pirates should be looking into a catcher. Currently, there are eight, top 100 prospects who play behind the dish. But with most of them, the team is not likely going to depart with their catching prospect unless they get a good return. The Pirates are far from the only team who have a lack of long term catching depth. Most team’s aren’t about to give up a long term option at catcher for Adam Frazier alone.

But Ben Cherington will probably approach the deadline the same way he approached the draft, valuing talent over the position they play. Cherington isn’t planning for the now, acquiring MLB ready pieces like Neal Huntingdon did. He’s planning for the next 2-4 years into the future. Even if he acquires another middle infield prospect, they’re usually the most athletic players on the field. They can be moved to different positions, or if the current prospects at shortstop and second base do pan out, said prospects will be used as trade bait. Sure the Pirates should target a catcher, but talent and potential that can help them in two years or so should be above all else.