Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining Their Trade Pieces
By Noah Wright
The Pittsburgh Pirates will enter the 2020-2021 off season with a handful of trade pieces. Who’s names could we see come up in trade rumors this off season?
So far, general manager Ben Cherington has made one large trade involving a bigger named player since taking over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He traded Starling Marte for Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone last offseason and has since been mostly focused on rebuilding the scouting and development system. However, this offseason, we could see many more trades involving players.
As of now, the Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of players who might attract some attention in the offseason. Some already have, one of which we’ll get into in a bit. Who are some names that we could see in trade rumors in the coming months?
One player who’s already gotten some attention by teams is left handed pitcher Steven Brault. Brault had a great year in 2020 having a 3.38 ERA, 3.92 FIP and 1.19 WHIP. Brault’s ERA predictors weren’t fantastic with a 4.85 xFIP, 5.07 SIERA, which aren’t far off from his career numbers (5.01 SIERA/5.04 xFIP). Still, he was in the top 95th percentile of exit velocity (85.8 MPH), 83rd percentile of barrel percentage (4.4%) and 76th percentile of hard hit rate (32.7%).
However, this is in just 42.2 innings of work. Brault showed some promise in 2019 with a 78.2 inning stretch where he had a 2.97 ERA, 3.67 FIP and 1.32 WHIP, but has been inconsistent throughout his career. From 2016 to 2019, he had a 4.88 ERA, 4.80 FIP and 1.57 WHIP. Walks were a concern at 11.3% and his 18.8% strikeout rate also didn’t help.
Depsite all of this, given his three years of control remaining, he can still be a solid back end rotation arm who isn’t owed much. Even in today’s game, those kinds of starters can go for a decent amount. Just recently, the San Francisco Giants gave Kevin Gausman a qualifying offer $18.9 million of one year, which he accepted. Robbie Ray got $8 million after having an ERA and FIP above 7, and walking 45 batters in 51.2 innings. Drew Smyly was given $11 million after a strong 26.1 innings. Brault has already gotten some attention from other teams and I’ve already went over some teams that could show some interested in the southpaw in the next few months.
Another pitcher the team will probably look into is right hander Joe Musgrove. Musgrove had a very solid 2018 and 2019. Through 285.2 innings Musgrove had a 4.28 ERA, but a 3.72 FIP, 1.20 WHIP and 5.1% walk rate. Even though home runs have been on the rise, Musgrove still had a HR/9 of just 1.04. He also put up a deserved run average below 4.00 in both seasons.
Musgrove had a fine season in 2020 pitching to the tune of a 3.86 ERA, 3.42 FIP and 1.23 WHIP. Musgrove got a lot of swing and misses. His strikeout rate in 2018-2019 was just 21.3% but spiked to 33.1%. However, his walk rate jumped to 9.6%. His home run rate sat at a solid 1.13 per 9 rate.
His exit velocity of 85.1 MPH sat in the top 93rd percentile in all of baseball. His hard hit rate of 32.3% also was well above average in the top 79th percentile. The righty was in the top 80th percentile or better in xwoBA, xERA, xSLG and xBA.
Impressively, Musgrove uses six pitches. His fastball, despite only being in the 33rd percentile of velocity, is in the top 81st percentile of spin rate. Musgrove saw a huge rise in curveball usage and his other four pitches include a slider, change up, cutter and sinker. Musgrove is affordably controlled through arbitration for the next two seasons. Starting pitching always goes for a lot. Musgrove, given his cheap control and improving results, he could fetch a decent amount in a trade.
Brault and Musgrove are going to get some attention from teams in need of starting pitching but the Pittsburgh Pirates also have a relief pitcher they could get some calls about this winter, that being right-hander Richard Rodriguez. Rodriguez had an impressive 2018 where he had a 2.47 ERA, 2.60 FIP and 1.07 WHIP in 69.1 innings. Rodriguez showed impressive strikeout stuff, getting 31.5% of the batters he faced down on strike three. Walks weren’t much of an issue with a 6.8% rate and a 0.65 HR/9.
Rodriguez struggled in 2019 and it was mainly due to the long ball. His HR/9 skyrocketed to 1.93 and his walk rate rose to 8.1%. While his walk percentage wasn’t awful, his strikeout rate fell all the way to 22.1%.
Last year, Rich Rod bounced back putting up a strong performance. In 23.1 innings, Rodriguez had a 2.70 ERA, 2.85 FIP and 0.86 WHIP. His strikeout rate rose back above 30% to a strong 36.6% and his HR/9 fell to 1.16. Walks became a non-issue at just 5.4%. Rodriguez had strong ERA estimators with a 2.40 SIERA and 2.83 xFIP.
The one issue Rodriguez had was his batted ball numbers. Rodriguez was in the bottom third and last percentile of exit velocity and hard hit rate. Though he was never a soft contact pitcher, those numbers were much better in 2018 and even 2019. Still he has control throughout the next three seasons.
In recent years, relief pitchers have been bringing back pretty notable packages. Even ones who aren’t on an elite tier, like Shane Greene, Sam Dyson and Mychal Givens all got their former teams back at least one prospect who is now in their top 10 list. Greene was only a rental at the time, while Dyson and Givens were traded when they had just a year and a half of control left.
Out of all the Pirate position players, Adam Frazier is the one they’ll likely shop the most, mainly because they have a handful of middle infielders. Frazier wasn’t so hot in 2020 hitting just .230/.297/.364 with a .291 wOBA and 81 wRC+. Frazier did do much better in the second half of the season where he posted a line of .271/.361/.402 with a 112 wRC+ and strong walk (10.6%) and strikeout (10.6%) rates.
Before 2020, Frazier has been an overall league average bat. Since his rookie season in 2016 up through 2019, he hit .279/.342/.420 with a strong 13.4% strikeout rate, but overall sitting around average with a 103 wRC+ and .327 wOBA.
However, it’s Frazier’s glove that will get most of the attention. The second baseman has been a gold glove finalist at his position in the last two years. At the keystone, Frazier has put up +3 DRS, 4.7 UZR and 2.1 range runs above average in his last 1523.2 innings. Outs above average loves him as he’s ranked very high in that defensive stat. This year he had +6 OAA which ranked 8th in all of baseball and third among any middle infielders.
He’s also a capable outfielder. In 987.1 career innings in the grass, Frazier has +9 DRS, 1.2 UZR and 2.9 range runs above average.
Not only is Frazier a plus fielder with a consistent bat, but he has two years of control left through arbitration. Recently, Marty went over potential prospects that could be in a Frazier return if the Mets, a team that might be interested in cheaper infield depth after Robinson Cano’s 162-game suspension, became interested in the infielder.
Brault, Musgrove, Rodriguez, and Frazier might be the players the Pittsburgh Pirates shop the most and get the most attention from other teams. But they do have a few other players they could cast the net to see if there is interest in them. Josh Bell had an inconsistent 2019, but was a good hitter more often than not. He struggled a fair amount in the first half of 2020 just to have a fair second half.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have stated that they want to look into a Bell extension, so they probably won’t trade him unless it’s for top dollar. Colin Moran had a solid 2020 season so he might get some interest this winter however is just entering arbitration so there is no rush on him. The Pittsburgh Pirates should be active this winter in trade rumors given all the players they have that could get some attention.