Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors: Three Teams Interested In Joe Musgrove
By Noah Wright
In a recent report by Jon Morosi, at least three teams could be in on Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting pitcher Joe Musgrove. So what could each team offer the Bucs?
A few days ago, Jon Morosi spoke on MLB Network stated that there big trade made involving starting pitching before the turn of the new year and mainly focused on Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Joe Musgrove as a potential arm to be on the move. He mentioned three teams that could be potential buyers for the right-hander’s services. Those included the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays.
Musgrove has been on the trading block for a while now. He’s coming off a career best season. While it was just 39.2 innings, Musgrove pitched to the tune of a 3.86 ERA, 3.42 FIP and 1.24 WHIP. Musgrove ranked among some of the best pitchers in hard hit rate (32.3%, top 79th percentile) and exit velocity (85.1 MPH, top 93rd percentile).
Musgrove saw a huge rise in curveball usage, which led to a 33.1% strikeout percentage and a whiff rate in the top 83rd percentile of all pitchers. He also ranked in the top 80th or better percentile in Baseball Savant’s expected stats like xBA, xSLG, xwOBA and xERA. While his walk rate did spike in 2020 to 9.6%, it was one of the few blemishes on his season.
Although Musgrove was great in the short time he pitched in 2020, he’s flashed that potential since arriving with the Pittsburgh Pirates. From 2018 to 2019, he tossed a total of 285.2 innings posting a 4.28 ERA but strong 3.72 FIP and 1.20 WHIP while walking just 5.1% of the batters he faced. He also only allowed home runs at a 1.04 per 9 rate, the 26th best among the 90 pitchers with at least 250 innings pitched in the two seasons. Impressively, Musgrove’s 4.15 K/BB ratio ranked 16th in baseball, again between the two seasons among pitchers with at least 250 IP.
Musgrove has always been seen as a great pitcher by the more advanced metrics, more specifically DRA or deserved run average. In 2018 he had a 3.43 DRA and the following season he sat at 3.59. Last year, he had a 3.64 DRA. He’s also been more valuable than many think. Since 2018, he’s averaged 3.04 fWAR per 150 innings pitched.
Out of the three teams Morosi brought up, the Blue Jays should be the least surprising. Not only have they been pointed out as a fit in a Musgrove trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but nearly acquired the right hander during 2020’s trade deadline. The trade fell through though, but it’s clear they are still in need of pitching. Currently, their rotation consists of veteran Korean southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu and top 10 prospect Nate Pearson, followed by veterans Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark and a mixture of Trent Thorton, Ross Stripling, Anthony Kay, Ryan Borucki, Tom Hatch, Shun Yamaguchi and Julian Merryweather. With their young and talented hitting core, the Jays want to bolster the pitching staff. They also have the pieces to make a big trade with six, top 100 prospects and a handful of very talented pitchers outside of just Pearson.
The Jays are the most recent team Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington left from, so the connection to the team would make them a good fit since Cherington knows what they have throughout the farm.
The Boston Red Sox are another one of Cherington’s former teams looking into Musgrove. The Red Sox could definitely use an arm like Musgrove’s in their rotation. Chris Sale will return from Tommy John surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez will be coming back from myocarditis. He sat out the season as myocarditis was an after effect from a bout with COVID-19. Flamethrowing veteran Nathan Eovaldi had a solid season, albeit in only 48 innings, but heavily struggled in 2019. Top prospect Tanner Houck looks like he could be a long term building block, however this is based on his first 17 innings in the big leagues.
There’s a decent amount of uncertainty for the Red Sox. Last year they finished 24-36 after trading MVP-caliber outfielder Mookie Betts. However it seems the Sox may still view themselves as contenders. They do have a strong line-up consisting of Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogarets, Christian Vazquez, Rafael Devers and Bobby Dalbec.
The question is whether or not the Red Sox have the pieces that would make it worth the Pittsburgh Pirates time to look into trade offers from the Sox. Their best prospect is second baseman Jeter Downs, however, they likely aren’t too keen on trading Downs given their current second base situation. Especially with the Red Sox being in need of second base help.
Their next best prospect is corner infielder Triston Casas. Casas had an outstanding year in 2019 hitting .256/.350/.480 with 20 long balls in 500 plate appearances. He’s also a plus fielder at first base. FanGraphs ranks him as the 51st best prospect in baseball while Pipeline has him at 71. If Dalbec’s short 92 plate appearances wasn’t just a fluke, then Casas may become more available in trade talks given the Sox also have Devers as another option as a corner infielder.
Either Casas or Downs would almost have to be going to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a trade involving Musgrove. However given the Red Sox’ current situation, they may be a bit hesitant to give up that large package for any player.
The Los Angeles Angels seems to be a team always in need of pitching. Last year, their offense ranked in the top 5 in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and wRC+ in the American League. However their starters posted a 5.52 ERA, 4.78 FIP and 4.96 xFIP. In all fairness, two pitchers made up for almost all of the earned runs the Angles starters surrendered. Julio Teheran alone was responsible for 21.1% of all the earned runs the Angles’ starters gave up. He pitched just 31.1 innings and is a free agent.
Dylan Bundy had a great season and was supported by solid campaigns from Jaime Barria, Griffing Canning and Andrew Heaney. One of the big questions going into 2021 is how will two-way star Shohei Ohtani perform after barely pitching the last two seasons? The Angles definitely need a rotation anchor, and Musgrove would fit that mold.
Although the Angles don’t have a bad farm system, it’s very top heavy. Jo Adell is a top 10 prospect in all of baseball. Adell struggled mightily in his 132 plate appearance sample size in 2020, but has less than 300 plate appearances at Double-A, and the same amount of plate appearances in the majors as to Triple-A. However, he has the potential to be a five-too player. They have another very talented outfield prospect in Brandon Marsh. Marsh ranks as the 30th best prospect by FanGraphs and 73rd best prospect by Pipeline. Marsh hit .300/.383/.428 with a 137 wRC+ at Double-A while showing solid plate discipline (11.3% walk rate, 22.3% K rate), speed (18 stolen bases, 60 speed grade) and good fielding with a strong arm.
They also have another prospect, Jordyn Adams, who ranks as the 72nd best prospect in baseball by FanGraphs, but unranked by Pipeline. Adams is a very athletic center fielder with a 80 speed grade. He’s also a great defender with a future 60 fielding grade and 50 throw grade, but an overall average hitter (50 future hit rate) with some power potential (60 raw power grade). He’s very similar to Travis Swaggerty, except he’s faster with a weaker arm.
The same issue presents itself in a trade with the Angles as it does with the Red Sox. Are the Angles willing to part with one of their high ranking prospects for Musgrove? Adell is almost completely off the table, leaving Marsh who would almost have to be the headliner in a Musgrove deal. In this case, they may be willing to part with at least one of their top outfield prospects. Obviously, centerfield is covered by the all-time talent, Mike Trout and Adell will take over in one of the corner spots eventually. It’s possible Marsh’s name isn’t completely untouchable like Adell’s probably is.
A Musgrove trade is very possible before the end of 2020. Currently, he’s one of, if not the most valuable pitcher on the trade market. He only has two years of control remaining, but very affordable years. MLB Trade Rumors projects the right hander to make less than $5 million in arbitration, which is a bargain for a 3+ fWAR pitcher.
Obviously, that should come at a decent cost in terms of prospects. After seeing what pitchers are getting on the free agent market and what the Texas Rangers were able to get back for one year of Lance Lynn, the Pirates should be able to reel in a prospect haul from one team. Whether it will be one of the three teams we talked about today will remain to be seen.