An overseas signing that occured on Thursday could potential impact the starting pitching trade market and in turn the Pittsburgh Pirates
Right-handed pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano was expected to be one of the top starting pitchers on the free agent market this offseason. With the Pittsburgh Pirates looking to trade Joe Musgrove, as well as potentially Steven Brault, the free agent starting pitching market was one that would impact the Pirates even if they did not make any free agent signings.
Originally, Sugano was expected to sign with a MLB club. However, that is not what happened. Instead of coming to the states the talented Japanese pitcher decided to remain in Japan. On Thursday, Sugano signed a four-year $40 million contract with Yomiuri of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization.
Sugano joins a quickly growing list of free agent starting pitchers that are no longer on the market. Charlie Morton, Drew Smyly, Kevin Gausman, Mike Minor, and Robbie Ray have all signed free agent contracts this offseason. Blake Snell, Lance Lynn, Yu Darvish, and, just on Thursday, Carlos Carrasco have been moved via trade.
As teams such as the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and Toronto Blue Jays, among others, continue to search for starting pitching help teams may turn their focus to the Pittsburgh Pirates. While there has been reported interest in Brault on the trade market this offseason, the big Pirate trade chip is Musgrove.
There has been substantial smoke about Musgrove on the trade market dating back to July. As other players come off the board in both free agency and on the trade market this will only increase the interest teams have in Musgrove. In turn, this will likely increase the potential return the Pittsburgh Pirates can get as well.
Teams that were interested in Sugano could now turn their attention toward Musgrove. This could lead to a spike in Musgrove trade rumors in coming days or week. Teams who had Sugano on their board could also look to reset things before further pursuing starting pitching. Regardless, odds are, each starting pitching move that is made will impact the Musgrove trade market.
Moving forward the Pirates will continue to aggressively shop Musgrove. That said, the team does not have to move. He is still under team control through the 2022 season and if Ben Cherington can not find the exact return he wants then he will hold onto Musgrove and revisit things in July at the trade deadline.
Sugano re-signing in Japan is just the latest domino to fall on the starting pitching market. Every domino that falls makes it more and more likely that Musgrove is traded this offseason. The Musgrove trade market is one that will continue to be monitored from until the start of the regular season.