Pittsburgh Pirates: Do Not Rule Out A Chad Kuhl Trade Just Yet

Aug 14, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl (39) throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 14, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl (39) throws against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /
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It has been a busy offseason for the Pittsburgh Pirates on the trade market. So far this offseason general manager Ben Cherington has already swung a trio of major trades. These trades saw the Pittsburgh Pirates send first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals, starting pitcher Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres and starting pitcher Jameson Taillon to the New York Yankees.

While the Pittsburgh Pirates have been quiet on the trade market since the Taillon trade two weeks, odds remain high they are not done yet. There have been trade rumors swirling around second baseman Adam Frazier since last summer and it will be a surprise if he starts the season with the Pirates.

However, there is another player on the Pirate roster who is still a strong candidate to be traded. That player is starting pitcher Chad Kuhl.

In his MLB career Kuhl has posted a 4.36 ERA and a 4.45 FIP in 359.1 innings pitched across 72 games, 70 of which were starts. Last season, Kuhl posted a 4.27 ERA and a 5.48 FIP, however, while his 14.2% walk rate was a career high so was his 22.3% strikeout rate. He also struggled with the home run ball allowing home runs at a 1.55 HR/9 rate.

What was important for Kuhl was just getting on the mound. The 28-year-old righty had not pitched in a game since June 2018 due to undergoing Tommy John surgey. So, for Kuhl, just getting on the mound and being healthy was a huge step forward for him. Additionally, if you take away a disastrous outing against the Kansas City Royals in which Kuhl allowed 9 runs in 2.1 innings pitched, his 2020 ERA drops to 3.47, his walk rate drops to 12.2% and his HR/9 to 1.42.

Earlier in the offseason there were reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates were fielding trade interest in Kuhl. While those rumors have died down for now, a trade of Kuhl prior to the start of the season still should not be ruled out.

Despite his average career results teams remain intrigued by Kuhl’s potential. Last season his fastball velocity was in the 62nd percentile of baseball and his curveball spin rate was in the 80th percentile. In 2018, his fastball velocity was even higher (95.3 MPH v. 93.9 MPH) and his curveball spin rate (2901 RPM v. 2771 RPM) was also higher.

Kuhl’s slider also has the potential to be a plus pitch. In 2020 the pitch generated a 39.7% whiff rate to go wtih a spin rate of 2516 RPM. During the 2018 season the pitch generated a 41.1% whiff rate and a 2531 RPM spin rate.

So, if Kuhl were to be traded, which teams could be interested?

The first team that will come to mind for many fans is the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only were the Blue Jays connected to Kuhl last summer, they are still in need for starting pitching help and that is a farm system that Cherington knows inside and out.

Two other American League teams who are still looking for starting pitching help and could be interested in Kuhl are the Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Returning to the National League, the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks could be in search for starting pitching help as well, which could lead to interest in Kuhl.

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As Spring Training continues to approach, it appears the Pittsburgh Pirates will still swing another trade or two before the season begins. Do not rule out one of those potential trades seeing Kuhl get moved.

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