Pittsburgh Pirates Could Try to Pursue Top Giant Catching Prospect

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Joey Bart #21 of the San Francisco Giants stands on the field during the game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on September 18, 2020 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Giants 6-0. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Joey Bart #21 of the San Francisco Giants stands on the field during the game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on September 18, 2020 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Giants 6-0. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /
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Could the Pittsburgh Pirates pry top catching prospect Joey Bart from San Francisco Giants during this upcoming deadline?

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be going into the deadline looking to add yet another big influx of talent. They have some very talented players to sell and will certainly get some calls about the likes of Adam Frazier and Richard Rodríguez. They should be very active during this deadline. By the end of it, you’re looking at a team who could catapult their farm system to the #1 ranked system in the entire sport, even above a powerhouse developer like the Tampa Bay Rays.

One team that looks like they will be buying is the San Francisco Giants. The Giants are having an extremely surprising year. They are currently 61-35 and 3 games ahead of the World Series defending Los Angeles Dodgers. Most fans were excited to watch the Dodgers and the rejuvenated San Diego Padres duke it out for first place in the National League West, but both team’s biggest threat is the Giants and their rag-tag squad of veteran players like Brandon Crawford, Johnny Cueto, Jake McGee, Brandon Belt, and Evan Longoria and other players who were picked up as essentially cast-offs like Wade LaMonte Jr., Darin Ruf, Donovan Solano, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Alex Dickerson (a former Pirate prospect), and Mike Yastrzemski.

If the Giants do end up buying, they seem to be willing to buy big. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, among the Giants’ top prospects they’d be willing to deal top catching prospect Joey Bart the most. The question I want to pose is if the Pirates would have a chance of prying the talented backstop away from the West Coast team if they got into trade talks.

It makes sense as to why the Giants would be willing to deal Joey Bart, the Giants’ 2018 first round pick, the most among their high-ranked prospects. They have plenty of young catching depth past Bart. 2020 first-round pick Patrick Bailey ranks as one of the team’s top 8 prospects. Ricardo Genoves is having a fantastic year in the minors and could climb prospect boards. Long-time backstop Buster Posey is having one of the best bounce-back seasons in MLB history. After ending his 2019 season with a sub-.700 OPS and then sitting out the following year because of COVID concerns, Posey is back with a vengeance having an OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ higher than when he won the MVP in 2012. The Giants will almost certainly either pick up his $22 million option or look to extend him for a few more years.

Bart on the other hand is already 24 and will turn 25 in December. Now don’t get age confused with talent. Bart is one of the higher-end prospects in all of baseball. FanGraphs ranks him at #65, while MLB Pipeline has him at #17. Baseball Prospectus also ranked him as their 29th best prospect. Meanwhile, Baseball America had him at #41. Generally speaking, you’re looking at a consensus top 40 prospect.

Bart has a similar hitting profile to Pittsburgh Pirates slugging shortstop Oneil Cruz. FanGraphs only sees his hit tool as a 40-grade item. However, both his game power and raw power are near-elite with 60-future grades for both. Bart has crushed it at Triple-A this year posting a strong .323/.383/.555 line while blasting 9 home runs. All told, he has a .395 wOBA and 128 wRC+. The downside is he’s striking out at a 29.4% rate and has walked in 6.5% of his 170 plate appearances. He’s also one of the best defenders behind the dish among all catching prospects with a 70-future fielding grade. He also has an above-average arm with a 55-grade. Throughout the minors, he’s caught 30% of runners trying to take an extra-base on him.

Bart is a big ask in and of itself, but can the Pirates pry him away from the Giants? Well, it depends on how much the Giants are willing to buy. The Pirates’ best trade chip is Adam Frazier. He’s been the best offensive second baseman in the game this year. He’s been average to below average with the glove this season, but between 2019 and 2020, he was one of the top 3 defenders at the position. He has some worrying underlying numbers, but overall he’s considered a 15%-20% above average hitter even if he regresses this year in terms of DRC+ (currently pins him at 116). Frazier also is controlled through 2022, so he isn’t just a rental.

Now the Giants’ second base situation hasn’t been the best. 2020 Silver Slugger winner Donovan Solano currently has a .684 OPS, .301 wOBA, and 90 wRC+. That’s a far cry from the .821 OPS, .351 wOBA, and 120 wRC+ he had in 2019-2020. Left fielder Alex Dickerson has also been struggling this year. Like Solano, Dickerson was one of the Giants’ biggest contributors with the bat in 2019-2020, posting an outstanding .913 OPS, .378 wOBA, and 139 wRC+ in 378 plate appearances. But this year, he has just a .721 OPS, .314 wOBA, and 99 wRC+.

However, the Giants have gotten some pretty good production from their small pick-ups, waiver claims, and minor league deals. The likes of Wilmer Flores, Wade LaMonte Jr., Darin Ruf, Jason Volser, and Thairo Estrada have been good stories to follow. But with the so-so performances of Solano and Dickerson with Crawford, Longoria, and Belt currently on the injured list, the Giants need a more proven bat to help them keep ahead of a still close NL West race.

To answer the question of whether or not the Pittsburgh Pirates could acquire Joey Bart, I think it’s absolutely plausible. Straight up for Frazier? Probably not. The Giants would probably want more control if it were just a one-for-one trade. Maybe if the Pirates sweeten the pot with a Cody Bolton and Ben Gamel package with Frazier, or even package their second-best trade chip and one of the best relievers on the trade market, Rodríguez with Frazier, then possibly.

But the next question to ask would it be worth it to the Pittsburgh Pirates to trade for Bart? If the Pirates were able to acquire the top catching prospect with just Frazier as the headliner, then possibly. But if it took both Rich Rod with Frazier, then it may not be worth the Pirates’ time. Bart is already a big ask, but the only way a deal that includes both Rodríguez and Frazier is if the Giants add at least one 40-40+ FV prospect like Sean Hjelle, which I don’t see the Giants willing to give up both in the same deal for the two Pirate players.

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While the Pittsburgh Pirates likely have the pieces to acquire Bart from the Giants, the Pirates probably wouldn’t want just Bart considering what they would have to give up. The Giants on the other hand would likely not want to give up more than Bart unless it was for an elite-level player.

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