Pittsburgh Pirates: 2020 Deadline Trade Could Pay Off Long-Term

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Last season the Pittsburgh Pirates traded a struggling outfielder for international money that was used toward a prospect that could help long-term

During the 2019-2020 offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Jarrod Dyson. You probably didn’t think you’d hear that name again relating to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021. Afterall, Dyson’s performance with the Pittsburgh Pirates was atrocious.

He only appeared in 21 games for the team and took up 55 plate appearances. But during that time, he had a 7 wRC+. A 7 wRC+ means he was 93% worse than the league average hitter in 2020. He only had 8 hits, all of which were singles and just 4 walks. But Dyson was brought in for his defense, so how did he fare with the glove? Well, pretty poorly. He had -2 DRS and a -4.4 UZR/150 in 160.1 innings in the grass.

But somehow, Ben Cherington and the Pirates were able to get something out of a guy who was on pace for a -3.3 fWAR in a full season’s worth of plate appearances (600) and less productive with the bat than 14 different pitches in 2019. They were able to ship him off to the Chicago White Sox for $243,300 in international bonus pool space during the 2020 MLB trade deadline. Overall, it’s one of the Pirates’ less talked about recent trades that looks like it could pay dividends long term.

The way international bonus pool money works is that each team has a certain amount they can use towards international free agents. The White Sox didn’t really give up cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates, rather the right to spend $243,300 more on international prospects. So what was that cap space used toward?

Well it was used toward Taiwaneese right-handed pitcher Po-Yu Chen. Chen signed for just under $1 million. Chen was a fairly known international prospect as FanGraphs ranked him at #22 during their 2019 international rankings. He was also one of the top pitching prospects in the country.

Chen, who is currently just 19-years-old, has a fastball/slider/curveball mix. He’ll also throw a change-up here and there, but it’s not an offering he uses a noteworthy amount. Chen isn’t a hard thrower as his four-seamer only comes in around 88-92 MPH. His slider has 10-4 action and sits in the low-80’s. Among his two breaking balls, his slider was the sharper one. He got swings and misses outside the zone with the offering, as well as getting hitters to freeze when he did place it in the zone. Finally, his curveball comes in around the low-70’s with 11-5 break.

What Chen lacks in velocity he makes up for in command, athleticism, and pitch movement. Chen stands at 6’2″ and 187 pounds, and comes from two parents who were professional athletes. FanGraphs praised him for his easy, fast-tempoed delivery as well as stating he was the most “complete package” among pitching prospects from Taiwan. Chen has a good feel for his three offerings. FanGraphs’ projects his command as a 55, which could help his offerings play up. All three of his offerings have distinct speed. They also have decent movement, which you can see in this video here:

Here’s a perspective of his pitch movement from the backstop:

Chen has gotten his first taste of professional play this year and he’s been downright dominant. He’s pitched 14 innings in 3 starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates Florida Complex League team. In those 14 innings, he has yet to allow a walk, has struck out 19 batters, and has given up a single earned run.

Now, as was stated earlier, Chen is still only 19-years-old and won’t turn 20 until October 2. But he could at least get his first taste of action at Bradenton later this year. Chen may only have a 35+ FV ranking right now, but he could eventually develop into a higher ranking pitching prospect. Plus once he fills out and his body matures more, you may see a slight uptick in velocity where he’s working closer to the 90-94 MPH range rather than 88-92 MPH.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates getting anything out of Dyson at the time was partially a miracle on its own. Not too often do teams give up anything for a guy on pace for over -3.0 fWAR. But the fact they were able to turn what they got back for Dyson into one of the top high school pitching prospects in Taiwan who could have a bright future in the MLB is in and of itself pretty impressive.