Pittsburgh Pirates: Rule 5 Eligible Players Worth Trading

Mar 2, 2021; Sarasota, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates Cody Bolton (78) poses during media day at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carlson-USA TODAY NETWORK
Mar 2, 2021; Sarasota, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates Cody Bolton (78) poses during media day at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carlson-USA TODAY NETWORK /

The Pittsburgh Pirates will have a a whole lot of Rule 5 Draft decisions to make, but could make things easier by moving some of their eligible prospects in trades.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will have a boatload of 40-man roster decisions as they approach the Rule 5 Draft. There are plenty of very talented and promising prospects that will need to be added to the roster like Travis Swaggerty, Mason Martin, Diego Castillo, and Canaan Smith-Njigba just to name a few. I went over pretty much every noteworthy prospect that has a chance of being added to the 40-man roster a few weeks ago.

But there are some players the team will need to either DFA, release, or find a trade partner with. I think some of these players have value, and the team shouldn’t just outright let them go for nothing. If the Pirates can, they should find a potential trade for some of their Rule 5 eligible prospects or prospects who could be facing a DFA very soon.

They’ve done this before, right at the trade deadline in fact. During the deadline, they did a one-for-one swap with the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher Abrahan Guiterrez for Braeden Ogle. While Gutierrez is also Rule 5 eligible, he’ll be 22 in 2022 and hasn’t played above Low-A yet.

The Pittsburgh Pirates could probably sneak him through the draft if they left him unprotected. Though, even if they do decide to protect Gutierrez, it’s easier to make a case to protect him over Ogle.

But who are some of these prospects either on the 40-man roster or Rule 5 eligible the Pittsburgh Pirates could try and find a trade partner with? Well, the first is Jared Oliva. Oliva has had a rough 2021 season. He hasn’t done all that well in the major leagues when he was given the chance to play and only has a 95 wRC+ in an injury-shortened 187 plate appearances at Triple-A. But he did have a 124 and 123 wRC+ at High-A and Double-A in 2018 and 2019. Plus over the last month, he has a 115 wRC+, .806 OPS, and .354 wOBA.

Currently, he’s a 40+ FV prospect. Even if the Pirates can’t get any player out of him, they should try and add him into a deal involving someone like Chris Stratton or Steven Brault as a deal sweetener.

One prospect that isn’t on the 40-man roster but is Rule 5 eligible is Cody Bolton. Bolton has missed the entire 2021 season due to shoulder surgery. He struggled when he was promoted to Double-A in 2019, but he’s still considered one of the Pirate top 30 prospects by both FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline. Not bad considering the wealth of prospects in the system.

The Pittsburgh Pirates might be able to get a solid bench player or bullpen arm with some potential out of Bolton. Right now, I’d be looking at the catcher market because Michael Perez cannot be the second catcher when you have so much young pitching talent coming up through the system. Perez is at best average defensively and has shown nothing at the plate. Right now, the Pirate bullpen isn’t very stable. Outside of David Bednar, the pen has been very inconsistent, and getting an arm with some potential to put behind Bednar should also be on the Bucs’ to-do list.

Another outfield prospect who I think the Pittsburgh Pirates should try to trade if they must leave off the 40-man roster and risk losing to the Rule 5 Draft is Cal Mitchell. Mitchell has had a solid season at Double-A with a .772 OPS, .336 wOBA, and 108 wRC+.

Currently, FanGraphs ranks him as their 29th best prospect and 18th best prospect by MLB Pipeline’s standards. Given his prospect status, Mitchell would almost certainly be selected if he was left available. Again, it’s a case of it would be better to lose him for something rather than nothing if it comes to that.

The last guy I want to go over is Travis MacGregor. MacGregor was the team’s second-round pick in 2016. Once considered one of the higher end Pirate pitching prospects, MacGregor’s stock has fallen. He missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery and with no minor league season in 2020, he didn’t pitch in a pro game for 2 seasons. He returned this year with Double-A Altoona, but has just a 6.69 ERA, 5.11 FIP, and 1.55 WHIP through 79.1 innings.

Now, granted, a .335 batting average on balls in lay hasn’t helped, but those are poor numbers regardless. Though he does have a strong 13.5% line drive rate and 48.3% ground ball rate. So maybe there’s still value there the Pittsburgh Pirates can capitalize on.

Next. Best Pirate Prospects Under Age 20. dark

Oliva, Bolton, Mitchell, and MacGregor are for of the Pirates most noteworthy Rule 5 eligible prospects if they are left off the 40-man roster. Oliva would have to pass through waivers before being removed from the roster, but would probably be picked up (either in the Rule 5 or on waviers) if he was vulnerable to being selected. Both Bolton and Mitchell probably wouldn’t make it out of the draft if they were up for grabs. They could probably be able to sneak MacGregor through the draft, but trading him for anything would not only bring a potential asset, but also eliminate one less Rule 5 roster decision. If the Pittsburgh Pirates can, they should try and find a suitable trade for all four, especially Bolton, MacGregor and Oliva.