The Pittsburgh Pirates dealt both Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton last night for two young players. So how did the Bucs make out in the trade?
The Pittsburgh Pirates finally traded Jose Quintana to an unexpected team. The division rival St. Louis Cardinals swooped in and snagged the left-handed starting pitcher. In another surprising twist, the Bucs also included right-hander Chris Stratton in the deal. In return, the Bucs got two players; Johan Oviedo and Malcolm Nuñez.
Did the Pittsburgh Pirates do good in this trade, or was there more they could’ve gotten?
Johan Ovideo is the player with major league experience here. The 24-year-old right-hander has appeared in the majors each of the last three seasons. In 2020 and 2021, he mainly worked out of the starting rotation, but he seems to have found a home in the bullpen as a reliever.
In 25.1 innings pitched this season, Oviedo has a solid 3.20 ERA, 4.07 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP. He’s struck out 24.1% of batters faced while having a quality 6.5% walk rate. The issue is his HR/9, which sits at 1.42.
However, his 43.2% ground ball rate is above average, and he has a great 86 MPH opponent exit velocity and 33.8% hard-hit rate. Oviedo has an expected opponent slugging percentage of .344 compared to his actual opponent .466 slugging percentage. Given more playing time, there’s a good chance his HR/9 doesn’t hold.
Oviedo has almost become exclusively a fastball/slider pitcher. He has used his curveball 10.9% of the time but has almost entirely dropped his changeup. Oviedo’s fastball currently has an average velocity of 95.6 MPH but has less than 2300 RPM. His slider averages out at 85 MPH with 2581 RPM of spin. He throws his slider with 36.4 inches of vertical movement. FanGraphs considers these his two best pitches, grading them out as 60-grade offerings.
Malcolm Nuñez is the 21-year-old Double-A prospect the Pittsburgh Pirates got back. He automatically becomes the organization’s best first base prospect. The slugger is currently hitting .255/.360/.463 with a .366 wOBA and 110 wRC+. Nuñez has a fantastic 13.7% walk rate, but unlike Mason Martin, he has only struck out 20.3% of the time. Nuñez has had some bad luck this season with a .278 batting average on balls in play. Nuñez had a .337 BAbip and .291 batting average from 2018 through 2021.
Nunez has a high offensive ceiling. His hit tool, game power tool, and raw power tool all receive 55-grades from FanGraphs. The downside is he has to hit. Nuñez has played third base as a pro and mostly first base this season. But he’s a terrible defender at the hot corner. He’s a 30-grade runner who should only slow down as he matures, so left field isn’t an option either even though he has the arm to play third base or left field. He’s pretty much a 1B/DH-only option. FanGraphs draws the comparrison to Daniel Vogelbach in terms of the type of athlete. But as long as he isn’t Colin Moran or Josh Bell 2.0 defensively, he’ll be good enough. First base is a position where the only time bad defense is noticable is when you’re really, really bad.
I think this is a decent return for the Pirates but seems a bit light. Quintana is the big piece here, and he is having his best season since his 2016 All-Star campaign. He has a 3.50 ERA, 3.24 FIP, and 1.27 WHIP in 103 innings of work. Granted, he did have a 3.79 xFIP and 4.04 SIERA, but those are pretty much identical to his 2016 campaign. It also feels like a light return because, based on every trade so far, it’s been a seller’s market for starters. Frankie Montas gets the Oakland A’s two top 100 prospects from the New York Yankees. Luis Castillo gets the Seattle Mariners two top 100 prospects from the Seattle Mariners, including a consensus top15 prospect.
But both Montas and Castillo do come with the extra year of control left. Quintana is only controlled through this season. He’s a rental, and that automatically brings down his value. Chris Stratton doesn’t really move the needle in either direction here. He’s a middle reliever who is struggling but comes with control remaining beyond 2022. He does have a 3.61 FIP, 3.97 xFIP, and 3.80 SIERA, but none of those numbers are standout.
It’s a pretty average return, but it does fill a glaring need. The Pirate system really lacks a potential long-term answer at first base. Martin’s red flags were flashing last season, but now they’re fully glowing. He’s striking out at a career-high 37.7% rate while registering a .681 OPS, .295 wOBA, and 75 wRC+. It also helps that Nunez is at Double-A and performing well without any glaring issues. Oviedo becomes an immediate help to the bullpen, which has been struggling lately, and an improvement over Stratton. The late-inning mix of Wil Crowe, Oviedo, Yerry De Los Santos, David Bednar (potentially), and eventually Colin Holderman is a pretty decent late-inning quintet.
Bottom line: Although it is a seller’s market, it’s a good enough return and the Pirates fill a hole in the farm system.