While the Pittsburgh Pirates will continue to be sellers ahead of today’s 6 PM ET trade deadline, their roster could still improve because of the departure of struggling veterans.
Although the Pittsburgh Pirates will continue to be sellers at the trade deadline, the major league roster could see some improvement regardless. After the deadline, there should be a handful more prospects coming up, and the team could see the departure of struggling veterans. The Major League roster might look bleak right now, but better things are on the horizon.
Hopefully, the Pittsburgh Pirates will soon recall Roansy Contreras to replace the recently traded José Quintana in the starting rotation. Going into the year, Contreras was the organization’s top pitching prospect. He’s shown a ton of talent in the major leagues, and his return to the Bucs is highly anticipated. The 22-year-old has pitched well at Triple-A as well.
The outfield should also see some improvement. If Jake Marisnick and Ben Gamel are traded, they’ll likely recall at least one of Jack Suwinski and Travis Swaggerty. Suwinski was doing solid at the major league level before his demotion, having a .716 OPS, .312 wOBA, and 101 wRC+. With his plus power and defensive prowess, Suwinski already racked up +1.2 fWAR in just 250 plate appearances. That puts him on pace for nearly 3.0 fWAR through an entire season’s worth of plate appearances. Swaggerty has been on a hot streak as of late, having a .982 OPS, .430 wOBA, and 163 wRC+ since the outset of the All-Star break. On the season, Swaggerty has a .777 OPS, .344 wOBA, and 107 wRC+.
Marisnick, although a plus fielder, has just an 81 wRC+ this year, and Gamel clocks in with a 97 wRC+. They have just a +1.0 fWAR between the two. Suwinski alone surpasses them. Both Swaggerty and Suwinski provide something this team desperately needs: power. Suwinski cranked out 14 home runs before his demotion, while Swaggerty has a .178 ISO at Triple-A between this year and 2021. The Pittsburgh Pirates rank 28th in team slugging percentage and 20th in isolated slugging percentage. Neither Marisnick nor Gamel have helped that.
If Kevin Newman is dealt, the Pirates will recall Tucupita Marcano. Marcano has destroyed minor league pitching this year to the tune of a .319/.417/.475 line, .394 wOBA, and 143 wRC+ between Indianapolis and Altoona. Ji-Hwan Bae was recently placed on the minor league IL, but he should also be on the mend for a promotion soon. Bae is hitting .297/.364/.450 with a .361 wOBA, and 118 wRC+ at Triple-A.
The Pirates might find the most improvement through addition by subtraction. If the Pirates DFA or release Yoshi Tsutsugo, that will be a massive improvement to the line-up. Yoshi is currently hitting for a historically bad .171/.249/.229 line, .221 wOBA, and 39 wRC+. He’s been 61% worse than the league average hitter this year. Josh VanMeter has done better than Tsutsugo but has still limped to a .180/.260/.293 slash, .249 wOBA, and 58 wRC+. Yoshi and Josh combine for -1.5 fWAR in 362 plate appearances. If you want to see what -1.5 fWAR in that few plate appearances looks like, you can look back at Elias Diaz’s 2019 season or Marlon Byrd’s 2004 campaign.
I know that right now, the Pittsburgh Pirates are struggling badly. But there are positives on the horizon. The Pirates can replace mid-tier veterans like Marisnick, Gamel, and Newman with Swaggerty, Suwinski, Marcano, and Bae. They can DFA both Yoshi Tsutusgo and Josh VanMeter with anyone and improve.