2 bold mock trade proposals that would fix most of the issues with the Pittsburgh Pirates' roster

The Pirates should make some noise in the trade market this summer, and these two bold mock trade proposals would fix many of the issues plaguing the current roster.
May 18, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA;  Miami Marlins first baseman Josh Bell (9) celebrates after he hit a three-run home run against the New York Mets in the ninth inning at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2024; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Marlins first baseman Josh Bell (9) celebrates after he hit a three-run home run against the New York Mets in the ninth inning at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports / Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
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Marlins mock trade

The first trade fixes the hitting for the next few seasons, but the bullpen for only the rest of this year. This trade does the opposite. In this swap, I have the Pirates getting lefty reliever A.J. Puk from the Miami Marlins, along with former Pirates all-star first baseman Josh Bell. Puk is under control until the end of the 2026 season, though Bell hits free agency again after this year.

Puk’s numbers on the year aren’t good. But that’s mainly because the Marlins tried him out as a starter for the first month of the season. Puk posted some very solid numbers in 2022-2023 as a reliever, working to a 3.51 ERA, 3.64 FIP, and 1.16 WHIP. He had both a strong 29.4% K rate and 6.9% walk rate, albeit a less impressive 1.24 HR/9. Since moving back to the bullpen, Puk has seen a massive uptick in his overall ability. Stuff+ had him at 92 was a starter, but is now up to 113 as a reliever. That’s more akin to where he was in 2022-2023 at 119. 

Bell has turned in about league-average numbers on the year, batting .246/.317/.385 with a .310 wOBA and 100 wRC+. He’s not walking as often as he has in previous seasons, with just a 7.8% BB%, but he still carries a quality 18.8% K rate. Bell also had a very poor month of April. Since April 30, he owns a .833 OPS, .361 wOBA, and 133 wRC+. Bell has played DH for a good portion of this year but still sees a lot of time at first base. The switch-hitter still grades out well below average with -6 DRS and -3 OAA.

In this trade, I have the Pirates sending two of their position player prospects along with one pitching prospect. The Marlins have a lot of young pitching too with MLB Pipeline ranking six pitching prospects in their top 15, plus they already have some young and controllable arms already in the Majors, so they might be more interested in a package headlined by position players.

While Cheng’s overall numbers aren’t great, he has done much better since late April. Over his last 141 plate appearances, Cheng is batting a solid .250/.336/.444. He’s hitting for a decent amount of power in that span with a .194 isolated slugging percentage while also drawing walks 9.2% of the time. Strikeouts have given Cheng a bit of trouble as he has a 25.5% strikeout rate. Still, the overall hitting numbers are good, with a 121 wRC+, and he ranks as one of the top ten prospects in the Pirates system by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America.

The second prospect in this deal is outfielder/first baseman Matt Gorski. Gorski owns a .261/.306/.574 triple-slash on the season, amounting to a .366 wOBA and 113 wRC+. But Gorski has been red hot since the start of May with a .967 OPS, .395 wOBA, and 131 wRC+. Gorski has a glaring hole in his game, and that’s how often he swings and misses. His whiff rate is approaching 40%. But Gorski has well above-average defense, a great arm, and is an above-average runner. His raw power will play, even if his hit tool won’t.

The one pitcher in this package is right-haner Patrick Reilly. Reilly has a 4.26 ERA, 4.63 FIP, and 1.28 WHIP at High-A this year. Opposing batters have a hard time making contact off of him with a 30% K rate and .201 batting average, though he has struggled with limiting the long ball with a 1.24 HR/9, and his command isn’t great and has dished out a free pass to 13.1% of opponents. Reilly has a mid-90s fastball with a plus slider and solid cutter. But Reilly lacks command and a reliable third or fourth offering, making his outlook as a long-term starter sketchy. But he does project as a potential late-inning reliever.

Cheng is a top ten prospect in the Pirates’ system, while Reilly is considered a top 30 prospect by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. BA also ranks Gorski as the team’s 15th-best prospect. The main prize for the Pirates here is Puk, who is a solid lefty reliever with years of control left, but getting Bell back adds some much-needed line-up help, even if he’s nothing more than a low-cost rental.