Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look At The Athletics's Free Agent And Trade Targets

The Athletic recently published an article listing potential free agent and trade targets for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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Free Agents

Both Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo were two of my favorite acquisition targets at the start of the off-season, and are still among my top two players to pursue. Wacha pitched to a 3.22 ERA, 3.89 FIP, and 1.16 WHIP in 134.1 innings, posting a 127 ERA+ for the second season in a row. While his walk rate went from 6% to 7.8%, his K% rose from 20% to 22.4%, and his HR/9 dropped from 1.27 to 1.00.

Lugo got a chance with the Padres to pitch as a starting pitcher full time for the first time in his MLB career. He tossed 146.1 innings, working to a 3.57 ERA, 3.83 FIP, and 1.20 WHIP. He had both an above average 23.2% strikeout rate and 6% walk rate. His 1.17 HR/9 rate was also slightly better than league average.

Erick Fedde would certainly be an interesting player to go after. After struggling with the Washington Nationals for years, Fedde made his way to South Korea and pitched for the NC Dinos. He tossed 180.1 innings, while pitching to a phenomenal 2.00 ERA, 2.38 FIP, and 0.95 WHIP. Fedde struck out 29.5% of the batters he faced with a 4.9% walk rate. But the most impressive part of his game was his ability to limit home runs and keep the ball on the ground. Fedde had a microscopic 0.45 HR/9 rate, while having a 70% ground ball rate. For reference, the highest tracked ground ball rate by a starting pitcher was Framber Valdez in 2021 at 70.3%, but in 134.2 innings.

Lucas Giolito would be a prime rebound candidate. The former Chicago White Sox ace had a 3.79 ERA, 4.43 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP prior to getting traded. However, after getting traded, Gioltio struggled mightily to the tune of a 6.96 ERA, 6.87 FIP, and 1.48 WHIP. While his K% only dropped from 25.8% to 25.4%, his walk rate jumped from 8.3% to 10.8%, and his HR/9 went through the roof from 1.49 to 2.98. He did have a 26.3% HR/FB ratio after the trade deadline, and from 2019 through 2021, was one of baseball’s better starting pitchers with a 3.47 ERA, 3.54 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP, while ranking top 16 in games started and innings pitched.

Mike Clevinger pitched to a 3.77 ERA, 4.28 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP. While he had a respectable 1.1 HR/9 and 7.3% walk rate, he also had a strikeout rate of just 20%. Clevinger also has only pitched 150+ innings once in his career. Plus with some off the field issues, he wouldn’t be a prime free agent to go after.

The Athletic’s list includes some decent sluggers, the first of which is Teoscar Hernandez. Hernandez batted .258/.305/.435 with a 105 wRC+ with the Seattle Mariners last season. This was a down season for Hernandez, especially considering he had a wRC+ of 130 or better in 2020-2022. Hernandez still went yard 26 times, marking the fifth straight 162 game season he hit at least 20. Hernandez’s 31.1% K-rate and 5.6% walk rate were both two of the worst rates of his career. However, his defense in right field was pretty solid, with +1 defensive run saved, +6.7 UZR/150, and zero outs above average.

Jorge Soler would bring in one of the biggest power threats in the league. Last season, Soler hit .254/.341/.512, going yard 36 times. Soler also posted a strong 11.4% walk rate, and the best K% of his career at 24.3%. Overall, he finished the season with a 126 wRC+. Soler, however, is pretty much a designated hitter-only. He saw 241.1 innings in right field, and had -5 DRS and -3 OAA in that short time.

Then there’s Rhys Hoskins, who we’ve covered plenty of times here. Hoskins, who is coming off an ACL tear that kept him out all of 2023, has been a very consistent hitter throughout his MLB career. Dating back to 2017, Hoskins has hit .242/.353/.492 with a .360 wOBA, and 126 wRC+. He has a career .250 ISO and averages 34 home runs per-650 plate appearances. Hoskins defense isn’t to die for, with -7 career DRS and -11 OAA.

Outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. rounds out the position player free agent targets. Gurriel Jr. hit .261/.309/.463 with a career high 24 home runs. Overall, he had an above average .329 wOBA, and 106 wRC+. Gurriel Jr. has always been a solid hitter throughout his career, but his glovework in left field was strong with +13 DRS and +2 OAA. 

If there were any pitching free agent targets I’d like to see the Pirates keep away from, it’s Brad Keller and Dakota Hudson. After a strong start to his MLB career in 2018-2020, Keller has now pitched to a 5.14 ERA, 4.79 FIP, and 1.63 WHIP over his last three seasons. Last year, he tossed 45.1 innings while walking (45) significantly more batters than he struck out (31). Dakota Hudson has a 4.64 ERA, 4.60 FIP, and 1.47 WHIP over 2022-2023. He has a 13% strikeout rate in these two seasons with a poor 10% walk rate. He has the 6th lowest K:BB ratio of any pitcher with 300+ MLB innings since 2010.

The two position player free agent I would advise to steer clear of is Nick Senzel and Brain Anderson. Senzel only batted .236/.297/.399 with an 83 wRC+. His 7.9% walk rate, 22.4% strikeout rate, and .163 ISO all may have been roughly league average, but he has never even once posted a wRC+ of 90 in his career. He’s also only ever once been an above replacement level player. Anderson, like Keller, had a solid start to his MLB career with a 115 wRC+from 2018 through 2020, but has only batted .231/.317/.362 with a .301 wOBA, and 88 wRC+ since then. The only value he has brought to the table is solid defense in the outfield and at third base.