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.
St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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Trade Targets

Alex Verdugo would have both a reasonable price tag, and fill a potential need for the Bucs. Verdugo posted about league average numbers with a .264/.324/.421 triple-slash, .322 wOBA, and 98 wRC+. Verdugo has consistently potsed strong strikeout rates, and only K’d in 15.4% of his plate appearances. His 7.5% walk rate comes in right at his career average. He also tied a career high 13 home runs. He also had a strong season with the glove with +10 DRS and +1 OAA in right field.

Harold Ramirez may seem like a familiar name because he was once a Pirates prospect. After a few mediocre seasons with the Marlins and Cleveland, Ramirez broke out in Tampa Bay. After a quality 2022 season, Ramirez followed that up with an even better 2023, batting .313/.353/.460 with a .349 wOBA, and 128 wRC+. Ramirez had just an 18.2% strikeout rate, but a poor 5.1% walk rate. But his .148 ISO and 12 home runs were career bests. Ramirez was the primary designated hitter for the Rays last year, but has experience in both corner outfield spots, as well as first base.

MJ Melendez’s MLB career has been relatively unimpressive thus far, as he’s hit just .227/.314/.396 with a 92 wRC+ since his 2022 debut. He owns a quality 11.5% walk rate, but has struck out over a quarter of the time with a 26.5% strikeout rate. But Melendez has displayed elite raw power and was in the 96th percentile of exit velocity. Melendez was moved to the outfield full time in 2023 after racking up -18 DRS and -15.7 framing runs in 2022, but his defense in the grass hasn’t been any better. Last year, he had -14 DRS and -11 OAA. In Melendez’s defense, he was once considered a consensus top 50 prospect not all that long ago, and is playing in the spacious Kauffman Stadium.

The next trade target, Max Kepler is one of my favorite. The Minnesota Twins’ stalwart right fielder hit .260/.332/.484 with a 124 wRC+ last season. Although his 21.4% strikeout rate was the worst of his career, it was still above average, as was his 9.2% walk rate. Kep also had an outstanding second half with a 154 wRC+ and OPS over .900. He has always been an outstanding defensive right field as well, and had +2 DRS and +4 OAA last year.

Jesus Sanchez turned in a breakout year for the Marlins, batting .253/.327/.450 with a 109 wRC+. Sanchez went yard 14 times in only 402 plate appearances, and had a .197 isolated slugging percentage. While he struck out 26.6%, he also had a walk rate of 9.5%. On top of that, he was a quality defender with +5 defensive runs saved and +1 OAA.

Of the trade targets, I think there are some that would be so far out of any team’s price range that it would be unreasonable to trade for them. That would be Josh Lowe of the Tampa Bay Rays, Ezequiel Duran from the Texas Rangers, Anthony Santander coming out of the Baltimore Orioles, and finally Jarred Kelenic from Seattle. Don’t get me wrong, I would love all four, but both Duran and Lowe are two years away from even being arbitration eligible. Santander may be more reasonable, as he only has one year of control remaining, but with the Orioles’ current state, I’d lean toward them either putting an insane price tag on him, or him being more of an extension candidate. Kelenic has been inconsistent throughout his MLB career, and is still another year away from arbitration.

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