Pittsburgh Pirates: An Extremely Bold Pitcher Trade Target

The Pittsburgh Pirates will explore trade opportunities this off-season, so let's get bold and look at one, maybe unrealistic, but potential target nonetheless.
Jul 9, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove (44) throws
Jul 9, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove (44) throws / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates will likely explore the trade market, so why not go bold? Let's look at this extremely bold potential trade target for them to consider.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will explore the trade market to bolster their current roster. As of right now, they desperately need help at starting pitching. I'd like to see them get at least two reliable starters. While plenty of ways exist to fill this void, what if the Pirates go extremely bold. Based on speclation alone, former Pirates' starter Joe Musgrove could potentially have offers listened to by the San Diego Padres.

I want to preface this by saying in no way do I see this as realistic. I am baising this soley on the speculation that the Padres are looking to cut a sizeable chunk of payroll. There has yet to be a single player to be specifically named as a guy the Padres are listening to offers on, at least not yet, let alone Musgrove.

After a few solid seasons in Pittsburgh, Musgrove continued to pitch well for the Padres. Over the three seasons on the West Coast, Musgrove owns a quality 3.05 ERA, 3.62 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP. Musgrove has struck out about a quarter of the opponents he’s faced with a 25.6% strikeout rate while carrying a 6.2% walk rate and 1.06 HR/9. Underlying numbers also praise Musgrove’s body of work, as he has a 3.61 SIERA and 3.59 xFIP.

Musgrove gets strikeouts at an above-average rate but also consistently carries an above-average ability to limit hard contact. The right-hander has just an 87.2 MPH exit velocity, 34.9% hard-hit rate, and 6.3% barrel rate for San Diego. Musgrove’s most recent season was his least productive, but only because he missed time with injury.

Despite being limited to 97.1 innings, Musgrove had a 3.05 ERA, 3.59 FIP, and 1.14 WHIP. He posted a 24.3% strikeout rate, along with a 5.3% walk rate. His 0.92 HR/9 was also the best single-season rate in his career. This was the third straight season Musgrove posted an ERA below 3.20, as well as the sixth straight season with a FIP below 4.00.

Musgrove is consistent and consistently good. He also didn’t lose any velocity despite injuries. His 93.2 MPH fastball velocity was right in line with his career norm. Even though he’s getting older, and 2024 will be his age-31 campaign, Musgrove is one who has never relied too much on velocity. Even with the Pirates, he was consistently sitting 92-94 MPH. His overpowering stuff comes from spin over velocity. He’s still been able to spin his four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and cutter as good as he’s ever been able to.

But why would the Padres trade Musgrove? Where does this whole idea that the Pirates could even pursue Musgrove even come from? Well, the Padres have said that they are looking to cut payroll this offseason.

Their current play is to cut payroll down to around $200 million. As of right now, they have a payroll of just a few thousand dollars shy of $237 million. They’re guaranteed to pay at least $171 million to players right now, but that’s not factoring in arbitration-eligible players like Juan Soto, Trent Grisham, and Scott Barlow. These three project to make $45 million more in arbitration, assuming none are traded or non-tendered.

The remaining time left on Musgrove’s contract is four years, valued at $80 million across four seasons. He makes $20 million each year of the contract, which lasts through 2027. This would give the Pirates a rotation anchor for a decent amount of years for what is a very affordable price for a high-end no. 2/low end no. 1 caliber starting pitcher.

Musgrove is not directly linked in Padres trade rumors, at least not yet. But offloading his contract would save them $20 million and get them below the $200 million mark without having to part with Juan Soto or trade multiple players like Michael Wacha, Jake Cronenworth, and Ha-Seong Kim. The Padres will likely be willing to listen to offers on all their large contract players, but that doesn’t mean they’ll move them either. However if the Padres were willing to move Musgrove, the Pirates should look to try and reacquire him.

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