The Pittsburgh Pirates looked to be in a tough position with their bullpen of late. The team recently designated Duane Underwood Jr. for assignment. Now, according to reports the Pittsburgh Pirates are trading away another piece of their bullpen. Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic, who has been covering the Bucs for 20+ years broke the news this afternoon.
According to Biertempfel, the Pittsburgh Pirates are sending relief pitcher Robert Stephenson to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for a minor-league prospect Alika Williams.
As Biertempfel notes above, Robert Stephenson has regressed from the success he had in 2022. When the Pittsburgh Pirates picked him up last year he posted a 3.38 ERA in 13 innings of work. This, along with his former top-prospect pedigree, earned him a spot in the bullpen this year. However, he came out of Spring Training hurt and has not looked the same since returning.
Coming back to the Pittsburgh Pirates is a somewhat interesting prospect. Alika Williams was a Competitive Balance A First Round Selection by the Rays in 2020. The team used their 37th overall selection on him, taking him out of Arizona State. The Rays also gave him a rather notable bonus at $1.85 million compared to the slot value of $2 million. So overall, it looks like they felt pretty good about the selection at the time.
Williams is given a 40 Future Value by Fangraphs which makes him a respectable prospect still despite the underwhelming offensive numbers. It also appears that the Pittsburgh Pirates were likely looking to move on from Stephenson. Many thought Stephenson would be designated for assignment.
That may have been the case but the Front Office may have reached out to some pitching needy teams. The Rays have gone through a lot of pitchers so far this season. Of course, it is always worrisome to see the Rays make a move for a projectable player with bad numbers. Still, this will be Stephenson's fourth team in the last 2 years and the Pirates were able to grab a top-30 prospect out of the Rays' system.