Mock Trade with the Philadelphia Phillies:
The Phillies would receive: SP Mitch Keller
The Pirates would receive: SP Mick Abel + OF Carlos De La Cruz + C Caleb Ricketts
Feel how you want to about the trade if you are a fan of either team, but this is what I believe to be the market for a starting pitcher of Keller's quality and with the 2 years of team control. Breaking down the trade, talks should not start without starting pitcher Mick Abel being a part of the deal.
Abel is ranked the 45th prospect in baseball according to mlb.com and would be the headline of the return that the Pirates are receiving. Abel started in 22 games last year for the Double-A affiliate Reading Fightin' Phils where he pitched to a 4.14 ERA with 126 strikeouts over 108.2 IP and an opponent batting average of .188. Abel is a big right-handed pitcher standing at 6'5'' and has a fastball that can eclipse in the upper 90s. Abel would be on the same track as Pirates top prospect RHP Paul Skenes and the two could amount to be top of line starters for the club in the future.
Outfielder Carlos De La Cruz is a super fascinating prospect in this deal. The Phillies 6th ranked prospect according to mlb.com, stands at a towering 6'8'' and has the power potential that the Pirates are lacking in their farm system. Cruz had a full season in AA in 2023 and hit for a .259 AVG with a .344 OBP, .798 OPS, and with 24 home runs. The main concern with De La Cruz's offensive game is his high strikeout rate (31.4% in 2023), but the offensive upside the 24-year-old could bring to the organization.
Catcher Caleb Ricketts rounds up the trade as more of a developmental prospect but brings solid depth at the catcher position in the organization. The number 15 prospect in the Phillies organization showed through three levels of baseball last season (ROK, A, A+) a consistently good feel for the strike zone and putting a lot of balls in play. The defense needs to be further developed, but catching depth is something that any club will never refuse to have.
Overall, I think this would be a deal that the Pirates would have to heavily consider and for a team like the Phillies, attacking the championship window that they have open now, this could bolster and strengthen their roster. Getting more high quality starting pitching in the organization is never a bad thing and the future of the Pirates rotation would project to be very strong with this deal made.
How the Pirates would pivot with their rotation if they moved Keller before the season is still up in the air. Signing at least 2 or 3 more arms would almost be necessary and maybe even trading for an arm, I hope the Pirates can build something with Mitch here because I do believe that he is a front line guy and organizations take years to get front line starters on their team, especially the Pittsburgh Pirates. Get an extension done and build a roster ready to compete!