The 2021 trade deadline was sort of a turning point in the rebuild. They traded off what was really the remaining parts of their core from the late-2010s. On top of that, they were still able to get some value out of the low-cost/low-profile moves they made at the time. This is by far the most active deadline the Pirates have had during Cherington’s reign.
The big trade from the Pirates’ 2021 deadline was sending infielder Adam Frazier to the San Diego Padres for three prospects. Frazier was in the midst of a career year, as he was hitting .324/.388/.448 with a 127 wRC+ at the time of the deal. Frazier also displayed good defense at second base, as well as left field. However, given he only had one more year of control left and there were some concerns about the sustainability of his season, the Pirates deal Frazier to the Padres.
The headliner was Tucupita Marcano, who at the time had skipped High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A before making his Major League debut. Marcano was generally considered a top-15 prospect in the Padres’ system at the time. Keep in mind this was before they traded C.J. Abrams. Mackenzie Gore, James Wood, Robert Hassell, or saw Ha-Seong Kim graduate prospect status.
The second piece of the Pirate return was Jack Suwinski, a power hitting outfielder in the midst of a breakout season. There was some concern about his swing and miss, though he showed off the potential to hit 25+ home runs annually with a lot of walks, as well as above-average speed and defense. The third player involved in the package was relief prospect Michell Miliano, who was more or less just a low-risk throw-in.
This trade has ended up in favor of the Bucs. Frazier struggled with the Padres and was eventually dumped to the Seattle Mariners for two players who weren’t considered top 30 prospects by most sources. Suwinski has been the most productive player in this deal, as he’s breaking out in 2023.
He’s been streaky, but he’s already hit 21 home runs on the season while providing value on the base paths, and a decent glove out in center field. Marcano’s season was cut short because of an ACL injury. However, he’s still only 23, and could still end up as a solid utility man.
The second major deal the Pirates made was sending closing pitcher Richard Rodriguez to the Atlanta Braves. Rodriguez was also in the midst of a career season, as he pitched to a 2.82 ERA, 2.60 FIP, and 0.83 WHIP, primarily working as the Bucs’ 9th inning man. There were some worrying signs, like a poor 22.8% strikeout rate, a 0.47 HR/9 despite being one of the worst pitchers in limiting hard contact and having a fly ball rate over 50% (57.5%), and a suspicious and major drop in fastball spin rate once MLB started to crack down on foreign substances on the mound.
Regardless of the concerns, the Pirates were still able to deal him to the Braves for two players. One was Bryse Wilson, a former consensus top 100 prospect who at that point had yet to really be given a chance to show what he could to in the Major Leagues. Up to that point of his career, Wilson only had 76.1 Major League innings under his belt that spanned four seasons. The second player was Ricky DeVito, an 8th round draftee who had shown off some impressive stuff, but lagged significantly behind in the command department.
Rodriguez was a disappointment for the Braves, as they likely viewed him as a potential cog in a competitive bullpen. Meanwhile, neither Wilson nor DeVito did much for the Pirates. The trade has since ended as a wash for both sides. Rodriguez was non-tendered the following offseason, Wilson struggled in his one season in Pittsburgh, then was traded to the division rival Milwaukee Brewers, and the Pirates then traded DeVito for utility man Mark Mathias, who is no longer in the organization.
This trade has really ended as a wash for both the Pirates and the Braves. Rodriguez, while he posted a solid ERA for Atlanta, also gave up six home runs in just 26 innings. Rodriguez struggled so badly in September that he was left off Atlanta’s Postseason rosters. At the end of the season, Atlanta non-tendered Rodriguez. Wilson was given the reins to a rotation spot in 2022, but struggled greatly with an ERA+ of just 75. He was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers this past off-season where he’s found a niche as a solid long relief/low-leverage arm. DeVito only spent one year with the Pirates as well, again showing some promising offerings but greatly struggling with command. He was then traded to the Texas Rangers this past winter for utility man Mark Mathias. DeVito has missed most of 2023, pitching just 22 innings.
The third noteworthy move the Pirates made was trading Tyler Anderson to the Seattle Mariners. The Pirates had signed Anderson the prior off-season to be a back-of-the-rotation innings eater, and that’s exactly what the lefty provided. In 18 starts, Anderson worked to a 4.35 ERA, 4.27 FIP, and 1.20 WHIP. He only struck out 20% of opponents and had a mediocre 1.39 HR/9 rate, however, he walked just 5.8% of batters faced. These are average to slightly below average numbers, but Anderson did what he was asked to do: go at least five innings in every start and keep the Pirates in the game most of the time. Only three of his starts saw him allow 4+ earned runs.
The Pirates originally were going to send Anderson to Philadelphia, but a trade fell through at the last minute, which prompted the Bucs to turn to the Mariners. The Pirates received two players in return. Joaquin Tejada was one of the Mariners’ most recent international signees. So far, he’s shown a decent ability to strikeout batters but has given up walks at a below-average rate.
Carter Bins was an 8th round catcher with some pop. Bins had a solid second half to 2022, but has missed most of the 2023 season and has just 30 plate appearances thus far. Anderson meanwhile continued to post slightly below-average results but gave the Mariners some more innings.
The last and final trade of note was relatively small, and that was sending lefty relief prospect Braeden Ogle to the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher Abrahan Gutierrez. Ogle struggled for the Phillies’ minor league affiliates, prompting them to release him after 2022. He then resigned with the Pirates last off-season. Gutierrez is a good fielding catcher with a solid hit tool. He was looking good at Greensboro but has since struggled at Altoona this season.
Suwinski is hard carrying this deadline. All the players in the Rodriguez trade are no longer with the respective teams involved in his original trade. The jury is still out on Marcano, Tejada and Gutierrez, however. I think Marcano still can prove to be a useful utility man, and Tejada is still so young it would be unfair to completely give up on him. Gutierrez has struggled at Altoona this season. I also doubt the Pirates view Carter Bins anything more than organizational depth at this point as well.