The Pirates’ most recent trade deadline might be the second-best of Cherington’s tenure. The Pirates only traded rental players. No player they moved is controlled beyond this season, meaning if the Pirates wanted to, they could bring back every player they traded during the upcoming off-season. Though moving rental players means you’re not going to see very many high-profile prospects get moved either.
The first move the Pirates made was trading veteran first baseman Carlos Santana to the Milwaukee Brewers. Santana was signed to a one-year deal to help fill the void at first base. Santana provided the Pirates with about league average hitting numbers, slashing .235/.321/.412 with a .319 wOBA, and 99 wRC+. Santana displayed his trademark plate discipline, only striking out 17.6% of the time with a healthy 11.5% walk rate. He also gave the Bucs some pop at first base with a .177 ISO.
But a lot of Santana’s value came with his glove. Santana might go down as the Pirates’ best defensive first baseman behind Kevin Young. In just 721.1 innings, Santana racked up +6 defensive runs saved and +2 outs above average. That’s very impressive defense, especially for a first baseman, which helped make up for his league average bat. Santana will be a finalist for the NL first base Gold Glove.
The Pirates only got one player in return for Santana, and that was infielder Jhonny Severino. A former international signee, Severino is still pretty young as he’s only in his age-18 season. Severino projects to hit for a lot of power and has a high offensive ceiling. But his position long term is still up for debate. Although he’s a shortstop now, he’s already an average runner, and by the time he fills out, could move to left field or third base. Severino draws comparisons to former Minnesota Twins’ slugger Miguel Sano.
The second trade the Pirates made involved two players. That was Rich Hill and Ji-Man Choi. Hill is the oldest player in the league at 43 years young. Like the soft-tossing lefties before him, Hill was brought in as a veteran innings eater, and he did just that. Only three of his 22 outings lasted fewer than five innings. All told, Hill pitched 119 innings, working to a 4.76 ERA, 4.41 FIP, and 1.48 WHIP. Granted, those numbers are a tad inflated by a few bad outings, like his Opening Day start, which accounts for 11.1% of his total earned runs allowed.
Choi was brought in to serve as a platoon mate for Santana over at first base. The longtime Tampa Bay Rays 1B was traded to the Bucs last off-season in exchange for Jack Hartman. Unfortunately, Choi’s tenure in Pittsburgh did not go as planned. Choi hit the injured list in just the second week of the season and didn’t return until the second week of July. However, Choi hit well in this short stretch in July, batting .268/.295/.634 with a 140 wRC+, and four homers in 44 plate appearances.
Choi and Hill were both sent to the San Diego Padres for a package of three players. One already made his Major League debut, and that was Jackson Wolf. A former 4th-round pick, Wolf is a soft-tossing lefty with a side-arm delivery. In the 88.1 innings pitched prior to the trade, Wolf had a solid 4.08 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 3.88 FIP.
Wolf has already made one start for the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate, pitching 4.2 innings, allowing just one earned run, striking out five, and allowing zero walks. Wolf has a four-pitch mix, including a four-seamer, slider, curveball, and change-up. He also has good command.
The Pirates also received another teenage prospect in Estuar Suero. Like Severino, Suero was also an international signee. The switch-hitting outfielder has some major power/speed projection. He stands at 6’5”, 185 pounds, giving him a very projectable frame. He’s also a plus runner, so he could end up in center field long-term. He’s one of the Pirates’ youngest top prospects at just 17 (won’t turn 18 until the end of this month).
The final player included in the deal was Alfonso Rivas. Although Rivas was more or less a throw-in to help the Pirates with their now lack of first base depth, he’s done pretty well since coming to Pittsburgh. He has seven hits, including two home runs, two walks, and seven strikeouts in 28 plate appearances.
It’s a little too early to tell how this deadline will work out for the Pirates in the long haul. Two of the three prospects they acquired are younger than 18. Though Wolf could potentially contribute to the team as soon as September. He’s already made his big league debut. Plus both Suero and Severino have a high ceiling, even if there is some risk between the two. Rivas may have been just a throw-in, but he has done well in his first few plate appearances for the Bucs. The Pirates went with the high-upside play here but also got back some players who could help right now.