Pittsburgh Pirates: Re-Analyzing Top Pitching Trade Targets

With new rumors and transactions since our last top Pirates starting pitching trade targets article was released, let's re-analyze who should be their top targets now in late-November.

Sep 11, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow (20)
Sep 11, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow (20) / Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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Honorable Mentions

Corbin Burnes

As stated with Peralta, pretty much any veteran from the Brewers is likely to get traded. That includes ace Corbin Burnes. Burnes is coming off a down season for his standards, with a 3.39 ERA, 3.81 FIP, and 1.07 WHIP. That’s a decent downturn from the 2.71 ERA, 2.46 FIP, and 0.95 WHIP he had the two seasons prior. Burnes also saw his K% dip to 25.5% and walk rate go up to 8.4%, both of which pale in comparison to his 32.8% K% and 5.9% BB%. Still, Burnes had a great second half, is durable, and is still the same pitcher who was a certified ace in 2021-2022. But he only has one year of control remaining, and he’d take a lot to get, especially considering he’s a division rival.

Triston McKenzie

After pitching to a phenomenal 2.96 ERA, 3.59 FIP, and 0.95 WHIP in 191.1 innings in 2022, Triston McKenzie looked to secure the front end of the Guardians' rotation. Instead, he was limited to just 16 innings in 2023 due to a UCL sprain. However, McKenzie is back at full strength and looking to recapture his 2022 form. He also is controlled through the 2026 season. But because he has that much control remaining, the Guardians may not be too eager to move him just yet, unlike Bieber, who has one year remaining. There have been far fewer rumors surrounding McKenzie compared to Bieber, and at the very least, it would take a lot to pry him from the Guards right now.

Paul Blackburn

Paul Blackburn’s 4.43 ERA, 3.96 FIP, and 1.54 WHIP may not be all that impressive, but he’s playing on a team that can’t take advantage of his strongest ability: limiting hard contact. Blackburn was in the top 82nd percentile or better of exit velocity (87.2 MPH), hard-hit rate (33.2%), and barrel rate (5.8%). But the Oakland Athletics’ defense had -79 DRS and -19 OAA. This lack of defense behind him is indicated by his .351 batting average on balls in play. If he can get even an average defense behind him, you may be looking at a 3.80-3.90 ERA pitcher.

Alek Manoah

Alek Manoah was the third-place finisher in Cy Young voting in 2022, which was his encore to his outstanding 2021 rookie season. Of course, that meant expectations were sky high for Manoah going into 2023, but he pitched to just a 5.87 ERA, 6.01 FIP, and 1.74 WHIP in 87.1 innings before he was optioned to the minor leagues. But Manoah only continued to struggle in the minors and at one point, refused to go to Triple-A. Manoah has been the subject of trade rumors since then, and for the right price, I would not be upset with pursuing Manoah. But that price would have to be very, very low. While the Jays may listen to trade offers, I think it’s more likely they hold onto him for now to see if he can rebound. You’re still talking about someone who will only turn 26 in January and had an ERA+ of 157 through his first two years.

Adrian Houser

Adrian Houser is another Brewers pitcher. Last year, Houser owned a solid 4.12 ERA, 3.99 FIP, and 1.39 WHIP in 111.1 innings. Houser’s 20% strikeout rate is the best he’s had since becoming a full-time starting pitcher in 2020. But after posting a walk rate above 10% in each of the last two years, he cut that down to just 7.1% this season. Houser is only available through 2024, so he’s just a one-year rental, but a solid one at that.

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