Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Bold Trade Proposals to Address Pitching, Infield Needs

The Pittsburgh Pirates should be bold in acquiring players this off-season, and these trade proposals are certiantly that.
Sep 13, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Max Kepler (26) celebrates with
Sep 13, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Max Kepler (26) celebrates with / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
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Pirates Acquire: Griffin Canning, Brandon Drury
Angels Acquire: Thomas Harrington, Tsung-Che Cheng

The Pirates need starting pitching along with an infielder, so why not get two at once? In this trade, I have the Pirates getting RHSP Griffin Canning from the LA Angels alongside veteran power-hitting infielder Brandon Drury. In exchange, the Pirates are sending top pitching prospect Thoams Harrington and infield prospect Tsung-Che Cheng to LA.

Canning is coming off a nice rebound season, pitching to a 4.32 ERA, 4.29 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP. Those numbers might not seem too impressive, but there are a handful of positives that point to him potentially pitching better. Canning had a 25.9% K-rate and 6.7% walk rate, both of which are career bests for the righty. The right-hander's 3.86 K:BB ratio was the 23rd-best among pitchers with 120+ IP. His 1.56 HR/9 was a tad high, but a 16.1% HR/FB ratio points to some positive regression.

Canning's underlying metrics are also good. He had a 3.82 xFIP and 3.80 SIERA. He was also great after the All-Star break, working to a 3.91 ERA but 3.26 FIP and 1.28 WHIP, with a much more reasonable 1.19 HR/9 and 11.9% HR/FB ratio. He also struck out about 30% of opponents with a 30.1% strikeout rate while carrying a walk rate of just 6.2%. Canning also comes with control through 2025.

The second player going back is Brandon Drury. After winning a Silver Slugger with the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres in 2022, Drury followed that up by hitting .262/.306/.497 through 523 plate appearances. Drury went yard a total of 26 times with an ISO of .235. He was one of baseball's most underrated sluggers last season, as he ranked in the top 20 in ISO among batters with at least 500 PAs. The only real negative was his 4.8% walk rate and 26% strikeout rate.

Drury can fill either second base or first base. Last season, he played more of the keystone with -1 defensive run saved, but +5 outs above average. He graded out around league average over at first base with -1 DRS but zero outs above average. The Pirates need to fill one position or the other, and Drury gives them the option to fill either.

Thomas Harrington would not only become the best pitching prospect in the Angels' system, but he would be their best pitching prospect by far. The right-hander is coming off a season that saw him work to the tune of a 3.53 ERA, 4.00 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP. Harrington carried a quality 27.8% strikeout rate and a 7.8% walk rate while having a respectable 0.99 HR/9. Harrington also had a sub-3.00 ERA from the start of August through the end of the season.

Harrington's four-seam fastball plays above its velocity. He only throws in the 91-94 MPH range, but the pitch carries through the top of the zone and sinks at the bottom of the zone. He also throws both a good slider, the best of his two breaking pitches with above average to plus potential. However, his change-up easily has plus potential with its tumbling action. Harrington is an athletic on-mound presence who has used that athleticism to command his stuff well.

Tsung-Che Cheng would also be one of the best infield prospects in the Angels' system. The middle infielder split the year at Greensboro and Altoona. After batting above .300 with a .266 isolated slugging percentage and wRC+ over 160 at 163, Cheng was promoted to Altoona. But he struggled after getting moved up with a sub-.700 OPS, a wRC+ dropping down by over half to 80, and his walk rate dropping well below 10%.

Cheng has a great hit tool and has previously drawn walks at a high rate while posting a sub-20% strikeout rate. Cheng is a fast runner and can cover ground but gets caught stealing a lot. While he has stolen 59 bases in 2022-2023, he's also gotten caught 18 times for a success rate of 76.6%. Cheng is primarily a shortstop but played a handful of games at second base and has experience over at the hot corner.

The Angels need prospects, and the Pirates need pitching and an infielder. Harrington and Cheng automatically become two of the Angels' best prospects. Meanwhile, the Pirates get a pitcher with #2 upside for a few seasons and a power-hitting infielder who has one year of control remaining.