Pirates Acquire: Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler
Twins Acquire: Quinn Priester
This is going to be the boldest one of today. While the Pirates need starting pitching and trading away one of their top young options might sound counter-intuitive, getting an infielder with multiple seasons of control and a power-hitting outfield option would definitely be worth it. Plus, the Minnesota Twins will be looking to acquire some pitching, as well as cut some payroll, and this trade fixes holes for both teams.
Jorge Polanco is coming off a .255/.335/.454 triple-slash, .340 wOBA, and 118 wRC+. The switch-hitting infielder hit for a career-best .199 isolated slugging percentage and drew walks in 10.5% of his plate appearances. However, he also struck out over a quarter of the time, which was the highest K% of his career thus far. While he had +1 DRS, he also had -5 OAA. Polanco could definitely hit better next season. His 13.8% barrel rate was a career-best by over 3%. He also had an impressive .486 xSLG% and .351 xwOBA.
Polanco comes with two years of control remaining. He is owed just $10.5 million next year and comes with a team option for 2025 valued at $12 million. While Polanco's defense has never been great, he's still a potential 120 wRC+ hitter with 18+ dingers at second base, along with an affordable contract.
The second player, Max Kepler, has just one year of control remaining but had his best season since 2019. The Twins' stalwart right fielder batted .260/.332/.484 with 24 home runs. His 124 wRC+ is a single-season record for him. While his 21.6% K-rate was a career-worst, it was still above average, as was his 9.3% walk rate. Kepler, like Polanco, has the potential to be better in 2024 with the stick.
He hit career highs in exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate, all by a large margin. Kepler was also great in the second half of the season. His OPS came in well over .900 at .926; meanwhile, his wRC+ clocked in at an MVP-caliber 154. He had nearly a 14% barrel rate once he returned from the All-Star break.
Kepler has always been a strong defensive right fielder, and 2023 was no different. He had +2 DRS and +4 outs above average. Sure, he has had significantly better seasons with the glove in the outfield, but that's still above-average defensive production for Kepler.
Quinn Priester had a rough month in April but then got things back on track. From the start of May through the rest of his minor league outings, Priester had just a 3.16 ERA, along with a quality 3.64 FIP and 1.26 WHIP. The right-hander had an unimpressive 10.4% walk rate, though it was his first season working with the automated strike zone, and walks across Triple-A were up. But he still managed a quality 24.9% K-rate and home run rate of just 0.51.
While Priester pitched well in the minor leagues, his first taste of big-league action did not go so well. He only pitched 50 innings but had a 7.74 ERA, 6.74 FIP, and 1.70 WHIP. While he was able to post an above-average walk rate at Triple-A, he dished out a free pass to 11.5% of opponents. His strikeout rate was just 15.4%, and after making home run suppression one of his strengths throughout the minors, he had 2.16 HR/9 in the bigs.
Priester was sent down at one point but returned to the mound in September and looked much better. After sitting 90-93 MPH in his first call-up, he was sitting closer to 93-96 MPH with his sinker. The results still weren't great, but he definitely was locating better in his second go-around with major league batters.
Priester has an outstanding curveball and a solid slider. Priester put his four-seam fastball on the backburner this season, opting to favor his sinker more often. Priester can do a good job at locating his pitches. Priester posted an above-average walk rate in a league that was still getting used to the automated strike zone.
Is this bold? Absolutely, but it gives the Twins a potential starting pitcher for 2024 and beyond, the Pirates two decent position players, one of which has just one year of control left, and the other comes with two years, and achieves the Twins' goal of cutting payroll. At the very least, Priester would be the headliner, with some other players going to Minnesota from the Pirates.