Pittsburgh Pirates: Top Five Starting Pitcher Trade Targets

These are the five starting pitchers the Pittsburgh Pirates should pursue the most.

Aug 25, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease (84) delivers a
Aug 25, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease (84) delivers a / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
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Number Three
Michael Wacha

The Pirates definitely know who Michael Wacha is. The right-hander spent seven seasons of his Major League career with the rival St. Louis Cardinals and faced him twice in the 2013 NLDS. After some middling seasons with the Cards, New York Mets, and Tampa Bay Rays, Wacha is having somewhat of a second-half career resurgence. Over the last two seasons, he has been a very solid starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres.

His last 261.2 innings have yielded a 3.27 ERA, 4.01 FIP, and 1.14 WHIP. Wacha isn't a big strikeout guy and has just a 21.3% K-rate over the last two years. But he has a quality 6.9% walk rate. His 1.14 HR/9 is also slightly better than the league average in 2023. Even though Wacha has allowed 33 home runs in these two seasons, six of them came in the final two games of 2022. If these two games do not happen, his HR/9 drops to 0.96 in 254.1 innings.

Wacha's first year on the West Coast went pretty well. He pitched 134.1 innings, the most frames he's worked in since 2017, and worked to the tune of a 3.22 ERA, 3.89 FIP, and 1.16 WHIP. Wacha's 22.4% strikeout rate was within 1% of the league average, and his 7.8% walk rate was slightly better than average. He only had a 1.0 HR/9 rate, which was another stat he was above average in. A few other positives are that Wacha was above average in exit velocity (88.1 MPH), hard-hit rate (35.5%), and barrel rate (7.3%).

The only knock you could make on Wacha is his sub-par ERA estimations. He had a 4.43 SIERA, 4.47 xFIP, and 105 DRA- (compared to a 78 ERA-). But it was the second season in a row he was able to overperform his expected numbers. In 2022, he had a 3.99 xFIP, 4.07 SIERA, and 103 DRA- (81 ERA-).

Wacha has two years of control remaining. The Padres will likely pick his option up, as $16 million is relatively cheap for a starter who has provided an ERA+ of 127 in each of the last two seasons. Even though the Padres are looking to cut salary, they'll still pick up his option and look to trade him.