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 Two
Griffin Canning

Griffin Canning is coming off a nice rebound season after struggling in 2021 and missing all of 2022. Canning opened his career in 2019-2020, pitching to a 4.36 ERA, 4.35 FIP, and 1.27 WHIP in 146.2 innings. Canning also had a 24.4% strikeout rate, 8.5% walk rate, and 1.35 HR/9. But back issues caused Canning to perform poorly in '21, and the issues lingered into 2022.

Despite pitching less than 100 innings the previous two years, Canning bounced back to the tune of a 4.32 ERA, 4.29 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP. Canning's K% took a step forward to 25.9%, but his walk rate also improved to 6.7%. However, home runs were still an issue for the right-hander. He had a 1.56-per-9 rate, but there are a handful of positives that could help Canning moving forward.

The right-hander was an outstanding post-All-Star break, working to a 3.91 ERA, 3.26 FIP, and 1.28 WHIP. He was striking out a ton of batters with a 30.1% K-rate but still had a 6.2% walk rate. Canning was also better at limiting the home run. His 1.19 HR/9 rate was slightly better than the league average.

Canning had some strong peripherals under the hood in the second half as well. He clocked in with a 3.31 SIERA and 3.38 xFIP. The reason there was such a large separation between his ERA and SIERA/xFIP was because of a .346 batting average on balls in play, which was a symptom of the Angels' poor defense.

The Angels may have had +1 defensive run saved, but -20 outs above average, the third lowest mark in baseball. Their catchers also greatly struggled with framing and blocking. They combined for -12 defensive runs saved, -12.3 framing runs, and -3 blocking runs. As we discussed with Cease, the Pirates were a solid defensive team all around and were great at framing pitches.

Canning comes with multiple years of control remaining. He is controlled through arbitration in 2024 and 2025. If Canning continues to pitch the way he did in the second half of the year, he could be a 3.40-3.50 ERA pitcher. Canning has never been given a solid defense to work with, and that's an opportunity the Pirates could give him if they traded for him.