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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Honorable Mentions

Alex Cobb

Alex Cobb is coming off a season where he had a 3.87 ERA, 4.01 FIP, and 1.32 WHIP in 151.1 innings of work, the most frames he's pitched since 2018. Cobb has continued his late-career resurgence that started with the LA Angels in 2021. Cobb only comes with one year of control remaining, but it is an extremely affordable year. The SF Giants will all but certainly pick up his $10 million option for 2024. But it's not a guarantee that the Giants trade Cobb this off-season.

Kyle Freeland

I know what you're probably saying: how is a guy with an ERA over 5.00 going to help the Pirates? Despite Kyle Freeland's poor ERA, his adjusted ERA+ was league average. So far, 2019 is the only year in his career he's been a below-average pitcher per ERA+. Freeland has massive home/road splits, mainly due to him pitching in Coors Field, where fly balls go further, and fastballs work differently in the high-altitude environment because of the Magnus effect on pitches. Freeland is controlled through 2026 with a 2027 vesting option and is relatively affordable. The only thing is that the Rockies have yet to be too inclined to trade Freeland. If there were more rumors surrounding him, then he'd be in the top five.

Paul Blackburn

Paul Blackburn has slightly below league-average numbers in the last two seasons. He is a soft-contact merchant who was in above the 80th percentile of hard-hit rate, barrel rate, and exit velocity. But Blackburn was burned (no pun intended) by the Oakland Athletics' horrible defense on more than one occasion. He could prove to be a low-cost and underrated acquisition if he gets some decent defense behind him, which the Pirates have.

Jose Quintana

Jose Quintana was one of the Pirates' starters in 2022. He pitched extremely well for them before he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Johan Oviedo and Malcom Nunez. Quintana was then signed by the NY Mets this off-season on a two-year pact. The veteran lefty missed all of the first half of the year, recovering from rib surgery, but came back after the All-Star Break and was very solid. In 75.2 innings, Quintana had a 3.57 ERA, 3.52 FIP, and 1.31 WHIP. But Quintana only has one year of control remaining and is going into his age-35 campaign. Quintana is still a quality starting pitcher, though, with only one year, I'd like to see the Pirates pursue at least one other name if they were to go after Q.

Edward Cabrera

Edward Cabrera had a strong rookie campaign in 2022 but struggled with command in 2023. While he still posted about a league-average ERA and FIP and was well above average at limiting hard contact, he also walked 15.2% of opponents faced. But Cabrera will only be 26 for most of the 2023 season. The Marlins are looking to add some middle infield help, at least prior to general manager Kim Ng and the organization parting ways, and the two organizations could help each other fill much-needed depth.

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