This big trade with the Athletics could get the Pirates back to the postseason

The Pirates need reinforcements if they want to return to the playoffs. This trade with Oakland, could get them back to the postseason.
Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics
Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates have an extremely talented group this year. They have a top pitching staff, which could make opposing teams nervous for a series in the playoffs if the Pirates can make a push for a Wild Card spot. The part of the team that has been lacking is the offense. Only five batters have an OPS over .700, which has resulted in a disappointing lack of run-scoring.

As Pittsburgh looks to return to the postseason, the MLB trade deadline approaches. If the Pirates want to improve and have a shot to do damage in the playoffs, they need to attack the deadline. It is currently a buyers market, as many teams are in the playoff race. There are only a few teams that seem destined to be guaranteed sellers at the deadline.

One of those teams is the Oakland Athletics, who the Pirates could make a significant deal with. Pittsburgh is in dire need of a left-handed bat, as well as a consistent everyday outfielder. For that reason, JJ Bleday should be their number one target, along with reliever Lucas Erceg to bolster the bullpen.

What would the Pirates send to the Athletics in exchange for JJ Bleday and Lucas Erceg?

Bleday was the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft. He made his MLB debut in 2022 and struggled in his first two seasons. This year, he is finally breaking out as a solid major league outfielder. Last season, he was a very good defender in left field, but now has been solid in center field.

On the left side of the plate, Bleday has shown a very good bat. Through 75 games, he has a .261 average with 10 home runs and 27 RBI. He also has an OPS of .820, which includes an on-base percentage of .342 and a slugging percentage of .478. His wRC+ is great, at 136, and he has a very impressive walk rate of 10.6%. He adds a strikeout rate of just 18.5%. All of this has given him an fWAR of 2.1, tied for third best among all center fielders.

The Pirates have lacked consistent left handed bats in the lineup this season, so getting Bleday would help the offense tremendously. He also won't hit free agency until 2029, so he would come with years of team control to add to Pittsburgh's outfield depth.

In this proposed trade, the Pirates will also be targeting a bullpen arm. Their bullpen has gone through their ups and downs of 2024, but as of recently, it has started to look better. The arm Pittsburgh is targeting is Lucas Erceg, a right handed reliever who is also under contract until 2030.

Although the A's fireballing closer Mason Miller has been the hottest name as a potential trade piece, Erceg could also be a big piece to the Pirates' bullpen for years to come. This season, he has been a consistently solid arm in the Athletics bullpen. Through 25 appearances, he has a 2-2 record with an ERA of 3.96 in 25 innings pitched and has struck out 30 batters. Opponents are batting .209 against him and his WHIP is solid at 1.20. His FIP sits a 3.99, but his xFIP is at 3.29.

His fastball reaches high 90s and opponents have an expected batting average of .225 against it. His sinker reaches the same speed and is much better as opponents have a expected batting average of .156 against it. His changeup has been his worst pitch, but his main off-speed offering is his slider. That pitch has a whiff rate of 34.4% and opponents have an expected batting average of .110 against it.

The Pirates would improve big time with a trade for these two players, but it will be tough to get Oakland to trade them both. It will take a big package from Pittsburgh to make this deal happen.

Pirates/A's trade

The first prospect in this package would be right handed pitcher Bubba Chandler, who is the Pirates' No. 3 prospect and is the 64th overall prospect in baseball. The former two-way player is having a decent season in Double-A as a pitcher. He has gone through shoulder issues this season, which have inflated some of his numbers.

In 12 appearances, Chandler has a 2-5 record with an ERA of 5.13 in 40.1 innings pitched and has struck out 47 batters. Opponents are batting .227 against him and his WHIP is at 1.36. Walks are an issue for Chandler at an 11.4% rate, but he has a ton of potential with his plus fastball and solid slider.

Along with Chandler, the Pirates would send another right handed pitcher in Braxton Ashcraft, the Pirates' No. 6 prospect and an MLB-ready player. He has dominated on the mound this season in both Double-A and Triple-A but has battled injuries throughout his minor league career. He has a career high this season in innings pitched.

In 13 appearances, Ashcraft has a 3-2 record with an ERA of 3.23 in 64 innings pitched and has struck out 71 batters. Opponents are batting .232 against him and he has a 1.06 WHIP. Ashcraft could jump into the rotation with Oakland and make his debut this season.

The third prospect going to the Athletics is Jack Brannigan, the Pirates' No. 9 prospect. Brannigan is a decent prospect who is known for his glove. He also brings a decent bat with elite plate discipline.

After having a career year in 2023, Brannigan got off to a slow start. Through 49 games, Brannigan has a .220 average with seven home runs and 21 RBI. He also has an OPS of .754, which includes an on on-base percentage of .358 and a slugging percentage of .395. His wRC+ is solid at 117 and his walk percentage is great at 14%.

The last player in this trade is an outfielder on the Pirates who has struggled this season but has a lot of power upside. The Athletics would be getting Jack Suwinski in this deal. Although he hasn't been great this year, which resulted in a short stint back in Triple-A from late May to early June, he brings a lot of value with the bat that he has shown in his short career.

This season, Suwinski has posted a .174 batting average with six home runs and 18 RBI. He also has an OPS of .575, which includes an on-base percentage of .267 and a slugging percentage of .308. His wRC+ is very low at 62 and his strikeout percentage is high at 30.1%, which could make him a bench bat with potential with the A's.

A trade like this could happen, but with the years of control that these players have, it would be tough for Oakland to move them. Overall, the Pirates would lose three prospects ranked inside of their top 10, along with an outfielder with a lot of upside for two players that can help the team reach the playoffs. This may be an overpay, but if that what it costs to get to the playoffs, so be it. These two instantly improve Pittsburghs roster and will remain on the team for years to come.