Based on multiple factors, I don't believe the Pittsburgh Pirates will trade All-Star closer David Bednar
There are rumors swirling that the Pittsburgh Pirates will listen to offers for All-Star closer David Bednar. Bednar is one of, if not the best closer in baseball right now. While the Pirates aren’t strangers to trading All-Star caliber players, I don’t think the Pirates will trade Bednar, and here’s why.
My first reason is that Bednar was part of the rebuild. The Renegade was acquired alongside Endy Rodriguez in the Joe Musgrove trade. While you typically don’t build around relief pitchers or closers, acquiring a guy in a rebuild gives the assumption that he’ll be a part of the team’s future success and long term plans.
My next reason is that, despite the Pirate struggles this summer, this team is still trending in the right direction. I am not by any means saying that the Pirates are great, or will gun for a playoff spot this year. But over the last month-plus, they’ve debuted multiple former top 100 prospects, like Quinn Priester, Henry Davis, Carmen Mlodzinski, and Nick Gonzales. The aforementioned Endy Rodriguez, one of baseball’s premier catching prospects, recently made his big league debut as well.
Plenty more are trending upward too. By the end of 2023, guys like Alika Williams, Colin Selby, Malcolm Nuñez, and Jared Jones could make their debuts. 2024 could see the arrival of Paul Skenes, Thomas Harrington, Anthony Solometo, Mike Burrows (assuming he does not suffer any major setbacks), and Braxton Ashcraft. Right now isn’t the time to trade guys with multiple years of control. If anything, it’s the time to start early extension talks, at least if you ask me.
My third reason is the Pirates are likely asking for a massive package for Bednar, and rightfully so. This offseason will be his first trip through arbitration. Plus, he’s one of the best closers in baseball, and possibly the best closer in the National League. But teams are not paying a whole lot for relief pitchers anymore.
Let’s look at last trade deadline, when the Milwaukee Brewers traded Josh Hader, another one of the league’s best 9th inning men. The San Diego Padres didn’t give up a single top-100 prospect for Hader. Granted, Hader came with less contract control, and the Brewers were also willing to take on some money.
But even if the Brewers only asked for prospects in return, and didn’t want to take on any salary, I doubt the Padres would have given up a top-100 prospect. If they did, it would have been one of their lower-end top 100 prospects.
The Pirates are likely asking for a 2016 Aroldis Chapman-like return, if not more since Chapman was a rental at the time. The Chicago Cubs had to give up a lot in exchange for the Cuban Missile. Gleyber Torres was a consensus top 20 prospects who went into 2017 as a consensus top-five prospect. Billy McKinney also was a consensus top 100 prospect, appearing in the fourth quarter of most lists. The Cubs were more willing than most teams who were looking to make deep postseason runs to trade off so much young talent, partly because of their 108 year curse at the time.
The last time a top closer with 2+ years of control remaining on their contract was traded without another big contract also being moved in the same deal was Roberto Osuna in 2018. Even then, the situation isn’t even close to comparable to Bednar now. The Toronto Blue Jays were looking to get Osuna off their roster without giving him up for free given his massive off the field issues.
The one thing I don’t want to hear is that the Pirates should trade Bednar given what happened to their last all-star closer. That is a single, extremely isolated incident. If that’s a reason for the Pirates to trade Bednar, then you could make the argument that every team should get rid of any player because the previous one was a terrible person.
I think Cherington’s words are very similar to how they approached Bryan Reynolds pre-extension. While the Pirates weren’t actively shopping him, they were keeping an open ear out for any extreme offers. Per the words of MLB Trade Rumors writer Darragh McDonald on his article on the Bednar (and in his case Mitch Keller) trade rumors, “ It would seem like Pittsburgh is taking a broad, due-diligence approach to the deadline just in case a special opportunity arises, yet moving a building-block type like Keller or Bednar would indeed require a real blockbuster of an offer.’
Let’s say the Seattle Mariners came knocking and were offering one of Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, or Bryce Miller as a headliner for Bednar, I don’t think the Pirates would turn down one of those offerings. But that’s a major assumption based on the fact all three are very young SPs, and the Mariners would be willing to part with one in order to get a relief pitcher.
My final reason is more from the heart of a fan than anything, and that's because it would be a massive blow to the fandom and the clubhouse. David Bednar is a Yinzer: he is The Renegade. Trading him isn't like trading any other player. He is the heart and soul of this pitching staff, and means a lot to the city, especially in what has been such a low recently.
Morale is at rock bottom, but trading Bednar would somehow find a way to dig below that. He's a hometown kid. While that didn't stop the Pirates from trading Neil Walker in 2015-2016, we are talking about a completely different situation.
The Pirates had multiple second base options at the time, ranging from Jordy Mercer, Jung-Ho Kang, and Josh Harrison with Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez, and Alen Hanson also on hand. The Pirates can't replace a shutdown closer, especially one as good as Bednar. If Bednar keeps up his current pace, he will set the franchise record for the lowest single-season ERA for a reliever (min. 50 IP), all while coming out of the bullpen to 'Renegade' by Styx.
Keeping an open mind and listening to offers is not the same as a team putting a player on the trading block. The Pirates made it clear pre-Reyolds extension that it was going to take a Juan Soto-like haul to pry him away, and I feel the Pirates are keeping a similar sentiment here with Bednar. If I had to put money on it, the Pirates will have Bednar going into the 2024 season. Of course, I am not Ben Cherington, nor am I close with him, so I don't know what he's thinking about doing. I could be wrong about all of this. But based on statements made, the current market, and where the organization currently is, I do not see the Pirates trading David Bednar.