Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Pirates reached an agreement with the New York Yankees on a five-player deal in which right-handed Jameson Taillon was exported to the Bronx in exchange for potential customers. Taillon is the third notable member of the 2020 Pirates to be sent elsewhere this winter. He joins first baseman Josh Bell (Washington Nationals) and right-handed Joe Musgrove (San Diego Padres) as sophomore general manager Ben Cherington continues to reshape the organization in his own image.
According to Cots’ contracts, the pirates will earn around $ 40 million on the opening day. The Pirates of 2021 are so dependent on young, cheap talent that only one player on the forecast squad has accumulated up to five years of service in the big league. Only nine other players have up to three years.
Even so, it’s fair to believe that the pirates haven’t taken any action yet. Who could be leaving Pittsburgh next? Below we’ve listed five likely candidates plus one dark horse. (Note that players are listed in order of perceived likelihood of a trade.)
Adam Frazier isn’t going to hit the ball hard very often, and he isn’t someone to play against left-handed if you want to win these competitions. He will, however, offer singles and walks against right wingers and is a capable defender either on second base or in left field. That makes him a decent little move option for a team looking to capitalize on his two remaining years of control.
Richard Rodriguez was a 28-year-old helper with five big-league appearances when the Pirates auditioned him in 2018. Since then, he’s played 159 games, hitting a 138 ERA + and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.94. Rodriguez doesn’t throw hard (150 mph in 2020), but he does have some other qualities that teams like in their pitchers have: a high spin rate, deceptive arm action, a flat release point, and a remarkable talent for missing bats. He still has three years of team control left, no need to waste them in Pittsburgh.
Chad Kuhl is kind of two years away from the freelance agency despite only making 70 starts in four major seasons. The jury remains undecided about its value. Kuhl had his best season in 2020 as judged by ERA +, but he achieved it at a reduced pace and a miserable strike-to-go ratio of 1.57. He’s a sinker through and through, resulting in pathetic swing-and-miss rates, but he still allowed more air contact than the league average. Is he a backend starter? Or is he someone who should be put in a support role where he can spam thugs with sliders? It shouldn’t take the pirates much more time to figure out the answer.
Although Colin Moran won’t turn 29 until October, we can apologize for feeling that he should be much older than his chronological age. What is behind this sensation? It’s likely the fact that he’s jumped around a lot since his draft in 2013, or possibly because his skills vaguely match the skills of old players: he’s a sub-par defender who offers some walks and some strength (albeit at a cost from strikers). Moran is best used as a draft bat, standing in an infield corner just enough times to remember the basics. That doesn’t have much value in today’s game, but it’s something a competitor in the Stretch Run could want.
Gregory Polanco, the aforementioned Bucco with a tenure of more than five years, would have qualified for a freelance agency this winter if there hadn’t been a long-term extension for the 2021 season. (It’s very unlikely his two club options will be exercised.) Polanco broke out in 2018 before injuring his shoulder late in the campaign. He has since struggled to get back in shape, culminating in a difficult-to-watch stretch of 50 games in which he was out 65 times in 157 bats. Polanco hit the ball hard, to his credit; But for his debit, he also sniffed more than 40 percent of his swings. He is currently on the mend from a broken wrist. If he can recover quickly and if he can put together a decent first half and if the pirates are ready to eat money – the dealer’s choice under which of these conditions is least likely to be met – then it could be him on the road sometime this summer.
Here is the dark horse. Nick Mears has been with the majors every four weeks, so the pirates have no financial or tenure-related incentive to move him. Other teams still have reason enough to ask about him. He’s got a few high-spin offers in his 96-mile fastball and curveball, and he’s hiding the ball from an over-the-top release. Calling him the next Nick Anderson or Pete Fairbanks is a step too far, but he’s a legitimate target for a team looking for a budding late-inning reliever before they can see that advantage.