As Andy Dwyer once (kind of) said: I don ?t know if the Pirates are good, and at this point I ?m too afraid to ask.
They ?ve had moments where they ?ve looked good. Really good. They ?ve also had just as many moments where they looked bad. Really bad. For every sweep of the defending champ Cubs, there ?s being swept by the last place Giants. For every walk-off, there ?s been been a blown save. For every Gatorade shower, a punch to duodenum.
Heck, I don ?t even know where the Pirates stand as you are reading this now. I wrote this on Tuesday because I had a long overdue date with Jonah Keri ?s ?The Extra 2% ? with sand between my toes. I know only one game has been played since then and now, but with how this season ?s gone, a win could have people lining up for Buctober, and a loss could have people lining up for the Steelers ? first preseason game.
So what on earth do you do at the trade deadline with a team like this? Yeah, they ?re within reach for the kid ?s table of divisions, but can they really stack up to the Dodgers or Nationals? Anything is possible in a five or seven game series, but don ?t expect a long playoff run, even if they make it.
I expect them to do what they did last year: move some major league players for guys with more team control who can help right now. They probably won ?t sell for the sake of selling (unless they are 10 games back), and even if they do, they are going to want to compete again in 2018.
All 10 of these players have been linked to a trade rumor at some point this season. Assuming they are all available, who should be shopped around, and who should they hang onto?
Tony Watson– I promise this is the last time I ?ll talk about trading Watson. I promise. Cross my heart.
Watson is in the middle of a hot streak, recording a 0.77 ERA since June 20. Good. Cash in on that, because there was a whole lot of walking on eggshells to get there. The third of an inning where he loaded the bases and left in Philly, only to escape by the skin of his teeth. His 25 pitch performance Monday against the Brewers, loading the bases and filling the count to his final batter. And those were good performances that lowered his ERA.
Watson ?s contributions as a Pirate are immense, but it ?s clearly time for a change of scenery. He isn ?t going to re-sign, especially now that he is represented by Scott Boras. The Rays and Nationals would be great fits. See what he could bring back, regardless of where they are in the standings. TRADE
Juan Nicasio– On Sunday, Pirates Prospects ? reporter Alan Saunders asked Neal Huntington in his weekly presser if Nicasio was the type of guy the organization would look to extend. Huntington shot down the question by saying they don ?t discuss extension talks. Meanwhile, the Starling Marte extension was a poorly kept secret. Interpret that any way you want.
We haven ?t seen Neal Huntington give a reliever more than a two year deal in his 10 years on the job, and I anticipate Nicasio getting a third year in free agency. Obviously that is a trend rather than a rule, but I don ?t think Nicasio is the right guy to give a big deal to. He has a -0.22 WPA this year and has been only so-so in the eighth. Perhaps he would do better as an Andrew Miller type, but he has not looked comfortable in late innings.
His 2.55 ERA and 9.35 K/9 is going to be extremely tantalizing in a reliever desperate market. They probably won ?t get a Melancon-for-Rivero overpay, but they could rob the Nationals again. TRADE
John Jaso– Jaso has done a great job bouncing back from a putrid April and has become the Pirates ? best bench bat. He would normally be the type of guy who could bring back a fringe prospect, but there is not a lot of demand for first basemen. Kevin wrote about dealing him to Los Angeles and the Yankees would be a logical landing spot, but I think they are both going to either go bigger or stick with what they have.
Jaso has turned out to be a good backup. I think they should try to re-sign him this offseason to a one year deal so they can keep a reliable lefty available to pinch-hit. DON ?T TRADE
CONTROLLED THROUGH 2018
Andrew McCutchen– Cutch is back and perhaps better than ever. It ?s no coincidence that his turnaround has coincided with the team ?s. He ?s the most important Pirate this side of Barry Bonds.
So trading him now isn ?t the right call. Even with J.D. Martinez off the table, there are plenty of other good, buy low outfielders available, such as Jay Bruce, Melky Cabrera and Seth Smith. McCutchen is the best overall player out of the bunch, but I am not expecting anyone to pay what it would take to pry him from Pittsburgh ?s clutches. DON ?T TRADE
Daniel Hudson– I think most of the trade talk for Hudson is out of frustration among the fanbase rather than genuine interest from around the league. It ?s been a rough first year in Pittsburgh, posting a 4.23 ERA, a -1.30 WPA (before Tuesday) and the worst groundball rate since his rookie season. This would be a pure salary dump, but I don ?t think the front office is/should be ready to move on from him. He has looked good in low-leverage situations, so he at the very least can be a good inning eater. If he can keep a consistent release point, he might even be the eighth inning guy they hoped they signed this offseason.
The Pirates have more intriguing relievers to potentially market. Listen to offers on them, not Hudson. DON ?T TRADE
CONTROLLED THROUGH 2019
Gerrit Cole– Cole ?s up and down year will probably keep him a Pirate. If he was pitching like an ace (HOT TAKE! HOT TAKE!), the Pirates could demand the moon from the Yankees, Astros or Rockies. But half a dozen bad outings have overshadowed his quality starts, and his volatility will probably hurt his market too much.
The only reason to even consider trading Cole is he could yield a legendary return. Even with everyone desperate for pitching, his value won ?t be maxed out. DON ?T TRADE
David Freese– According to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, Freese ?s name has been brought up by the Red Sox, who are desperate for a third baseman. Now that Marte is back, the Pirates could move Frazier to second and Harrison to third, but I think it would benefit both Frazier and Freese if they become quasi-starters for the last two months and change.
With Jung-ho Kang ?s future still uncertain, the Pirates need a caretaker third baseman. They might be able to find one this offseason, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Freese is a veteran presence and is going to be making less money next season. That ?s worth more than the fringe prospect or quad-A player he could bring back in return. DON ?T TRADE
LONG TERM ASSETS
Josh Harrison– I ?m actually very surprised Harrison ?s name didn ?t come up more in trade rumors. Harrison to Boston, more specifically, especially since they just missed out on Adam Frazier. They could make a last gasp push for J-Hay, which could lead to an overpay, but I doubt it. With three years of team control remaining, I think Harrison would be a better Winter Meetings trade candidate. DON ?T TRADE
Starling Marte– If you want to trade Marte at the deadline, your opinion is bad and you should feel bad. His value took a massive hit with the suspension, and if you want to trade him because you don ?t want a ?cheater ? on the team, I ?ve got some bad news to tell you about Francisco Cervelli (Biogenesis) and Willie Stargell (greenies).
The absolute soonest I could see Marte being traded is this offseason. For this scenario to happen, he would need to A. Play at an All-Star level down the stretch, B. Completely rebuild his trade value and bring back major league talent, and C. They keep McCutchen for 2018 or perhaps beyond. I seriously doubt two of those things will happen, let alone all three. Expect him in the 2018 opening day lineup. DON ?T TRADE
Felipe Rivero– The Bob Nightengale trade rumor generator: Dodgers/Yankees will look to get the best player from a small market team, logic be damned. I treat his Twitter like Leonard treats Teddy in Memento: ?Don ?t believe his lies. ? DON ?T TRADE. DUH