The Pirates have announced that they’ve received righty Drew Hutchison from the Blue Jays in exchange for lefty Francisco Liriano, outfielder Harold Ramirez and catcher Reese McGuire. The deal comes as a shock, as the Bucs gave up two legitimate prospects in exchange for a marginal rotation option and relief from the approximately $18MM remaining on Liriano’s contract.
Liriano was a top performer in the Pirates’ rotation in 2013 through 2015, but he has struggled badly in 2016, with a 5.46 ERA and a league-leading 69 walks. The Bucs, much-praised for their reputations for fixing struggling pitchers, evidently felt they wouldn’t be able to fix Liriano, who is making $13MM both this year and next.
Hutchison, formerly a regular in the back end of the Jays’ rotation, has spent most of the 2016 season with Triple-A Buffalo, where he’s posted a 3.26 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. He’s had considerably less success in his four-year big-league career, with a 4.92 ERA, although with a reasonable 8.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. He’s making $2.2MM this season. He’s eligible for arbitration for two more years after this one, should the Pirates choose to keep him.
The 21-year-old Ramirez was batting .306/.354/.401 for Double-A Altoona. He has a stocky build and hasn’t yet developed much home-run power, but is relatively close to the Majors at a young age and has always hit well for average. MLB.com ranks him the Pirates’ ninth-best prospect.
Ramirez’s inclusion in the deal was surprising enough, but the inclusion of McGuire is downright strange — McGuire’s bat hasn’t developed, but he’s a very highly regarded defensive catcher who rated as the Pirates’ No. 8 prospect. MLB.com notes that his plus defense makes him a likely future regular, with potential to be more than just a defensive-minded player depending on how his bat develops. The 21-year-old has batted .259/.337/.346 for Altoona this season.
Overall, the deal is reminiscent of the Diamondbacks’ 2015 trade of Bronson Arroyo and top prospect Touki Toussaint to the Braves for Phil Gosselin and relief from Arroyo’s salary. The Diamondbacks’ end of that trade was harshly criticized by most analysts, and the Pirates’ end of this deal seems likely to suffer a similar fate.
Robert Murray of Fan Rag was first to tweet that a deal had been struck. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweeted that the Jays would receive two prospects. Gideon Turk of BP Toronto tweeted that Hutchison was involved, with Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noting Ramirez’s involvement.