The Pirates appear to be preparing to deal away some veteran assets this summer, according to reporting from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. While the Bucs have obviously not yet committed to a path, Morosi tweets that the organization is “likely” to offer up some of its shorter-term players at the trade deadline.
It’s not surprising to hear that the Pittsburgh organization has begun to think about selling this summer. After a strong opening run, the club has faded fast and now sits two games under .500 and eight games back in a tough NL Central division. With three quality teams stacked ahead in the standings, it’s a bit difficult to see the Pirates staying in the hunt all season long.
Under the circumstances, says Morosi, the club plans to open the door to trades barring a sudden reversal of fortunes. Given the caveats sprinkled through the report, it’s clearly too soon to declare the Pirates a deadline “seller.” But the trend lines are all pointing in that direction, as Fangraphs’ playoff odds tracker illustrates.
We held off on including any Bucs players in our recent ranking of the top fifty trade deadline candidates. As we noted there, however, the club has a solid list of assets that it could put on the market. It’s worth checking through some of the top names to consider here, as some will likely appear on the next iteration of our top-fifty list.
There aren’t many pure rental pieces. Shortstop Jordy Mercer would be an appealing infield addition for the right contending team. Sean Rodriguez has struggled but could still turn himself into an asset given his versatility. Though his deal includes an option for 2019, corner infielder David Freese will mostly be viewed as a rental piece and could draw some interest as an experienced bench bat.
The Bucs are much more interesting when you expand the search to players that are under contract for future seasons. Veteran backstop Francisco Cervelli, a respected defender who is on fire with the bat, would make for an interesting entrant onto the trade market. He’s under contract for 2019, which increases his appeal but also his value to Pittsburgh. Similarly, righty Ivan Nova has another year to go on his deal. He isn’t thriving in the results department, but his peripherals remain quite strong and he’d be a nice addition for a team looking to add good innings to a rotation. Utilityman Josh Harrison remains a quality, versatile player who’d fit just about anywhere. His remaining two years of contract control aren’t cheap, but they come via option. And Corey Dickerson could still be of interest with another arb season left, though he has cooled of late.
There are yet more controllable pieces worth considering, too. While the Pirates would surely be hesitant to blow up their core, they’ll surely also listen if the market comes to them. Closer Felipe Vazquez is playing under an amply affordable extension, while Jameson Taillon continues to be a quality rotation piece. In both cases, the Pittsburgh front office will no doubt hold out for exceedingly high returns, if they’re really all that willing to talk at all. The same would hold true of star outfielder Starling Marte or other controllable position players, in all likelihood.
For the time being, then, it’s all guesswork as to which of those players might turn up in another uniform. Any chatter on deadline moves is surely still in the preliminary stages, if it’s really even taking place at all for a team that is still straddling the fence with ten weeks of the season in the books.