July 28: Catcher Austin Hedges has also drawn trade interest, Heyman tweets. While the veteran backstop provides nothing on the offensive side of the game — Hedges is a career .189/.246/.323 hitter who’s batting .181/.234/.231 this year — he’s long been regarded as a premier defender at a critical position. A club looking to add a defensive-minded backup could perhaps have interest in Hedges, who’s earning $5MM this season and still has about $1.77MM of that sum still to be paid out.
Moving Hedges makes sense for a Pirates club with two of the sport’s top catching prospects, Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez, both ready for a legitimate audition in the Majors. Both are already on the big league roster, and Davis has seen some action in right field to get his bat in the lineup. A Hedges trade would clear out more playing time for each youngster. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke with Hedges yesterday about the possibility of a trade and his shift toward a mentor role for the younger Davis and Rodriguez. Both young backstops lauded Hedges for his eagerness to take them under his wing as they continue their development.
July 27: The Pirates have received some trade interest in starter Rich Hill and setup man Colin Holderman, tweets Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Hill, in particular, seems a good bet to move within the next few days.
Pittsburgh signed the 43-year-old southpaw to a one-year, $8MM free agent contract last offseason. Hill has continued to offer the kind of back-of-the-rotation production not far off that of his past few seasons. He owns a 4.82 ERA over 21 starts and 114 innings. His 19.1% strikeout rate is a bit below average, while he’s issuing walks at a roughly average 8.7% clip.
It’s not overwhelming production, but teams have valued Hill’s general stability at the back of a staff and veteran clubhouse presence. He’s been on six teams within the past five seasons, generally working at the end of a contending rotation.
For a while, the Bucs seemed as if they’d stick in the postseason picture. They’ve gone cold of late and fallen out of the mix, setting the stage for at least a moderate sell-off. Veteran first baseman Carlos Santana was shipped off to the Brewers this afternoon. Hill is in the same spot as an impending free agent who could have modest appeal to a contender. He’s due around $2.67MM from here forward.
The Pirates can set a loftier ask on Holderman. Acquired from the Mets for Daniel Vogelbach at last summer’s deadline, the right-hander has somewhat quietly developed into a quality reliever for the Bucs. He struggled down the stretch last summer but has solid numbers across the board this year.
Holderman, 27, owns a 3.71 ERA through 34 innings. His 23.3% strikeout rate is fairly typical, while he has above-average control and a quality 51.5% grounder percentage. He’s handling hitters from both sides of the plate, mixes three pitches and has picked up 15 holds in a leverage role for Pittsburgh.
That’s valuable production, and Holderman’s affordability only adds to the appeal. He surpassed one year of MLB service this season. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until after next year and is controllable through the 2028 campaign. Every contender could fit him on the books and into the middle innings, but the Bucs also have zero urgency to deal him for a suboptimal return.
Of course, the Bucs’ top potential trade candidates would be mid-rotation starter Mitch Keller and All-Star closer David Bednar. Heyman reported earlier this week the Pirates were willing to consider offers on those players. Both are under arbitration control for multiple seasons beyond this one (Keller through ’25, Bednar past ’26). The ask on each will be very high as a result, and deals seem significant long shots. Robert Murray of FanSided wrote yesterday that a Keller or Bednar trade was very unlikely, characterizing the openness to offers as standard due diligence for GM Ben Cherington and his staff.