The Pirates have added Martin Perez and Marco Gonzales to their rotation this winter but remain in active pursuit of at least one more starter, reports Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Bucs are in ongoing trade discussions with multiple clubs, including the Marlins, and are still showing interest in various free agents, per Mackey. FanSided’s Robert Murray also wrote this morning, after the Bucs signed Josh Fleming, that Pittsburgh is still active on both the trade and free agent markets.
Miami has reportedly entertained interest in starters Edward Cabrera, Jesus Luzardo and Braxton Garrett at various points this offseason. Ballyhooed right-hander Eury Perez, who impressed with a 3.15 ERA through 91 1/3 innings as a 20-year-old rookie in 2023, is widely considered to be off limits.
Of the other Miami arms, Cabrera has generally been considered the “most” available. The 6’5″ 25-year-old is a former top-tier prospect himself but has dealt with command troubles through his first year-plus of big league service time and has not yet as established as the other three hurlers in question. Mackey indeed suggests that Cabrera is the likeliest target, reporting that a deal between the Bucs and the Fish would likely include an infielder such as Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales or Ji Hwan Bae.
Each of those three have varying levels of trade value themselves. Peguero has garnered the most prospect fanfare of the group but struggled in a 59-game MLB debut last year, hitting .237/.280/.374 in 213 plate appearances. Gonzales is a former No. 7 overall pick and top-100 prospect, but Baseball America now lists him ninth among Pittsburgh minor leaguers. Bae is another once-well-regarded prospect but exhausted his rookie eligibility last year with a tepid .231/.296/.311 showing through 371 plate appearances. All three are middle infielders, though Gonzales and Bae are considered limited to second base (and, in Bae’s case, the outfield).
Any member of that trio would figure to be just one of several pieces going to Miami, should a deal come together. Though Cabrera himself has some questions about his lackluster command, he’s still performed far better in the majors than any of those Pittsburgh infielders, and controllable young pitching is typically the most difficult type of asset to acquire.
Since making his big league debut in 2021, Cabrera has pitched 197 2/3 innings of 4.01 ERA ball. That includes a rocky debut that lasted just 26 1/3 frames in ’21, however. Over the past two seasons, he sports a more encouraging 3.73 mark in 171 1/3 frames. Cabrera has averaged better than 96 mph on his heater, punched out an above-average 26.6% of his opponents and induced grounders at a strong 50.6% clip. Still, fielding-independent metrics are a bit more bearish on him than ERA due to his 13.7% walk rate. In that same 2022-23 window, Cabrera sports a 4.50 FIP and 4.42 SIERA.
If Cabrera can improve his command at all, he has the makings of a clear big league starter. His fastball and changeup give him a pair of above-average to plus offerings, with the change in particular befuddling lefties and thus mitigating typical platoon issues. Southpaws have flailed away at the pitch and produced a hapless .184/.291/.315 batting line in 433 plate appearances against Cabrera. Because his slider hasn’t been as consistently effective, Cabrera has struggled against right-handed opponents. They’ve hit just .231 against him but posted a huge .376 OBP and slugged .422.
Cabrera’s 1.147 years of big league service time put him on track to be arbitration-eligible as a Super Two player next winter. That’d make him arb-eligible four times rather than the standard three, but he’s under club control through the 2028 season regardless.
Beyond their interest in Miami’s starters, the Pirates have seen free agents Domingo German and Noah Syndergaard throw recently, per Mackey. Either figures to be available on a low-cost deal, and it seems entirely feasible that the Pirates could both trade for a pre-arb starter who won’t alter their payroll and still add another low-cost rotation piece on a one-year deal. Other veterans still on the market –beyond top starters Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, who are surely out of Pittsburgh’s price range — include Michael Lorenzen, Hyun Jin Ryu, Mike Clevinger and Eric Lauer.