Gerrit Cole is dominating the trade market and evidently one of the hold ups preventing ANYTHING from happening this offseason. While real GMs take their time contemplating what to do, I’ll be creating numerous hypothetical deals teams could and should make. In this article, I’ll provide some intriguing Pirates headlines and analysis from an alternate reality.
Where the Pirates are now:
The Pirates are a puzzling team in that they seem content with mediocrity. They notoriously frugal when it comes to the free agent market. In fact, none of the current players on their roster were acquired via free agency. That being said, they are tentatively rumored to be selling players like Gerrit Cole and Andrew Mccutchen, but not considering a full rebuild. The Pirates roster is not too far from the 2015 team that won 98 games. As the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers continued to improve, the Pirates have taken a small step back since then. Ideally, the Pirates would make a few moves to try to make a push for the wild card. The team may be traumatized by the wild card game having been eliminated twice in the short time since its been introduced. This is not to say they shouldn’t make another push to have a chance at the all or nothing game, but it’s possible that they choose not to contend. The following hypothetical scenarios have been created with these factors in mind:
BREAKING: Astros acquire Gerrit Cole from the Pirates in exchange for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Derek Fisher, and Jonathan Arauz
This is one of the probable outcomes for Cole, considering there have been already been reports that “Cole to the Astros is imminent!”. Putting aside the trigger happy twitter reports, this trade would give the Astros what they want for a generous return to the Pirates. Derek Fisher is a former top prospect with some major league experience could fill a backup outfield role or develop more in the minors. Joe Musgrove could be inserted into the Pirates rotation right away, a role he wouldn’t have in Houston, and would benefit from the pitcher friendly PNC park. Colin Moran is a top third base prospect who is about major league ready, so he would be in a good position to leapfrog David Freese. Jonathan Arouz is a teenage switch hitting shortstop with lots of room to develop physically and could be a top prospect down the road.
BREAKING: Yankees acquire Gerrit Cole from the Pirates in exchange for Miguel Andujar, Domingo Acevedo, and Cody Carroll
If the Pirates decide this package from the Yankees is more intriguing than the Astros (hypothetical) offer, this would also set the Pirates up quite nicely. Miguel Andujar is a top third base prospect who is major league ready, so essentially he’s projected to be a slightly better version of Colin Moran. Domingo Acevedo is an electric pitcher with a fastball regularly touching 100 mph. He’s made great strides in his command at AA last season, so there is still a good chance he could remain a starter. Cody Carroll is another flamethrower with a nasty slider to go with it, but he’s projected to be a reliever.
BREAKING: Indians acquire Andrew Mccutchen from the Pirates in exchange for Danny Salazar, Yandy Diaz, and Ryan Merrit
There has been no indication that either of these teams have considered a trade like this, but boy would it be a fun one. The Indians would fill their right field gap with a former mvp while the Pirates fill some immediate needs of their own. Danny Salazar has had his struggles as a starter recently, but the potential is undeniably huge. It also helps that Ray Searage, the Pirates pitching coach, has a knack for resurrecting pitchers. Ryan Merritt is another lefty pitcher who could be an effective back-end starter or reliever despite not striking out many batters. Yandy Diaz is an intriguing third baseman from Cuba who didn’t get much playing time last year in Cleveland. He’s not a power hitting third baseman, but is a good pure hitter/on base player and an above average defender.
BREAKING: Pirates acquire Danny Duffy from the Royals in exchange for Austin Meadows, Mitch Keller, Chad Kuhl, Will Craig
If the Pirates decide they want to contend this season, adding Duffy would turn them into a threat. The rotation would consist of Duffy, Cole, Taillon, Nova, and probably Glasnow. Duffy, along with Cole, is one of the top pitchers on the trade market. The Pirates would likely have to unload their top position player prospect, Meadows, and pitcher prospect, Keller. Chad Kuhl is just an additional starter to send back to the Royals. Will Craig is also one of the Pirates top prospects. He’s a first baseman who was a top collegiate hitter, but the power number haven’t carried over as projected so far. This package might even be below the asking price for Duffy, but the Pirates could become a force if they somehow got this done.
Those are all the big “BREAKING NEWS” trades I put together, but there are some free agents the Pirates would be wise to sign. Here are some potential fits:
Eduardo Nunez to a 4 yr / 57 mil contract
For a team starting Jordy Mercer and David Freese on the left side of the infield, this signing would be a no-brainer. Nunez is a dynamic offensive player who doesn’t rely on power, so he would fit well in PNC. His versatility is also one of his biggest upsides. Coming off some unfortunate injury trouble to end his 2017 season, he was fortunate to not need surgery and should be ready to go for the season.
Alex Cobb to a 4 yr / 82 mil contract
Cobb looks poised to return to his pre-tommy john form based on how he closed out 2017. The reason he isn’t a 9 figure pitcher is that he doesn’t strike out many batters. Even in his prime years in 2013-14, he only struck out around 8 batters per 9 innings. The market for him is pretty competitive though, but the Pirates and Ray Searage could probably extract more value from him than most other teams, so it would be worth the medium-large price tag.
Clay Buchholz to a 1 yr / 3.5 mil contract with 2020 team option
Many of these free agent pitchers are just Ray Searage reclamation project candidates. Buchholz is notoriously frustrating because he never broke out as many expected. At this point, however, he can be signed for dirt cheap and the expectations won’t be an issue. The Phillies gave it a try last year and couldn’t do anything with him. Whoever signs him this year though wouldn’t have to pay him 13.5 mil like the Phillies did though.
Chris Tillman to a 2 yr / 15 mil contract
Another reclamation project candidate. He was the best starter in an atrocious Orioles rotation for many years, but last season was one of the worst in baseball with a 7.84 ERA. He is naturally likely to bounce back to some extent, but his value took a big hit in 2017. Now it’s time for the bargain hunter teams like the Pirates to swoop in.
John Lackey to a 1 yr / 11 mil contract with 2020 team option
Everybody likes the good ole cranky veteran player, right? He’s clearly on the decline at age 39, but was impressive with the Cubs and still appears to have the drive to compete. He could be a lite version of AJ Burnett from a few years ago.
Jason Motte to a 1 yr / 4.5 mil contract
They could use some relief help like most teams do, so they could take a chance on an old pitcher who had a sneaky good year with the Braves in 2017. Felipe Rivero needs some help in the pen.
Drew Storen to a 1 yr / 6 mil contract
Storen could be another cheap option in a market that generally favors relievers right now, so he’s another bargain pitcher for them to scoop up.
Neil Walker to a 4 yr / 45 mil contract
I saved this one for the end because I know Pirates fans miss him dearly. He’s 32 years old now, but still has put up the same stable numbers he’s put up most of his career. This would be a nice fan service signing that would also address the dismal infield situation.