Around the start of June each season, we begin to hear about potential trade targets throughout Major League Baseball. Unless you follow the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates, where the trade rumors kick in before Opening Day.
The Pirates entered this season after unloading Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove, and Jameson Taillon over the offseason. Pirates’ General Manager Ben Cherington insists on using the word “build” to describe their… current process of trying to become a contending team. During his building process with those players, he targeted lower-level prospects with upside who had yet to break out.
That approach is paying off so far. The Pirates have seen good returns from those deals, including the emergence of Roansy Contreras, and promise in the lower levels from Endy Rodriguez and Maikol Escotto. They’re also getting MLB results from reliever David Bednar, who was one of five players from the Musgrove trade.
I’m not sure that the Pirates will have better trade chips at the deadline than they did in the offseason. They won’t need it if they continue to focus on the lower-level players, with the scouting they displayed.
MLB Trade Rumors released the top trade candidates for the upcoming deadline. The Pirates have three of the top seven guys on the list, which is a positive for their chances at getting a good return once again. They also list Jacob Stallings as one of their top 40 trade candidates, and included a few other players in the bonus section.
Here’s a look at each player on MLBTR’s list, in their order.
5. Tyler Anderson, LHP – Anderson is an innings eater who has gone at least five innings in each of his starts. His overall season numbers are below average, with his numbers inflated by a few bad outings. He’s only given up more than four runs in three outings, and has been above-average in at least half of his starts across several metrics. A left-handed starter who can eat innings and give you above-average results half the time should land a good return, as pitchers are always in demand.
6. Adam Frazier, 2B – Frazier might end up having some of the best trade value on the team, due to his strong offensive numbers so far. His season to date is the opposite of what he normally shows. While his offensive numbers have been the best of his career so far, the defense has struggled. In previous years, Frazier had better production on defense than offense. He’s always had the contact skills to hit, but the offense has been inconsistent. It will be interesting to see how other teams value him. He shows skills on both sides of the game, but has been inconsistent throughout his career with both. Is this offensive burst going to remain through July? I think he could have a lot of value if that happens.
7. Richard Rodriguez, RHP – Rodriguez has been a solid reliever, posting a sub-2.00 ERA and FIP. He’s converted seven of nine saves as the Pirates’ closer. He’s in his age 31 season, and has two more years of team control beyond this season. The Pirates don’t necessarily have to trade Rodriguez at the deadline, though any team getting him would have a multi-year, backend reliever.
31. Jacob Stallings, C – When we talk about trade returns, the normal focus is on the prospects the team can land in return, and not what a player can do for the team going forward. With the previous guys on this list, their production for the team is straight-forward and isolated mostly to their own numbers. In the case of Jacob Stallings, the Pirates have a productive catcher who is strong defensively at working with his pitching staff. The Pirates have a lot of young pitchers to work with, now and in future years, and Stallings could have some value remaining with the team to help elevate those guys. That’s an intangible aspect of the game, and it’s difficult to say whether the Pirates can easily get the same with cheaper defensive options like Miguel Perez. The catch-22 here is that if Stallings can be easily replaced for his defense and pitcher mentoring, he probably wouldn’t be a trade candidate. I’ve been pushing Stallings as a future MLB player since almost the start of his career, simply for his defense and work with his pitching staff.
Other Candidates: Colin Moran*, Trevor Cahill*, Mitch Keller, Chris Stratton, Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault*
There are a few injured guys, though all should return before the deadline. I’d expect Cahill to be moved from this list, and possibly Moran. The inclusion of Mitch Keller here is interesting. I’d have a difficult time seeing him dealt until he gains consistency. Any team looking to add him would likely be in the same situation as the Pirates. There have been trades in the past like this, where the “building” team trades a struggling, former top prospect for another team’s former top prospect. Considering the Pirates need starting pitching for their build, I have a difficult time seeing them dealing Keller.
Who do you think the Pirates will move by the deadline? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Took a little break from First Pitch to work on a few things for an upcoming move. I talked to Pirates’ farm director John Baker this week, and will have some prospect features from that conversation hitting the site in the next week.