Greetings from the All Star break.
Sitting in 4th place in a throughly disappointing division the Pirates currently have a 42-47 record. What started as a promising season was quickly derailed through injury, suspension, and visa issues with the Korean government. Now the Buccos must look to shape their roster for the future, with the goal of getting a head start on competing in the 2018 season.
Their first opportunity will be the upcoming trade deadline.
At the heart of the trade discussion is face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen, in his 9th major league season, heating up after a harsh start to 2017.
The truth is it is impossible to say whether or not trading Cutch is a good or bad decision without knowing who the Pirates would get in return, making the definite opinions of fellow Pirates fans be it pro or con fairly ridiculous.
To keep McCutchen is to have your veteran leader in tact for the 2018 run, it is to keep a wary fan base appeased, it is to finally shed the small market malaise and commit to paying an icon.
The Pirates can pick up McCutchen’s $14.75 million option and have him in place for the upcoming season, allowing them the time to secure Cutch for the remainder of his career on a team friendly contract. While his best years are behind him, he still provides value. His WAR his plateaued to 2+ and while that is nowhere near the 7+ level he enjoyed in the five-year span in which he was an all-star and the 4 years in which he was a top 5 vote getter for the NL MVP it is still a solid output.
While I am not one who believes the Pirates should pay for either sentimentalism nor past performance if there ever was a scenario in which it was appropriate I would have to believe this to be it.
The counterpoint to keeping Cutch is much more based on performance and efficiency. The fact is that he is past his prime and the Pirates cannot be weighed down by his contract as they try to shape a second run to the World Series in the Huntington era. In short it makes total sense to trade McCutchen. Except this one little thing… there is really no one to trade him to.
The team most often mentioned is the Washington Nationals who showed strong interest in McCutchen over the past winter meetings. However, in trading for Adam Eaton the Nats sent most of their valuable assets to the White Sox. They also mostly eliminated their long-term need in center field.
So instead lets look at the Dodgers, the ever spending fountain of cash and prospects that currently reside atop the ultra competitive NL West. During the winter meetings the Dodgers were reported to be willing to include prospects Cody Bellinger or Jose de Leon in a package for McCutchen. Looking back having Bellinger on the team would give the Pirates a power bat in the outfield for the upcoming decade. Given his early career success it is all too likely that Bellinger is a no go in any deal for McCutchen.
However McCutchen’s ability to improve on the Dodgers main offensive weakness, their inability to hit lefties, makes him valuable. If the Pirates could land some pitching prospects and a bench outfielder maybe this would be worth looking at.
As for other teams the Yankees seem like a fit, but what would they be willing to give away being that they are technically in a rebuilding year?
The Rangers showed interest but said on the record that the Pirate asking price was far too high.
So where should we look? Perhaps the best fit is the Seattle Mariners. Fighting for a wild card spot perhaps Seattle would be willing to lose some prospects for a chance to go at it this year and deepen their outfield greatly with McCutchen.
Lets just say they were to offer RHP Andrew Moore (#4 ranked prospect), Millersville product Brandon Miller RHP (#16 ranked prospect), and Outfielder Boog Powell (4th outfielder). Would that do it?
So what would I do with Cutch in the end?
If you can’t find a package of pitchers than I would highly suggest keeping him for next year. Of course seeing him go for nothing brings back memories of the Barry Bonds departure that shipwrecked the Buccos for two decades. However times have changed, and making a solid run in 2018 may be worth the possibility that Cutch walks for nothing.
What about Gerrit Cole?
I’ll make it short, the Pirates aren’t going to trade Cole in season. Expect that move to come in December.
So if the Buccos are to keep Cutch what should they do at the deadline?
First off: David Freese, Juan Nicasio, and Tony Watson all have value and no place in our future. All three should go for pieces that can be of value next season.
David Freese to the Red Sox has been widely reported and makes total sense. If the Sox strike out on a top tier third baseman (Todd Frazier) Freese is a quality get. While some seem to believe this trade should net an undervalued prospect I feel as if this should bring back a piece for next year’s bench.
Also, if any team would give you anything for Jaso send him. He may be the best bass player from a third wave ska band to play in the majors, but he is simply in the way. Also removing him from the equation means that ol’ Clint Hurdle will start going with young guys at the end of the game to give them experience rather than letting old dread juice eat up valuable late game at bats.
What the Pirates need in return:
A leadoff hitter, an outfielder, PITCHING.
They may not be able to get what the need with what they are willing to give, but clearing the way and getting rid of dead weight could go far towards being successful next season.
Some thoughts from my dad:
Charlie B thinks that the Pirates should use the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training to turn Jose Osuna into a third baseman.
I think that Osuna is definitely a pretty solid weapon off the bench, however his defense is less than ass. Also, I feel as if he may be completely unable to slide. This makes me think that he cannot bend over to be a real third baseman.
However, if he can field the position at least near average it would give Osuna even more value. It seems clear that Osuna has earned himself a spot on the Buccos, just not at first, his real position. Maybe third base is a step in the correct decision.
Is anyone untouchable?
In reality anyone can be traded if the price is right. Looking at the current roster it seems that there are very few people who can be labeled “untouchable.” McCutchen is being actively shopped. Marte is perhaps our best position player, but has seen his value drop dramatically due to his PED suspension. Cole is never going to resign long-term given his agent and as good as Taillon is his injury past would make it hard to turn down a solid package.
That leaves just one player: Josh Bell
Switch hitting power bats don’t come along as often as one would think and the Pirates have seemed to land their first baseman of the future. This is a team that may not have had a real first baseman since Willie Stargell. Three decades of the Adam LaRoches, Brad Eldreds, and Daryle Wards of the world.
It is entirely possible that Kevin Young’s steroid years where the best by a Pirate at first base since pops left. It has most definitely been a problematic position.
So why would you trade the first real deal in a lifetime? Once again there is a price for everyone. I just feel as if it would have to be ridiculously high to get the Buccos to part ways with Bell.