In a normal year, we’d be wrapping up the trade deadline right now, looking at the moves made by July 31st. But this year, the deadline was moved back an extra day, giving us one more day to look forward to what the Pirates will do.
Last week, I started off by suggesting that the Pirates should trade Mark Melancon. It was a move that I thought made a lot of sense, but that I didn’t actually think they would do. And then they actually did it on Saturday afternoon. I don’t think they were going to be doing much in the post-season, even with Melancon on the roster. Instead of losing him for nothing, they got 5+ years of Felipe Rivero and a high upside prospect in Taylor Hearn. This is the type of deal that could turn out looking fantastic — much like how the original Melancon deal looked.
I don’t think the Pirates are done. In fact, I could see them having a very busy day on Monday. The following is just pure speculation and my read on the market and rumors.
First, I wouldn’t be surprised if they add a starter. I don’t think they’d pay the big prices for someone having a good season, or even pay for a guy under long-term control like Matt Moore. If that happened, I would actually be surprised. Instead, I could see them making a move similar to last year, where they add a struggling starter with some upside, and hope for the quick turnaround.
They’ve already been linked to a few of those guys, and tonight there was a (questionable) rumor that they were looking at Nathan Eovaldi. I wouldn’t put much stock in that yet, as I don’t know Mike Ortiz Jr.’s track record reporting news. But this does match rumors that the Pirates were looking at Eovaldi earlier. There was even a rumor in 2014 that didn’t pan out, where they were trying a Pedro Alvarez for Eovaldi swap with the Marlins (you’ll notice in both of those links that I’ve been high on Eovaldi for some time). So while the specifics of the latest rumor are questionable (it would make sense to deal from one of the Triple-A starters to try and get an upgrade though), I wouldn’t rule out the Eovaldi aspect, since this has been rumored multiple times.
And that totally makes sense. Eovaldi is a hard thrower — with the second best velocity among starting pitchers, behind Noah Syndergaard — who gets ground balls, a decent amount of strikeouts, limits walks, and has seen his ERA inflated this year by an unusually high HR/FB ratio (so he’d fit right in). It was only a year ago that he posted a 3.2 fWAR, and two years ago he was a 2.9 fWAR pitcher. There’s a lot of upside here, and he’s only 26 years old. If he turns it around this year, much like Happ did last year, it’s a huge boost for the Pirates and their playoff chances. If he doesn’t turn it around, they have control of him next year, with a chance to work with him over the off-season and in Spring Training, and try to get him back to his old numbers.
I’m not putting a lot of stock in that rumor yet, but this type of plan is what the Pirates should be going for. Make a high risk/high reward type move, bringing in a pitcher who might not help this year, but does have a chance to turn things around, and has a better chance to be an upgrade for next year. You get an off-season move out of the way, with a high upside guy for the current hopes of a playoff run.
I think the Pirates will add a starter. That would open the door for a starter to move. They’ve got Jon Niese and Jeff Locke in the bullpen, although Locke is scheduled to return to the rotation this week. So is Ryan Vogelsong, but if they added a starter, one of those guys would have to go, as they couldn’t both be in the bullpen after the Pirates switch back to five starters, due to the lack of bullpen space. I wouldn’t expect much from these types of deals, except maybe a lottery ticket lower level prospect.
I’m guessing the Pirates are done with their bullpen. Then again, this is the team that added Joe Blanton last year and optioned Vance Worley to Triple-A, which was a move that was hated at the time. They also brought in Joakim Soria, boosting the middle relief group.
I also wonder if they would make a move to send out John Jaso and clear space for Josh Bell. This falls along the lines of something I think they should do, rather than something I expect them to do. Jaso is better than Bell defensively right now, but has been struggling at the plate. If I felt they were serious contenders, I’d suggest keeping Jaso and using Bell as a September call-up. However, since they’ve got a low chance at contending down the stretch, I think they’d be better off giving time to Bell, and letting him get adjusted to the majors for the 2017 season.
Outside of that, anything is possible. Last year they surprised everyone with their low-key moves, claiming Joe Blanton off waivers, trading for Joakim Soria and J.A. Happ, and swapping the bad contract of Jose Tabata for Michael Morse.
We’ll see what this year holds. At the very least, I think the Pirates will have a new starting pitcher by Monday night.
**We’ll have full coverage and analysis of any moves tomorrow. Subscribe to the site to follow along, and learn about any prospects traded away or brought to the team.
**Prospect Watch: Williams, Holmes and Hinsz Highlight Sunday’s Action. All of the minor league reports, with some great starts from Gage Hinsz and Trevor Williams.
**Where Does Taylor Hearn Rank in the Pirates Top 50? We went through the ranking process to slot Hearn in our recently updated top 50.
**Pirates Recall Max Moroff, Option Steven Brault. I’d do a Book on Max Moroff, but I don’t expect him to be up for long. You should definitely read this article from Brian Peloza a few weeks ago though.
**Morning Report: Is Elvis Escobar Finally Turning Into a Prospect? John Dreker takes a look at the good numbers Escobar is putting up.