Williams: The Best Type of Addition the Pirates Could Make at the Trade Deadline

The first rumor connecting the Pirates to a player came out yesterday, with Evan Grant reporting that the Pirates were showing interest in Rangers closer Keone Kela.

Maybe the Pirates end up with Kela, and maybe they don’t. If history tells us anything, it’s that the moves the Pirates make usually come out of nowhere, while the public rumors surrounding them typically don’t lead to deals. The important takeaway is that the Pirates are looking at options as a buyer, and they’re looking at a reliever to upgrade their team.

That’s a move that makes sense. If I was picking areas where the Pirates could upgrade, then a late inning reliever and a top of the rotation starting pitcher would be the key areas.

They’ve seen struggles and inconsistent performances from areas on offense — first base, second base, third base, and right field — but I’m not sure any of those areas need to be upgraded upon right now, since all four starters at those positions have been hot lately. The one offensive spot where it might make sense to upgrade would be second base, moving Josh Harrison to a super utility role, but that’s not urgent.

I wrote in yesterday’s rumor about Kela why it makes sense for the Pirates to add a good late inning reliever. Their bullpen has been solid lately. Felipe Vazquez is one of the best relievers in the game, and pitching like it lately. Kyle Crick, Edgar Santana, and Richard Rodriguez have also been lights out lately, with Tyler Glasnow and Michael Feliz showing promise at times. If you add a guy like Kela to that group, you get a dominant bullpen that could be one of the best in the NL.

The rotation is also starting to click. Jameson Taillon is looking like a top of the rotation starter with his new approach. Joe Musgrove, Nick Kingham, and Ivan Nova have looked like solid back of the rotation guys. Trevor Williams has struggled a lot this year, but has also been stepping up a bit lately. If the Pirates added another top of the rotation type, or at least a guy better than their bottom four, then the rotation would get a nice boost as well.

The Kela rumor brings up an interesting dynamic here. He’s under control through 2020, so if the Pirates added him or someone similar, they’d not only be upgrading this team, but they’d be upgrading the teams for the next two years as well.

It doesn’t really make much sense for the Pirates to spend big for a rental to help boost a team that is currently three games out from a Wild Card spot. I think they need to add in that situation, but a lower key addition would be the better option in terms of rentals.

But if the Pirates did go big, and sent some prospects for a better addition, then it would make sense to get a guy who would be able to help out beyond the 2018 season.

This is a team that could be on the upswing. All of those bullpen options? Vazquez, Crick, Santana, and Rodriguez are all under control through 2023 or later. The rotation? Taillon and Musgrove are under control through 2022, and Kingham is under control through 2024. They’ll also have Mitch Keller expected to arrive next year, and guys like Chad Kuhl, Clay Holmes, Trevor Williams, and others to fill out the remaining spots.

The offense features either long-term starters at every position, or a young prospect ready to step up and replace a guy who is only under contract for a short time.

I’ve been saying repeatedly that the Pirates need to push toward one direction or another, whether it’s rebuild or contending. This is not a team where a rebuild is necessary. They don’t need to completely blow it all up and trade guys like Starling Marte or Felipe Vazquez. They could trade guys like Josh Harrison and Ivan Nova in the offseason and still be on an upward trend due to the replacement options they have in the system.

And because this team is on an upward trend, they’re going to have to eventually push toward adding and improving the future teams. So why not start now? Why not add a player or two who can help this year, all while helping in future years as well?

If the Pirates can make a low-key addition and get an under-the-radar rental like they’ve done in previous years (J.A. Happ, Ivan Nova), then it wouldn’t be a bad thing. But it’s hard to not dream about the short-term and long-term if they add a solid guy with years of control like Kela, or a starting pitching equivalent.

The Pirates need to add at the upcoming deadline to help their chances at this year’s Wild Card spot. It would be a nice and welcome bonus if that addition also helped their chances at contending in future years as well.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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