Another trade deadline has passed, and for the fourth season in a row, the Pittsburgh Pirates were sellers at the deadline under General Manager Ben Cherington.
When Cherington took over, it was obvious that this team needed a complete tear-down rebuild, and a new focus. This week, I’m going to be evaluating the results so far from this rebuild.
That process begins today with a look at Cherington’s trade history with the Pirates. I won’t be looking at minor moves, but the ones aimed at impacting this rebuild process.
THE BIGGEST TRADE CHIPS
I’ll be breaking this article up into three sections. The first group of trades looks at guys who were expected to get a bigger return. These were the guys who the Pirates had to give their farm system a boost. It wasn’t a big group.
1/27/20: STARLING MARTE FOR LIOVER PEGUERO
The trade that started the rebuild sent Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks for Liover Peguero and right-handed pitcher Brennan Malone. Marte had two years of control remaining, and went on to sign a four year, $78 million deal in 2022.
Current Status: Peguero is now in the majors in his age-22 season. He only has 30 plate appearances this year, but has three homers in that stretch, including a big one in Tuesday night’s win. It’s too early to say what Peguero can do, but he’s got some of the best talent and upside in this system. He should be given regular playing time going forward.
Chance to Improve: Malone has dealt with injuries, and has only pitched 19 innings since the trade. This deal will rely on the production from Peguero. He’s the type of player who can singlehandedly turn this into a win. The Pirates also received international money in this deal, which allowed them to sign outfielder Solomon Maguire. I wouldn’t include him in the return, but he’s adjacent to the return.
12/24/20: JOSH BELL FOR WIL CROWE/EDDY YEAN
On Christmas eve, after not really making many moves the first season under Cherington, the Pirates traded Josh Bell to really begin their rebuild. Returning from the Washington Nationals were right-handed pitchers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean. Bell’s value was low at the time, coming off a replacement level performance.
Current Status: The Pirates designated Crowe for assignment on July 21st this year. He combined for a 5.03 ERA in 202.1 innings as a swingman pitcher. Bell followed the trade with back-to-back 1.9 fWAR years, and signed a two-year, $33 million deal last offseason.
Chance to Improve: Eddy Yeah is currently in High-A Greensboro for the second year. He has a 5.55 ERA in 35.2 innings as a reliever in his age 22 season. Outside of an extreme revival for Yean, this deal is going to go into the books as a loss.
1/19/21: THE JOE MUSGROVE TRADE
This deal might end up being the best one that Cherington made. It also was what really kicked off the rebuild. The Pirates traded Musgrove to San Diego, receiving David Bednar, Omar Cruz, Drake Fellows, and Hudson Head from the Padres. They also received Joey Lucchesi, a 27-year-old lefty pitcher at the time. He was flipped to the Mets for Endy Rodriguez, wrapping up the three team deal.
Current Status: Bednar is the closer in Pittsburgh, and one of the best in the game right now. Rodriguez has emerged as the starting catcher in Pittsburgh. Similar to Peguero, it’s very early in his MLB career, but the results have been promising.
Chance to Improve: This trade has the makings of an easy win. Bednar has been a lights out closer. Endy emerged as the top prospect in the system, and could be an essential spark in the 2024 and beyond seasons. Cruz might have a chance to make the majors as a lefty reliever, but has a 5.33 ERA in 27 innings in that role with Altoona. Fellows has been rehabbing an injury in the lower levels. Head is in his second season as an outfielder for Greensboro, and while he’s shown the best remaining potential of the group, he’s currently injured. The Pirates could get another 40-45 grade guy in this deal, but Endy/Bednar give this a chance to be an easy win.
1/24/21: THE JAMESON TAILLON TRADE
Following the Musgrove trade, the Pirates dealt Jameson Taillon to the Yankees, getting four players in return. The most notable is Roansy Contreras, who has pitched in the majors, but is currently in the FCL doing development work after struggled in the big leagues this year. They also received right-handed pitcher Miguel Yajure, outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba, and middle infielder Maikol Escotto.
Current Status: The best chances for production right now come from Contreras and Smith-Njigba. It’s only the age 23 season for Contreras, and he’s got the stuff to be a starter in the majors. In 166.1 innings in the majors, he has a 4.87 ERA. Smith-Njigba could factor into the outfield mix, with a chance to eventually developing into a role off the bench, with occasional starts.
Chance to Improve: Yajure is already gone, after combining for an 8.69 ERA in 39.1 innings. Escotto has a lot of raw power, but has yet to show an ability to hit, with a .208 average and a .266 OBP in High-A this year. He’s only 21, Contreras is 23, and Smith-Njigba is 24. This trade doesn’t look good right now, but there’s enough youth and talent to revive it, mostly from Contreras.
7/26/21: ADAM FRAZIER FOR JACK SUWINSKI
The Pirates dealt Adam Frazier to the Padres — a favorite trading spot for Cherington — getting Jack Suwinski, Tucupita Marcano, and Michell Miliano. The Pirates sold high on Fraizer, dealing him in a 3.6 WAR year. He’s followed with 1.5 WAR so far since the start of the 2022 season.
Current Status: The development of Suwinski might make this deal one of the best under Cherington. Suwinski has emerged as a starter the last two seasons, putting up a 1.7 WAR in his rookie year in 2022, and already a 2.4 WAR this season. He’s hit 40 homers in those two years, and could very well reach 30 this season. Marcano has also shown the ability to be a bench player in the majors, but is currently out for the year with a knee injury.
Chance to Improve: This trade is already a win, due to Suwinski. He’s also in his age 24 season, and continues showing signs of improvement. Marcano can give the Pirates a 45-grade bench player who can start on occasion all over the field. Miliano is pitched in High-A as a reliever in his age 23 season. He has a 3.86 ERA in 44.1 innings, with a 12.4 K/9 and a 5.3 BB/9.
11/29/21: JACOB STALLINGS FOR THREE PLAYERS
The Pirates also sold high on Jacob Stallings. Following a 2.5 WAR season where he won a Gold Glove, he was traded to the Marlins for Zach Thompson, Kyle Nicolas, and Connor Scott. He’s since been below replacement level for Miami.
Current Status: Thompson pitched 121.2 innings last year in the majors, posting a 5.18 ERA. He was released at the start of this season. Nicolas and Scott are the drivers of this deal going forward. Nicolas is currently pitching in Triple-A, showing starter potential held back by control issues. Scott is in Double-A for the second season, batting .201/.256/.328.
Chance to Improve: Nicolas and Scott could both emerge as long-term 45+ grade players in the majors. Nicolas could be a swingman pitcher and Scott could be an outfielder off the bench who can play all three spots.
TRADE CHIPS ON THE FRINGE
This group of players provided that 40-45 value range. You’re not going to get a lot in return for this level of player. The Pirates have been hit or miss so far in this level of move, with the return values being low across the board.
7/26/21: CLAY HOLMES FOR DIEGO CASTILLO/HOY PARK
The Pirates sold low on Clay Holmes, sending him to the Yankees, where he has since been a successful reliever. They received Diego Castillo and Hoy Park, who each had bench upside at the time.
Current Status: Castillo and Park aren’t in the system, and Holmes has a 2.21 ERA in 40.2 innings with the Yankees, making $3.3 million in his second year of arbitration. The Yankees have him for one more season.
Chance to Improve: None. I didn’t understand this trade then, and it makes less sense now.
7/30/21: RICHARD RODRIGUEZ FOR RICKY DEVITO/BRYSE WILSON
Richard Rodriguez had a 2.98 ERA in 196.1 innings with the Pirates across four seasons. The Pirates dealt him to the Braves for Ricky DeVito and Bryse Wilson, and he hasn’t pitched since the end of the 2021 season.
Current Status: Neither Wilson nor DeVito are in the system. The Pirates traded DeVito for Mark Mathias, lost Mathias on waivers, and Mathias was just traded again yesterday in the A.J. Pollock deal between the Giants and Mariners.
Chance to Improve: None. DeVito was a live arm with good stuff, but the Pirates used him to get a bench infielder for a few months.
7/30/21: BRAEDEN OGLE FOR ABRAHAN GUTIERREZ
The Pirates tried to get Abrahan Gutierrez in an earlier deal, which fell apart. They went back to the Phillies and swapped minor league reliever Braeden Ogle.
Current Status: Ogle and Gutierrez are both playing for Altoona right now, after the Pirates re-signed Ogle. Gutierrez is currently on the injured list.
Chance to Improve: Gutierrez has a chance to be an MLB backup catcher. Getting him for essentially nothing in the long run was a small gift.
11/18/22: KEVIN NEWMAN FOR DAURI MORETA
Signaling a future change for the middle infield, the Pirates dealt Kevin Newman last offseason for reliever Dauri Moreta. This move could make up for the loss of Holmes, with Moreta looking like he’s got the potential to be a shut down reliever.
Current Status: Moreta has a 3.50 ERA in 46.1 innings with the Pirates, along with a 12.2 K/9 and a 3.9 BB/9.
Chance to Improve: The Pirates have Moreta under team control through the 2028 season. Newman wasn’t going to be part of this team’s future, but Moreta could be a late inning reliever on the next winning team.
BUY AND TRADE
The Pirates didn’t add much to their team in 2020. They started adding free agents who could be flipped at the deadline in 2021. As a rebuilding team, they had the opportunity to add value free agents and flip them for players with long-term value. A few of these moves are looking more promising than the fringe section above.
7/28/21: TYLER ANDERSON FOR CARTER BINS/JOAQUIN TEJADA
After trading for Endy Rodriguez at the start of the year, and drafting Henry Davis first overall, the Pirates continued their catching focus with the Tyler Anderson trade. After seeing a deal fall apart with the Phillies involving Abrahan Gutierrez, they dealt the rental Anderson to Seattle, getting back Carter Bins and Joaquin Tejada.
Current Status: Bins is a solid defender and has a chance to be an MLB backup. Tejada has been pitching in the FCL this year, showing extreme control issues out of the bullpen in his age 20 season.
Chance to Improve: The hope here would be that Bins develops into an MLB backup. That’s a low return, and lower than what the Pirates got in following years.
7/22/22: DANIEL VOGELBACH FOR COLIN HOLDERMAN
Like the Newman trade that would follow, this deal could end up being shrewd. Daniel Vogelbach filled the first base hole in Pittsburgh for a few months in 2022, then was dealt to the Mets straight up for Colin Holderman.
Current Status: Holderman has a 3.57 ERA in 35.1 innings in relief this year, mostly working as David Bednar’s setup man.
Chance to Improve: Like Moreta, Holderman could be one of the shutdown relievers for a future winning team.
8/1/22: JOSE QUINTANA/CHRIS STRATTON FOR JOHAN OVIEDO/MALCOM NUNEZ
Jose Quintana was brought in as a rental pitcher in 2022, and put up strong results at PNC Park. Chris Stratton was thrown into a deal, and the Pirates received Johan Oviedo and Malcom Nunez from the division rival Cardinals.
Current Status: Last night’s game really underscored this move. Oviedo has a 4.42 ERA in 124.1 innings, which is league average production. He allowed one run in seven innings last night, showing an ability to be better than average in his age 25 season.
Chance to Improve: Oviedo is under team control through the 2027 season. Malcom Nunez could factor into the first base mix during the final two months of the season.
THE 2023 TRADE DEADLINE
For a recap of this year’s moves — which saw Carlos Santana, Rich Hill, Ji Man Choi, Austin Hedges, and Rodolfo Castro traded — check out today’s Pirates Prospects Daily.
Check back later this week for part two of the rebuild evaluation, as I review the Pirates’ MLB draft history under Cherington.+ posts
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.