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Williams: Who Could Upgrade the Pirates at the MLB Trade Deadline?

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I love tiered rankings.

I prefer them for breaking down a farm system’s rankings, as they show the depth of talent in each tier. The top 30 or top 50 numerical rankings can be misleading, as they miss the gaps in talent levels that can exist between one spot and another. Tiers reveal this information.

The Athletic released an article today, breaking down the upcoming trade deadline into tiers. The article looks at players from teams with a .500 record or worse, regardless of whether they’re expected to sell.

Keep in mind that this list would include the Pittsburgh Pirates. The article has Martin Perez and Marco Gonzales listed as potential mid-rotation starters on the move, along with Aroldis Chapman as a late inning reliever. If the Pirates ended up being sellers, this group would make sense to move.

I think it would be a disappointment if the Pirates gave up on this season by the trade deadline. The long-term returns they could get for Perez, Gonzales, or Chapman would be inconsequential to the short-term returns of trying to go for the best MLB result with guys like Paul Skenes and Jared Jones on the team. Perez and Gonzales can help to reduce innings to keep the young Pirates arms fresh, while Chapman can help the bullpen close out the leads the starters hand over.

For the purposes of today’s article, I’m looking at this list from The Athletic as if the Pirates would be buyers at the deadline.

Pirates Needs

The needs for the Pirates exist almost exclusively on the offensive side. They could add pitching to help with the innings totals to the rotation, but I think it would be better to roll with their current options. They could add a middle reliever to add more reliability to the bullpen. Either move would pale in impact to the potential additions on offense.

First base has been a hole all year, but Rowdy Tellez has been hitting well during the month of June. If he keeps hitting this way through the deadline, the Pirates would be justified in keeping him the rest of the season.

Outfield is another problem. The right field combo of Jack Suwinski and Edward Olivares has combined for negative production, and could be easily upgraded over. The Pirates are getting some of the best defense in the league from Michael A. Taylor in center field, but they lack offense from the position.

Center field would cost the most to upgrade, while the easiest upgrade would probably be right field. First base depends on the continued hitting from Tellez.

The Stars

A name I see mentioned often in wish lists by Pirates fans is Luis Robert Jr., the center fielder for the Chicago White Sox. The Athletic had Robert listed first under their Stars tier.

It’s easy to see the appeal for Robert. He’s in his age-26 season, under team control through 2027, and hit 38 home runs last year with plus defense in center field. Robert hasn’t replicated those results this year.

The rest of this post is for Pirates Prospects subscribers!

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
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.

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