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Ask BD 2.0: Who might get traded this year?

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MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

How many players are traded during the season from the opening day roster?

Posted by jpksu

My guess would be none, for a couple of reasons. (I’m not thinking about minor moves, like dumping off a marginal reliever.) One is that they have a good chance of being in contention in late July. With two wild cards, that’s not exactly a high bar, but there are good reasons to expect the team to be better than last year’s. Maybe the biggest reason is that they got just 2.6 fWAR total last year from Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Francisco Cervelli. I wouldn’t exactly bet on any of them staying healthy, much less all three. If they can each manage to miss just a modest amount of time each, though, it’s quite possible each one of them could produce more than their total WAR from last year.

The other reason is that there just doesn’t seem to be much of a trade market for veterans. I’m sure they’d have loved to trade Josh Harrison last winter, but when you see how cheaply the Yankees picked up Neil Walker, it’s not hard to see why that didn’t happen. Even if they’re sort-of, fringy contending, like the last two years, they’d probably jump at the chance to trade Harrison at the deadline, to clear the way for Kevin Kramer, or maybe Max Moroff or Adam Frazier. It’s very hard to see them picking up Harrison’s $10,500,000 option for 2019 when they have younger, cheaper alternatives. And maybe some contender will have a serious infield need and no good alternatives for filling it, but I think that’s a long shot.

They’d also probably like to trade Francisco Cervelli, at least in the abstract. If he continues to look like he did in spring training, it’d certainly be manageable. But in his case they don’t have a reliable alternative. They clearly want to get back into contention by 2019 at the latest and losing Cervelli, if he shows some signs of staying healthy, would be too big a blow. If he continues to be plagued by injuries, obviously he’s not going anywhere.

There’s also the possibility of David Freese or Sean Rodriguez moving along, especially since the Pirates have younger replacements readily available. Rodriguez, though, seems to have some sort of cult status within the organization. I doubt they’d want to trade Freese, either, unless he has a terrible first half, in which case nobody’d want him. And there’s the Pirates’ continuing conviction that they have to have veterans on the bench. They’re still trying to sell the notion that they have a young team, which isn’t true — five of the eight regulars are 29 or over and none is under 25 — but the veteran obsession remains.

The two guys I can see them having a reasonably good chance of trading are Starling Marte and Ivan Nova. If Marte bounces back, he’d certainly offer great trade value, but I can’t imagine that happening. They probably consider him too good a value with his current contract; he’s never been the subject of a single trade rumor to my knowledge. If things go well enough with the team’s younger pitchers, they really need to move Nova, but he apparently didn’t attract any interest in the free agent market. Maybe he’ll get on a run at least slightly resembling his early 2017 performance; there are always teams desperate for starters in July. His contract shouldn’t be a barrier. So if I knew one guy would be traded, I’d guess Nova.