The 2018 MLB Trade Deadline is a week away. With the Pittsburgh Pirates surging, there is a fantastic chance that the club will actually be buyers.
Seemingly destined to be sellers at the 2018 MLB Trade Deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates — winners of 10 straight -- will likely look to add at the trade deadline barring a complete collapse.
Call it a function of the second wild card, which I happen to think is a fantastic idea:
You can criticize MLB for a ton of things, but the second wild card is not one of them, IMO.— Jason Rollison (@jrollisonpgh) July 24, 2018
It is doing exactly what it is intended to do, and that is allow a team like the #pirates to scratch their way back into WC contention with a hot stretch and keep the fan base engaged.
We’ll save the discussion on how the Wild Card should be structured for another time, but today let’s talk Pittsburgh Pirates trade chips.
Today we will take a brief look at the organizational strengths that the club can draw in to include in trade packages. We’ll refrain from speculating on specific players these pieces can get; Rather, we will focus solely on areas where the club can afford to part with some intriguing prospects.
Ke’Bryan Hayes and Will Craig are each having fantastic seasons for Double-A Altoona. Hayes even slipped into the most recent MLB Pipeline Top 100 at number 91.
Hayes checks in as of this writing with a .297/.375/.465 slash to go along with a 17.1 strikeout percent alongside an 11.1 walk rate. Both are fantastic marks for a first-year player at a level that is considered “make or break” for many prospects.
Still young at 21, there is plenty of time for Hayes to grow into his frame, perhaps turning his 45- rated raw power tool into a 15-20 home run power threat. However, as long as he continues refining his approach while maintaining consistent doubles power — he has slugged 24 as of now — there will certainly be a major league spot for him, to say nothing of his 60-grade defensive capabilities.
Will Craig has stolen headlines with multi-home run games and gaudy RBI totals. Perhaps no other prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates system is more indicative of where baseball is headed than Craig. With 92 strikeouts in 327 at-bats, Craig is nearing Three True Outcome territory.
Craig’s lack of athleticism has led him directly to first base, even after being drafted as a third baseman.
In these two prospects, the Pirates have intriguing bats that are developing right on schedule. With Hayes, the club also has a potentially solid defensive player for the hot corner.
Yet they also have Colin Moran and Josh Bell already installed at the major league level, two players that the club has put a significant investment in. Moran by way of being a headliner in the Gerrit Cole trade. Bell by way of the team forcing him onto first base.
Both are solidly in the club’s plans for the next few years, which should make both Hayes and Craig available as trade chips. The wild card here might be Moran, who some feel is ultimately destined to move off of third base. That thinking opens up a completely new quagmire of issues for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but that’s a problem for another time.
It was really tempting to turn that heading into “middle infielders” but for the purposes of this discussion we’ll focus solely on shortstops, of which the Pittsburgh Pirates have many.
Included in that group are two first round picks in Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker, a player who many feel will go down as a prime example of deadline thievery in Oneill Cruz, a very capable defense-first player in Stephen Alemais and long-term intrigue in international prospect Ji-Hwan Bae.
Neal Huntington has pounded Newman’s readiness into our heads this season. Tucker has made strides over the past calendar year, even if he is starting to stall out to a degree in Altoona.
Cruz already has a 55-rated power tool at just 19 years of age. Alemais can be big league ready as a platoon partner or bench middle infielder.
Even taking into consideration that some of these names can also play second base, one wonders just what the Pittsburgh Pirates will do with all of these shortstops. If we take Huntington at his word on Newman, we are still left with a glut of prospects that can be used as sweeteners in a potential deal. The club can certainly absorb losing a shortstop farmhand.
Though not as stacked as shortstop, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ current crop of outfield prospects has depth, with Bryan Reynolds, Jason Martin and Lolo Sanchez leading the way.
There is a second tier behind those three, with Mason Martin perhaps grabbing the most attention lately aside from the three listed above, even if he has not played much outfield at all this year. As he was drafted as an OF, we’ll pop him here.
Jason Martin excelled at Altoona and has done something that many like to see: perform a the next level. At Triple-A, Martin is slashing .282/.311/.408 after a bit of a rocky start. Reynolds can play all three outfield positions and is rounding into form in Altoona after a delayed start to his season. Sanchez has struggled in Charleston with the club’s low-A club, but carries enough tools to still find himself on many an executive’s radar.
Starling Marte (2021) and Gregory Polanco (2023) are under team control for the foreseeable future. Austin Meadows has proven to be major league ready. Jordan Luplow is an interesting case, as he is more than a “Quad-A” player yet not at the same talent level as the aforementioned trio, obviously. One wonders what the organization’s ultimate plan would be for him.
Of these outfield prospects listed, Reynolds might be able to headline a package (we have seen him do so before) yet, if he were to, the overall package might be a little steep. Martin and Sanchez are both a bit more than a throw-in at this point. The worst thing that the Pittsburgh Pirates can do is over-value either, especially when the team’s major league outfield is clear for at least the next few years.
These are just a few areas from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system in which they can withstand losing some talent. The club is in a unique position this year: they might just be able to buy and sell. No matter the case, they should not let any qualms about how their pipeline would be affected at these listed positions.