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Moving Musgrove

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Pittsburgh Pirates v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The rumor surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates is that Joe Musgrove is going to be moved sooner or later. Musgrove will be playing in his age 28 season next year, which means he won’t be around when the Pirates expect to be competitive. Therefore, it makes sense to move him now, as has been suggested around Pirates’ trade rumors.

We know where the Pirates have deficiencies and we know where they have strength. We know that there isn’t a stellar catching prospect in the system, and the catcher of the future is not currently on the big league roster. Over at The Athletic, Pirates’ writer Rob Biertempfel and Toronto Blue Jays’ writer Kaitlyn McGrath teamed up to offer trade solutions that would benefit both Pittsburgh and Toronto.

The tandem settled on Musgrove to Toronto for catcher Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Dasan Brown. Moreno is currently ranked eighth in the Blue Jays’ system, while Brown comes in at 16th, according to MLB rankings. They’re both young — Moreno aged 20 and Brown only 19. That seems to fit general manager Ben Cherington’s modus operandi through his first year in Pittsburgh.

That’s a compelling trade for the Pirates, certainly — almost too compelling. To me, this seems like the sort of deal that would garner discussions only to ultimately flounder and end up dead. While Biertempfel seems to value Musgrove highly enough to garner two top 30 prospects from an organization, that seems like it might be a stretch.

Musgrove is serviceable enough, certainly, but at a time when teams seem to be churning out improved pitchers with greater success than in the history of the sport, Musgrove might be able to get one of those guys — not both. Thanks to advancements in player development, pitchers have been the large beneficiaries of improved baseball science and data analysis over the last decade. It wouldn’t exactly be a unique challenge to farm for a pitcher which a team can ultimately turn into a Musgrove-type.

So, in sticking with the Blue Jays scenario, is a one-to-one swap a good enough deal for the Pirates? I think so, particularly if that player is a catcher — a position which the Pirates seem to perennially fail to obtain and grow. While some have lobbied for the Pirates to take a catcher in the upcoming Rule 5 draft, there’s likely a better one to be had on the trade market.

What this means is that if there isn’t a quality catcher to be had by moving Musgrove, then it might not be worth it at this point. The Pirates would then be able to plug Musgrove back into the rotation, hope for a strong first half of 2021, and try to move him for a catcher at the trade deadline. If Musgrove can’t be moved for a catcher, it’s hard to imagine that any other Pirates will be able to bring in that return.

If a trade for a catcher can’t work, then it might be incumbent upon the organization to draft one — a challenging prospect. While player scouting and development have vastly improved over the last two decades — hence the contraction of 42 minor league teams — it’s still challenging to pick a “player-of-the-future” type guy, particularly at catcher, it seems.

Conclusion: Don’t move Musgrove this offseason unless a quality catcher is included in the package.