The Pittsburgh Pirates’ trade deadline fire sale began with an early blockbuster deal Sunday night as second baseman Adam Frazier was shipped to San Diego for a package of three prospects. The deal also included Pittsburgh sending $1.4 million in salary relief to complete the trade.
Trading Frazier came at no surprise, but the timing and recipient of the deal threw everyone off course.
The Bucs and Friars completed the deal during the Pirates’ series finale in San Francisco, with the 29-year-old Frazier being taken out mid-game and replaced by Wilmer Difo.
The Padres are an interesting destination for Frazier, with likely homes at second and the outfield in a super-utility role for the MLB hits leader (125).
The Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners were also believed to be in the mix for the All-Star second baseman. Frazier played 98 games this season with 28 doubles, 4 home runs, 32 RBI, and a .324 batting average with the Pirates in his sixth big-league season. He has one year of arbitration remaining before entering free agency.
In return, Pittsburgh received the Padres No. 5 prospect infielder/outfielder Tucupita Marcano, outfielder Jack Suwinski, and right-handed pitcher Michell Miliano, the latter two not ranking in the team’s top 30 according to MLB Pipeline.
OFFICIAL: We have acquired INF Tucupita Marcano, OF Jack Suwinski and RHP Michell Miliano from the Padres in exchange for 2B Adam Frazier and cash. pic.twitter.com/XH4QTeJlof— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) July 26, 2021
Marcano is the headliner and was able to be included in the deal due to the Pirates paying most of Frazier’s remaining salary to secure better prospects. The 6’0’’ 170-pound shortstop bats lefty and will replace Frazier on the Pirates’ 40-man roster.
Tucupita Marcano, 2B, was the key guy in deal for Pirates. He was the one we wanted. Ranked No. 5 in Padres system — and was not available during talks this off-lseason in Musgrove deal. Jack Suwinski and Michell Miliano the others going to Pitts. Strong return.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 25, 2021
Marcano showing the Pop! pic.twitter.com/E6M9Ql17A0— Pirates Unrestricted (@P_Unrestricted) July 26, 2021
Marcano made his major league debut on April 1 and struggled in 44 at-bats, recording only a .182 average, three RBI, and a .484 OPS. He advanced through the Padres system at lightning speed, making the opening day roster after beginning the 2019 season in A-ball and no Minor League season in 2020.
Worth noting that Tucupita Marcano, headliner in Frazier trade, went from playing A-ball in 2019 to making Padres' opening day roster. His first 50 plate appearances in the majors didn't go very well (.182 batting average, .485 OPS), but that's a heck of a jump for a 21 year old.— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) July 25, 2021
Marcano could transition into a starting second base role with the Bucs, slotting in as the No. 7 best prospect in the system. He is graded with a 55 hit tool, 45 power, 55 run, and 50 run on a 20-80 scale. Marcano has great hand-eye coordination and could mold into a Frazier-type player with his contact-orientated approach at second. In 44 Triple-A games in 2021 Marcano has recorded a .272/.367/.444 slash line, walking more times than he struck out (27/25), and hitting 6 home runs driving in 26 as well.
INF Prospect, newly acquired by trade Tucupita Marcano #Pirates— Pirates Prospect Talk (@TalkPirates) July 25, 2021
Here is one of his no doubt homers earlier this week
He is one of the pieces that came with the Adam Frazier trade. Currently #5 prospect with the Padres pic.twitter.com/9J6N1rKRuH
Suwinski, a 22-year-old outfielder who bats and throws lefty, has spent six years in the Padres system after being drafted in the 15th round back in 2016. 2021 has been his best season yet, hitting a career-high 15 home runs with a .269 batting average and .949 OPS in 66 games.
Suwinski holds a career .236/.328/.387 line and .715 OPS in 1586 at-bats spanning 448 games. Breaking out this season after missing all of last year due to the pandemic, Suwinski, 6’2’’ 206-pounds, has turned heads with his improved approach at the plate, and Cherington and company took notice, joining Hudson Head as the second outfielder the organization has acquired from the Padres in less than a year. FanGraphs projects Suwinski to be ready to contribute at the highest level in 2023.
Feel like I’m tweeting about this guy every single day now, one of the hottest hitters in the minor leagues. Jack Suwinski’s 2nd HR of the day, off a lefty again. #PadresFarm pic.twitter.com/7H2UxUF9Fk— PadresFarm® (@Padres_Farm) June 13, 2021
Miliano, the final addition announced to the deal, has pitched exclusively as a reliever this season between two levels of A-ball. The 21-year-old 6’3’’ 185-pound right-hander holds a combined 3.16 ERA, .160 opponent average, but a 1.40 WHIP due to 25 walks in 30 total innings.
Miliano’s upside comes with his swing-and-miss stuff, fanning 59 batters. FanGraphs rated him with a 50 fastball, 50 curveball but only 30 command, with those numbers having the potential to jump to 55, 60, 50, respectively. FanGraphs gives Miliano an expected arrival to the big leagues of 2023.
Still working on Mound Visit and found out there isn't any public video from the last three years on Michell Miliano. Let's change that. Here he is from his last outing on July 23, getting a strikeout on a breaking ball that was a bit too nasty for his catcher to handle. pic.twitter.com/KdLCfhkpXj— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) July 26, 2021
Marcano, Suwinski, and Miliano will each be assigned to a different level of the Pirates system. Neither Suwinski nor Miliano ranks within the organization’s top 30.
Ben Cherington says Tucupita Marcano will go to Indianapolis, OF Jack Suwinski to Altoona and RHP Michell Miliano to Greensboro.— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) July 26, 2021
The instant reaction to the Frazier deal was that the Pirates did not receive enough talent back from San Diego with not-top-100 prospects included. Frazier, having his best season to date, will likely play multiple positions to help solidify the Padres defensively but not one set spot like a blockbuster-type transaction would result in.
The Pirates must think highly of Marcano with other offers on the table, believing he could potentially mold himself into a top-of-the-lineup bat with similar attributes as Frazier. Cherington in similar trades has seemed to receive less than originally anticipated, with deals beginning to look favorable to the Bucs future (Taillon, Bell, Marte). Trades can’t be fully graded out until two-to-three years down the road, with a peripheral viewpoint of how Marcano, Suwinski, and Miliano could be.
The trade opens the door for Marcano, Rodolfo Castro, or possibly Cole Tucker to earn a spot in the starting lineup at second with the opportunity to improve their value on the roster down the road.
Cherington has been successful in his previous trades so far, and with moves of Richard Rodriguez, Tyler Anderson, and Chris Stratton likely before the July 30 deadline, the Pirates have an opportunity to add even more young talent to one of the game’s best systems.