Earlier in the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates had expressed some interest in being buyers at the impending August 1 trade deadline. Now, after falling from first place all the way to sole possession of last in the NL Central and 12 games under .500 they find themselves in a vastly different position than they were.
With the thought of buying now nothing but a memory with a little less than two weeks to go before the deadline, the Pirates have a few veterans on expiring contracts they will be looking to move.
Four predictions for the Pirates ahead of August 1.
Andrew McCutchen and David Bednar aren’t going anywhere
For McCutchen yes, he is on an expiring contract, and yes, he is performing, but no, he’s not getting moved. This is where he wants to be, he has made that abundantly clear. He means so much to the entire fanbase. While there is no standing no-trade clause in his contract, he won’t be moved unless he asks to be, and he isn’t going to ask.
David Bednar is a truly elite closer. 1.18 ERA in 38 innings, WHIP of just 0.921. Some may question the value of a such a player on a team so bad, but there just isn’t pressure to move him.
He still has three years of control left, and the Pirates have to improve in the coming seasons, moving him would require a return that makes them better in 2024 than they would be by having Bednar. Which would likely mean a sizable overpay of near-MLB-ready talent.
Very few teams are in position to make such an offer, even less would be willing to do so. It’s extremely hard to see a deal come together that makes any sense for anyone involved, even ignoring the added element of David Bednar being a fan-favorite local product.
You can write these two names down in ink as players that will still be here when the dust settles.
Carlos Santana stays as Ji-Man Choi heads to Milwaukee
The first place Brewers are currently without their starting first baseman Rowdy Tellez, who had surgery to repair a fracture to his left ring finger and is expected to miss three to four weeks. They have also gotten abysmal production out of designated hitter Jesse Winker. Winker has hit just .196/.319/.247 in 58 games.
While both Carlos Santana and Ji-Man Choi could fill those roles, Ji-Man is who they will ultimately end up getting. Choi has spent most of the season on the injured list with a strained Achilles but is hitting .261/.308/.565 since his return to action July 7.
Santana is the better defender and, as a switch hitter, may just carry more trade value, but the near universally beloved veteran has expressed interest in remaining with the team past this season.
Santana will be 38 in 2024 and while he certainly would not be a starter on a good team, moving forward his stabilizing presence on a squad that has gotten younger and younger as the season has progressed may be worth more than what his .698 OPS will get you on the trade market.
Rich Hill returns to Boston
The Red Sox have had eight different pitchers make at least eight starts, 14 have started at least one and three of the six to start ten or more games are currently on the IL.
While the Pirates have their own pitching depth issues, with them being so far out of the race, it won’t stand in the way of trading Rich Hill. It likely won’t be pretty, but nobody would be shocked by Hill not being on the team post deadline.
Boston is 51-46, just two and a half back of the final wild card spot presently occupied by Toronto. While what the Pirates receive will not be flattering, Hill spent his 2022 campaign in Boston and is a good fit to return.
Owner of a 4.84 ERA in 20 starts and 109.2 innings pitched, what you see is what you get with Hill, but a team with such a dearth of players capable of starting games can’t be too picky. Red Sox starters are averaging just over four and two-thirds innings pitched per start with a 4.79 ERA. Hill’s average of over five and one-third innings per start could provide much needed relief to a team needing innings, no matter the role he would fill.
One of the middle infielders will be traded
Currently there are five middle infielders on the 40-man roster, Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales, Tucapita Marcano, Rodolfo Castro and Ji-Hwan Bae.
With Oneil Cruz on the 60-day IL, Akila Williams at AAA and Triolo’s bat and glove potentially earning him his way to a utility role when Hayes returns from the IL, the picture has become quite crowded.
Not everyone can be on the team and multiple players are going to be the odd man out. Peguero and Gonzales are currently in no danger of being that. Which leaves Marcano, Castro, Bae and Williams.
Of that group, Castro presents the highest upside and is unlikely to be moved right now, when his value is at its lowest in the middle of a disappointing 2023.
While most of these players’ value comes just from the position they play and the amount of control they offer, one of them could very well be included with another departing player as an added depth piece.