The Pittsburgh Pirates are 30-30, 6.5 games back of first place in the NL Central. They have lost 13 of their last 17 games. Is this rock bottom for the Pirates or the beginning of the end?
With the trade deadline a little under two months away, the Pirates will have some tough decisions. Right now they are in no mans land. Slightly too good to be sellers but not quite good enough to be true buyers. This season has an eerily similar feel to the past two.
The difference this year is that the Pirates could potentially trade a lot of players if they wanted. There is no pressure not to trade a team cornerstone player like an Andrew McCutchen or Gerrit Cole in the middle of the season while the team still has a chance. Yes, we all know the offseason is a different story.
Last year at the deadline, the Pirates were 5.5 games out of a playoff spot. If they are around that many games back at this year’s trade deadline, players will be dealt.
- Francisco Cervelli may be the most valuable trade chip at the moment. Having a career year, Cervelli leads all major league catchers in fWAR at 2.2. He has one more year on his contract after this season. Catcher is a thin position today so a return for Cervelli could be impactful. Teams like the Nationals, Rockies, Angels, and Brewers may all be in need of a catcher at the trade deadline.
- Corey Dickerson would provide a nice shot in the arm for another team. He is currently third on the Pirates in fWAR at 1.5 and has one year left of team control after this season. Dickerson has been a great add for the Pirates. But with the emergence of Austin Meadows, the Pirates find themselves with four outfielders and only three spots. To me, Dickerson seems like the most likely to be dealt. Meadows is the future. Starling Marte is too valuable to dealt right now. Gregory Polanco is not nearly valuable enough.
- Josh Harrison was on the trading block this offseason. He may be dealt at the trade deadline if things continue to go south. Harrison provides positional flexibility as well as providing a positive energy in the clubhouse. His is currently fifth on the Pirates in fWAR despite having less than 100 plate appearances than a lot of other players on the team. Harriosn has two team options after this year season so his contract situation is no issue.
- Jordy Mercer is free agent at the end of the season. Most Pirate fans would argue that he has zero value but that is not the case. Mercer provides defensive talent and could provide depth for a contending team. Yes, his bat is below average. Mercer’s wRC+ is 86 so he is not a complete black hole with the bat. Mercer could very well provide value for a contending team.
Let’s say the Pirates turn things around. That remains a possibility because of the team’s hot start. Things don’t look promising now but the season is far from over.
If the Pirates are in a position to buy at the deadline, they will need to focus on one thing. Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Both starters and relievers are a needed.
The starting rotation has been mediocre all season. The bullpen has been dominant at times but flat out awful at other times.
The main issue is that the starting pitching market in baseball is thin this season. It would be difficult to acquire a clear upgrade in the rotation.
Plain and simple, the Pirates need their starters to produce. They can add to the bullpen.
The Pirates are playing their worst baseball they may play this season. Hopefully. They have been flat out awful as of late.
That said, if I had to guess, the Pirates will be sellers at the trade deadline. That is not a bad thing. Enriching the farm system with some current players would be a positive.
The Pirates are a young team. I wrote about this recently. I do not see them as a World Series contender this season. Reloading for the next two, three, or four years would be the right move if the team is out of playoff contention in two months.