26 days and counting until the 2017 MLB Trade Deadline and GM Neal Huntington appears to have plenty of assets to shop around to contending teams.
As we talked about last night, despite being one of the hottest players in the majors, Andrew McCutchen is a player that I believe the team should build around and not look to deal. Despite how things have gone this season, the Pirates have enough talent to contend for a playoff spot next season and trading the teams best player would just hurt that effort.
If not McCutchen, then who should Huntington be looking to deal between now and July 31st?
1) Gerrit Cole: The 26-year old will be under contract to the Pirates for two more seasons after the 2017 season. The fact is, the Pirates have zero chance to re-sign Cole once he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Despite not having the career stats to justify it, Cole’s agent Scott Boras will get him a massive contract with a big market team.
Why look to trade him now? Because giving a team two years of control for Cole will bring the Pirates a much better return. I’m not suggesting the Pirates dump Cole. The former #1 overall pick should only be dealt between now and February IF a team is willing to pay the proper return. If they aren’t, bring Cole back for the 2018 season.
Huntington should let it be known that Cole is available but only if the price is right. I would imagine World Series contenders like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, New York Yankees and possibly the Los Angeles Angels would be interested.
2) Josh Harrison: This is simply an example of trying to get maximum value for a player whose stock is high and might be playing over his head. Josh Harrison has cooled down the past few games but on Sunday, was named to the NL All-Star team. Harrison is having a nice season but isn’t a core player that the Pirates would be building around. Adam Frazier can take Harrison’s spot at second base and would have the chance to show that he’s an everyday player.
The advantage Huntington has in shopping Harrison is the versatility that he can provide to a team. Boston is looking for a third baseman while Arizona just lost shortstop Nick Ahmed to a broken hand.
The 29-year old Harrison is signed through the 2020 season but the 2019 and 2020 seasons both can be bought out, 2019 for $1 million and 2020 for $500,000. Harrison’s salary increases from $7.7 million this year to $10.2 million in 2018.
3) John Jaso: The 33-year-old is the type of player that’s annually dealt at the deadline because of his experience and versatility. Jaso has found a regular spot in Clint Hurdle’s lineup over the last month because of his bat. Jaso is in the last year of his contract with the team so I fully expect Jaso to be dealt. In his last 112 at-bats, Jaso is hitting .330.
However, don’t expect much of a return for him unless he’s part of a package deal. 33-year bench players don’t bring much in return.
4) Tony Watson: Unfortunately for the Pirates, Watson is having the worst season of his 10-year major league career. The usually reliable lefty was removed as the teams closer and his season long struggles have continued since then. Honestly, with the way he’s struggled and being in the last year of his contract, I can’t see the Pirates getting much back in return. Watson appears to be the classic example of a pitcher that was ridden hard for years and just might not have much if anything left.
5) Gregory Polanco: I know a majority of you probably think this is insane but hear me out. This would completely revolve around what the organization plans to do with McCutchen. I know it’s unlikely, but if the team changes course and decides to keep McCutchen, I would definitely see what I could get for Polanco. Obviously, Polanco shouldn’t be shopped if McCutchen is traded.
Like with Cole, it would have to be a great return for me to deal Polanco and a great return for me would have to involve a young, top of the rotation pitcher. Tyler Glasnow is still a question mark and with Cole’s time in Pittsburgh limited, the Pirates don’t have enough top end pitching to compete. Although it might not be popular, dealing young talent like Cole and Polanco would bring back a huge return.
Other names that might be thrown around include Francisco Cervelli, Juan Nicasio and Jordy Mercer but unless they get an offer that they can’t refuse, I’d hold onto those players.
Another player that I could’ve added to the trade list would’ve been Daniel Hudson. It was the teams biggest off-season move and it’s turned out to be a disaster. Unfortunately, the Pirates signed him to a 2-year contract. They should admit a mistake and do whatever possible to rid themselves of Hudson and his salary.
Cervelli has too many medical concerns for the team to get proper value in return. Mercer is a player that is valuable and despite having shortstop options in the system, none of those players are ready to play in 2018. Nicasio is actually a player that I think the Pirates should try and extend. He’s proven to be a good compliment to Felipe Rivero and the Pirates need as many good arms in the bullpen as possible. Why trade him and then have to go out this off-season and try and replace him. You know what you have with Nicasio, try and sign him to a new contract.