By Jason Shetler
The biggest need for the Pirates this offseason will be a #3 starter to pitch alongside Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano. With the money J.A. Happ received from the Toronto Blue Jays last weekend, a pitcher like Scott Kazmir, who seemed to be a potential fit for the Pirates, is going to command more than what Happ signed for. Other starters on the free agent market are either way too much out of the Pirates price range, and/or they have draft pick compensation attached to them. That leaves them to likely trade for a mid-rotation starter. Neil Walker and Mark Melancon are the Pirates two noteworthy trade pieces this offseason. The problem is that both will be free agents after next season, so the Pirates may not be able to get a starter in return with a good amount of club control. There is one possible idea of how they can obtain a good controllable starting pitcher for not a ton of dollars.
The Pirates outfield prospects in terms of quality and depth is the deepest in the farm system right now. The three most notable are Austin Meadows, Harold Ramirez and Willy Garcia. With the Pirates set outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco for the next few seasons, they could afford to trade one of those prospects for starting pitching. Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians is a good example of a pitcher with team control, and who is also cost effective. Carrasco will be owed just $19 million over the next three years, which is a real bargain for a pitcher with a 10.0 K/9 the past two seasons. It’s not definite that the Indians would deal Carrasco this winter, but perhaps if the Pirates offered Meadows, their #2 overall prospect, in a package, it would certainly open up some conversations.
As good a job as Neal Huntington has done stocking up the system with impact talent, the criticism he gets is that he never wants to part with any of his top prospects. While it is important for the Pirates to maintain a strong foundation to continuously compete for many years, I think every now and then you have to consider giving up a future piece to acquire someone significant that can help out the big league club. For Huntington to trade one of his outfield prospects for that bonafide starter would definitely be outside the box, but something that should at least be taken into consideration.