By Jason Shetler
The Pirates are in the midst of a really bad stretch of baseball in the month of June. While it didn’t appear likely anyways that they were going to capture the NL Central crown and challenge the seemingly unstoppable Chicago Cubs, the Bucs are now finding themselves in a position where they might not even contend for one of the two wildcard spots, which was unthinkable just a few weeks ago when they were a season high nine games above the .500 mark. Should the Pirates end up going into seller mode this year, here are the possible trade candidates.
David Freese: The Pirates could not have asked for more out of David Freese when he filled in at third base for Jung-Ho Kang to begin the season. Freese has continued to be solid with an .824 OPS. There should be a decent amount of interest in Freese from other clubs, whether as a starting third baseman or a good bat off the bench.
Francisco Liriano: Francisco Liriano was one of the better starting pitchers in the National League from 2013 to 2015, but has been a huge disappointment so far this year, posting a 5.17 ERA. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported on Wednesday that the Baltimore Orioles had interest in the 32-year-old lefty. The trade value right now for Liriano is obviously very low, so I doubt the Pirates would move him at the deadline.
John Jaso: 2016 has been an all-around good season thus far for John Jaso, as he not only continues to be steady in the on base department, but has also done a good job defensively at first base. While Jaso is under contract for next season, it still wouldn’t surprise me to see a few teams inquire on him around or at the trade deadline with his on base ability and the fact that he doesn’t strike out much. The Pirates have Josh Bell waiting in the wings at AAA, and that certainly could become a factor.
Jon Niese: This season for Jon Niese has been disappointing to a certain degree. He currently leads all MLB starters in home runs allowed, which seems kind of strange considering he has a groundball rate of 54%. Although Niese’s value is down at the moment, there might be a team out there who would buy low on him, since he did post a 3.82 ERA in May. The Pirates did it at last year’s trade deadline when they acquired J.A. Happ from the Seattle Mariners, so it can’t be ruled out.
Mark Melancon: Since joining the Pirates bullpen prior to the 2013 season, Mark Melancon has been one of the most consistent relievers in all of baseball, and 2016 is no different, as he’s posted an ERA of 1.59 along with a 1.09 WHIP. The Pirates no doubt should receive a significant return for Melancon, as there will plenty of clubs looking to acquire him as a closer or setup man.
Matt Joyce: Perhaps one of the best bargain moves of this past offseason was the Pirates signing of Matt Joyce. The former All-Star outfielder is putting up phenomenal numbers this season, and has arguably been the best bench player in baseball in 2016, posting a 1.380 OPS as a pinch-hitter. Given his production, and the fact that he’s just on a minor league deal, he should draw a ton of interest.
Neftali Feliz: The Pirates bullpen as a whole this year has looked mediocre to put it mildly. One of the few bright spots for them however is Neftali Feliz. The former AL Rookie of the Year has been effective for the Bucs, as he’s posted a 3.42 ERA, a WHIP of 0.91 and a 10.3 K/9. Feliz should net the Pirates a good return, as someone who has a track record of pitching in late inning situations.
Sean Rodriguez: In both April and May, Sean Rodriguez was looking like an on base machine with a combined .398 OBP. The month of June however has been brutal for him, as he’s reached base very little with an abysmal .214 OBP. Even with the impressive first two months, Rodriguez’s offensive stats are back to being average, so his trade value isn’t real good now. Because of his reputation as being a reliable defender at multiple positions, I suppose the Pirates could use him as a “throw in” player in a deal with one of the other candidates I mentioned.