By Jared Lankes
The Pirates have used 11 different starting pitchers. If you can name them all, good work. However, it’s no surprise that they have combined really struggled. The below league average ERA as a group combined with the lack of going deep in games has really hurt. Getting Gerrit Cole back will help, but many fear it may not be enough or wonder how much Cole will be limited, if at all, the rest of the year. The rookies will also be limited for the most part, especially Jameson Taillon. That can be masked if the other guys are eating up innings. There is one issue though; they aren’t. Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, and Jon Niese all have struggled to give the team lengthy starts for the most part. This team needs another innings eater, even if Cole is able to do that.
It has been reported that the Pirates are shopping Jon Niese. Many speculate that this is because they want to make room for the young guys. In my opinion, that may not be the case. True it would be strange to trade a starting pitcher just to later acquire another, but we’ve seen stranger things in this game for sure.
So with that being said, what kinds of pitchers could the Pirates go for. I dive into that.
Jeremy Hellickson: Hellickson has really enjoyed his best year in quite awhile. He has a 3.92 ERA while having been able to give the Phillies a good amount of innings, which, as I mentioned, the Pirates need. He’s a huge regression candidate though. Also, the Phillies don’t seem inclined to need to trade him because they can get the qualifying offer and either get a draft pick or have him next year again. Phillies also have been playing better lately, so they might feel they can contend. However, in a light pitcher’s market, Phillies might hedge their bet on getting a good return back for him.
Andrew Cashner: Do we have to talk about Cashner? Why yes, at least sort of. He’s struggled in recent years, and he’s been hurt a lot too. I don’t see anybody giving up anything of substance for him. I also don’t see a team getting desperate enough to acquire him.
Drew Pomeranz: Sticking with the Padres, Pomeranz might end up being the most sought after starter out there, along with Rich Hill. That’s if Julio Teheran and Sonny Gray prove to not be out there. Padres might capitalize on their great investment and get a big prospect or two in return. I honestly would love this, but the price might be too astronomical, especially given his cheapness and two years of arbitration control left.
Hector Santiago: We haven’t heard too much about him, but he might be out there. Angels, not anticipating a massive rebuild, might unload this impending free agent though. He’s a lefty that’ll help the Angels from a value standpoint as to what they can get in return. However, I don’t think this guy would be any sort of upgrade to Niese or others.
Rich Hill: Rich Hill has had a magical last year, coming all the way back to the big leagues and succeeding.The Oakland A’s won when they signed him for $6 million; a deal that seemed risky at the time. Now, they are in position to turn him in for a great return. I think the A’s are going to get more for him than they got for Scott Kazmir just a season ago. Injury issues and his age are problems for some teams but not for others. I don’t see this one in play for the Pirates at all, despite reportedly scouting him in a start, which was ironically his start against the Pirates.
Jorge De La Rosa: De La Rosa always has seemed to be a guy that the Pirates would have to fix at some point. However, he may have fixed himself in Colorado. He got moved to the bullpen and pitched great. He got moved back to the rotation and hasn’t let up. The Rockies might turn him around for something this year, despite being owed a good bit of coin still. This one might be too pricey for the Pirates unless the Rockies take on the contract, which would demand a bigger return of course.
Nathan Eovaldi: Literally zero people have talked about this guy, but it’s a fun speculation. He’s been put in the doghouse by Joe Girardi in New York. The hard thrower could be falling out of favor in New York perhaps? Well I doubt it, but nonetheless an interesting thing to think about. Pirates have had interest in him in the past when he was in Miami. If the Yankees have any thoughts about trading him, the Pirates might line up to try.
Clay Buchholz: You can basically take what I just said about Eovaldi and copy it because the situation is similar. Buchholz has been placed in the Red Sox bullpen for ineffectiveness and could certainly use a change of scenery. However, Buchholz is very expensive and much more risky than Eovaldi. The 31-year old righty Buchholz has had all kinds of injury issues, which makes him a high risk/maybe not even high reward scenario at this point. The guy is a huge question mark, and someone the Pirates might and should avoid, even if they could get him at a cheaper than normal price. They had apparent interest in him a season ago, but I presume that sentiment has changed.
Ervin Santana: Santana has pitched better lately. However, he seems to be a ticking time bomb. He’s owed a ton of money for the next few years for possibly average pitching or worse. I don’t see the Pirates going after him for any reason. They already have two relatively high-priced, underachieving starting pitchers already in Jon Niese and Francisco Liriano. They don’t need a third one.
Ricky Nolasco: Staying with the Twins, let’s regretfully talk about Ricky Nolasco. Another overpaid veteran on the Twins has not enjoyed a great year at all, with a 5.22 ERA. He’d be no help for any contender, let alone the Pirates.
Rays trio of Matt Moore, Drew Smyly, and Jake Odorizzi: I only see one of these guys actually being dealt, and that being Drew Smyly. He had a career year last year but hasn’t been the same guy this year at all. A candidate to bounce back a bit the rest of this year, Smyly might be a guy a team can buy somewhat low on but get better from him than Tampa Bay has this year. Pirates might fit that bill, but who knows if he will be an improvement at all. If he figures it out, he will be. If not, then he will be a worse option, actually. As for the other two, I don’t see them going anywhere. Matt Moore maybe, but the haul they’d demand would be grand. That’s even more so for Odorizzi.
Jhoulys Chacin: Chacin was traded to the Angels from Atlanta once this year already. He could be a candidate do be traded again if the Angels feel inclined. He hasn’t had a great season at all, which means the Angels will likely hold onto him. Like Nolasco, he could be conceivably traded but probably can’t help a contender at all.
Matt Garza: Garza has had a major falling out in Milwaukee. As for this year, he hasn’t pitched much and hasn’t been effective even when he has. There’s no way anyone takes a chance on this fading veteran, in my opinion.
Dan Straily: Reds have had a lot of rotation ins and outs, but Straily has been consistent for them, having a 4.35 ERA in over 100 innings pitched which has covered mainly starting but some relief outings as well. Reds seem very likely to turn in Dan Straily for something more than they gave, which was nothing. Whether he can help a contender is unknown, but he would cost less financially and acquisition-wise than many others out there. A team needed a steady veteran will take him, but I don’t think he would improve the Pirates rotation at all unless he continues showing ability to eat up innings.
Tyler Chatwood and Jordan Lyles: Rockies would love to move Lyles, but I doubt anyone would take him. As for Chatwood, if they made him available, teams would be lining up. The oft-injured righty has been good when healthy, especially this year. He’s been even better outside of Coors Field. Teams would love to pry him away because of that. Being made available would shake up the market, as the Rockies would demand a huge haul. Pirates probably wouldn’t meet that cost.
Lucas Harrell: Harrell hasn’t been seen too much this year, but he’s thrived in his little time with the Braves. The 31-year old journeyman might get dealt by the Braves when his stock is high. However, the Braves aren’t motivated to deal him, as he’s under team control for another four years. Braves could use him as a steady veteran rotation presence if they believe that he can have sustained success. If not, they’ll trade him to capitalize on their investment. Teams would like to see a few more starts from him, and they will with a couple of weeks until the deadline. They may not want to trade him, but in what could be a weaker pitching market, they might feel they can get something decent back, like with Bud Norris. He might cost less than most of the guys out there, but he’s a risky guy to trade for, even for the Pirates.
I don’t expect all these arms to get dealt. Some off them seem to be going out the door while others are longshots. Pirates might not have a great crop to choose from unless they go out of their comfort zone. Unlike previous years, it may not be worth it. We’ll see if it becomes a more fair or even a buyer’s market as the deadline approaches. Pirates might be looking at sticking with what they have, even if many don’t want to see that.