By Jared Lankes
The Pirates recent surge has propelled them into a state of being buyers (or at least buyers and sellers) at the trade deadline as they try to win the NL Central crown for the first time since moving into the division. Knowing this, the team has definite holes to fill. The starting rotation doesn’t sound like a spot they need to upgrade, but at this time of year, you never know as every team vying for the playoffs could use the help. So, I will be looking at some starting pitching options that could help the Pirates.
Sonny Gray would immediately jump the Pirates rotation from a good rotation to a great rotation. A top of a rotation lead by Cole-Taillon-Gray-Nova is a pipe dream for any Pirates fan out there right now. Nobody would want to look back at that rotation staring down at them. However, the prospect cost may be too hefty to get what is, as of now, the prize of this year’s trade market.
Jeff Samardzija may not be a top pitcher, but he is a solid, consistent workhorse that gets it done. A lot of teams will be calling about him as Giants are looking to unload some salary and enhance a weak farm system. Would the Pirates pay the extra prospect cost to have Giants eat half of Samardzija’s salary through 2020. I doubt it. He’d fit right in though.
Samardzija’s teammate Matt Moore seems like a more realistic target. Pirates were reportedly interested in him (and every other Rays starter) last year before he went to the Giants. He has struggled in 2017, but has the stuff needed to get it right and Ray Searage can maybe tap into that. The issue here is that I doubt the Giants would give up a reasonably-priced starter for little return less than a year after getting him at a premium acquisition cost. It would not make sense unless they truly are trying to shed as much money as possible and begin a rebuild.
Trevor Cahill was dealt to the Royals, which means he won’t be available and might have been the main one of the three that might have been of interest to the Pirates. The other two, Jhoulys Chacin and Clayton Richard, are signed to a one-year/$1.75M deals would fit perfectly in a team’s payroll and rotation. These guys may not upgrade the rotation enough to make a fuss though.
Wade Miley has bounced around a lot and has found success in some places. He hasn’t found it in Baltimore though since being acquired by the Orioles last year. Like some other pitchers, maybe Searage gets a hold of him and figures out something. The problem with Wade Miley is his salary as it relates to his performance. He is grossly overpaid for what he brings, and the Pirates won’t want to take that on. Pirates probably won’t want to pay extra prospect cost to have Orioles take it on either.
In my opinion, the Pirates rotation is good enough. They have a young rotation but a talented one. Maybe Pirates needing to save the young guys’ innings will play a role in the Pirates thinking and cause them to grab another Nova/Happ type, even if their performance doesn’t necessarily upgrade things but their ability to go deep into a season without innings limits would. In my opinion, however, if they are to help this rotation, it should be a more major fix that puts the rotation over the top, not an incremental “fix” that might actually make the rotation worse. So, in short, don’t give up assets to acquire a rotation arm just to do it, especially if it’s a rental.