By Jason Shetler
After being a season high nine games above .500 in May, the Pittsburgh Pirates have fallen on hard times since then, as they are currently three games under at 36-39. At one point, they had lost seven consecutive series. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington however has continued to suggest that the club will look to add. Unless they begin to go on a hot stretch from now until the July 31st trade deadline, then I don’t see that happening. Here are the players that the Pirates could look to move.
Corey Dickerson: The Pirates made a fantastic trade in February when they acquired Corey Dickerson from the Tampa Bay Rays for pitcher Daniel Hudson and minor league infielder Tristan Gray. The 29-year-old outfielder has been solid for the most part, hitting .302 and posting a .789 OPS, however, he has struggled in June, with an OPS of just .628. Should Dickerson start to catch fire again, there’s a good chance the Pirates could sell high, although he is under team control for next season, so there isn’t a rush to move him either.
David Freese: Last season, David Freese was the primary third baseman for the Pirates, this after the legal troubles of Jung-Ho Kang. Following the acquisition of Colin Moran from the Houston Astros in the Gerrit Cole deal, Freese entered this year as a utility man. He currently has a .735 OPS and his OPS+ is right at league average (100). Freese provides steady defense at third base, so that certainly helps his trade value. It’s likely that Freese could draw interest from several contending clubs looking to upgrade their bench.
Francisco Cervelli: Coming off two injury plagued seasons, Francisco Cervelli is having his best year offensively so far in 2018, putting up an OPS of .876 and a 2.0 oWAR. In addition to improved offensive figures, he continues to be a reliable pitch framer behind the plate. Elias Diaz is having a breakout year as well, so that could allow the Pirates to trade Cervelli for a great return and plug in Diaz as the regular catcher moving forward.
Ivan Nova: Following the 2016 season, Ivan Nova entered free agency. The Pirates were able to bring back the veteran right-hander on a three-year deal worth $26 million, which was viewed by most as a real bargain. Nova was outstanding in the first half of 2017, but really scuffled in the second half. His struggles had carried over into the early part of this year and he wound up being placed on the disabled list with a finger issue. Since returning from the DL, Nova has made three starts, allowing just two earned runs total. It’s unlikely that Nova will continue to pitch this lights out, but if he can raise his trade value up from now until the deadline, then the Pirates have to pull the trigger. In turn, it would allow Nick Kingham to rejoin the rotation.
Jordy Mercer: 2018 marks the fifth season for Jordy Mercer as the Pirates shortstop. He got off to a slow start in April, with just a .662 OPS. Since the beginning of May, however, he’s posted an OPS of .785. The narrative continues to be that Mercer is still a very reliable defensive shortstop, but that’s not the case, as his combined Defensive Runs Saved since 2015 is -19. For the Pirates to get a good trade return for Mercer, they’ll need his bat to keep heating up until the deadline.
Josh Harrison: With the trade of Andrew McCutchen this past offseason, Josh Harrison came into this season as the longest tenured Pirate, being with the club since 2011. After suffering a fractured metacarpal on his left hand by a pitch last year, the same injury occurred again in April. So far this year, Harrison is batting .272 and has a .700 OPS. While he does provide solid defensive work at second base, he’s also displayed above average defense at third base and the outfield in the past, so that’ll give him value for any contender looking to acquire a versatile player that can handle multiple positions well. Harrison though will need his offense to pick back up, if the Pirates are going to get an even better return.