Assessment of the Andrew McCutchen Trade

By Jason Shetler

After being a member of the Pirates organization since 2005, Andrew McCutchen was traded on Monday to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for pitcher Kyle Crick and outfielder Bryan Reynolds. McCutchen put together an impressive resume during his nine seasons in Pittsburgh, as he was named a five-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove winner in 2012 and the recipient of the 2013 National League MVP. While McCutchen played at a high level on the field, his contributions off it made him one of the most popular players in all of baseball. He will also go down as one of the more iconic figures in Pirates history. The Giants had been linked to trade rumors with the Pirates regarding McCutchen for much of this offseason. Here is my assessment of the deal. 

Crick was a former first round supplemental pick of the Giants in the 2011 MLB Draft. The 25-year-old righty split his time last season between AAA Sacramento and San Francisco. In 30 appearances with the Giants, he had a 3.06 ERA, a 3.90 FIP and a WHIP of 1.21. Crick is a hard-thrower, as his average fastball velocity in 2017 was 95.5 mph, fourth highest among NL rookie relievers. He compliments it with a good slider, which has a chance of being a plus offering. 

Reynolds was rated by MLB Pipeline as the fourth best prospect in the Giants system before the trade. He is coming off a productive 2017 season playing for High A San Jose, batting .312 and posting an .826 OPS. Reynolds is considered an above average defender who can play all three outfield spots. He represented the Giants in last year’s MLB Futures Game. 

Analysis: The Giants were looking to address the need for an outfielder this offseason, especially after trading Denard Span to the Tampa Bay Rays in an effort to acquire Evan Longoria. They were able to obtain McCutchen without giving up a ton in return. After getting a power arm reliever (Michael Feliz) in the Gerrit Cole deal, the Pirates got another in this trade with Crick. Like Feliz, Crick will be on the Pirates roster to begin this season. Reynolds gives the Bucs another outfielder for the system and should start out 2018 with AA Altoona. While Crick and Reynolds provide some upside, the trade is more of a money saver, with the Pirates reportedly only willing to pay $2.5 of McCutchen’s remaining salary of $14.75 million. 

 

 

 

 

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Pirates and Felipe Rivero Agree to Four-Year Extension

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Joshua Sarner – Icon Sportswire

According to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, the Pirates have agreed to sign Felipe Rivero to a four-year extension worth around $22 million, which includes a pair of club options for 2022 and 2023. Bob Nightengale of USA Today has reported that Rivero will receive $2 million in 2018, $4 million in 2019, $5.25 million in 2020 and $7.25 million for 2021. The two club options are each $10 million.

Following a stellar 2017 campaign, Rivero has now emerged as one of the better relievers in the baseball. The 26-year-old lefty had expressed interest in signing a long-term contract with the club this offseason, and the odds appeared good, this after firing Scott Boras as his agent. On Saturday, the San Diego Padres came to terms on a three-year extension with their closer/relief ace Brad Hand, so that move seemingly gave the Pirates a better idea of what to offer Rivero financially. 

 

 

 

 

 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Should the Pirates Platoon Colin Moran and David Freese at Third Base?

By Jason Shetler

After much trade speculation regarding Gerrit Cole this offseason, the Pirates unloaded Cole over the weekend, trading him to the Houston Astros for a package that included pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, outfielder Jason Martin and third baseman Colin Moran. Regardless which team Cole would be dealt to, the Pirates had to obtain a top tier third base prospect, and did so by acquiring Moran. 

Prior to the trade, MLB Pipeline rated Moran the fifth best prospect in the Astros system. The former first round pick posted a staggering .543 slugging percentage last season for AAA Fresno. It should be noted however that he played in the Pacific Coast League, which is considered very hitter-friendly, so that kind of production may not completely translate in the Majors. Defensively, Moran rates as a below average defender at the hot corner. 

Last season, David Freese was the Pirates primary third baseman, this after Jung-Ho Kang failed to get back to the States with a working visa, because of a third drunk driving arrest. Freese actually led the club with a .368 on base percentage, but his slugging was on the meager side at .371. From the defensive side, Freese had his best season, posting a dWAR of 0.9, along with a 5.5 UZR/150 and a career best eight Defensive Runs Saved, while being named a Gold Glove finalist for NL third basemen. With the addition of Moran, and having Freese back for another year, should the Pirates entertain the idea of platooning the pair at third base to begin the 2018 season?

As I just mentioned earlier, Freese’s overall power production was not impressive in 2017, but that was mainly due to a .354 slugging versus right-handed pitching, which was 67 points lower than what he did against lefties. Moran being a left-handed batter would obviously limit Freese from seeing too much righty pitching. Throughout his big league career, Freese has been very productive versus southpaws, and that trend continued last year, as he put up an .839 OPS. Given that Moran is one of the main pieces in the Cole deal, as well as having a small MLB sample size, the early part of 2018 needs to see him receive every chance to be the Pirates regular third baseman. Should it get to a point with Moran looking really overmatched against left-handed pitching, then I think Freese needs to split time with him. If nothing else, Freese should see a good amount of playing time at third base as a defensive replacement for Moran late in games.

 

 

 

 

Bucco Nation Poll Question

By Jason Shetler

Assessing the Gerrit Cole Deal

By Jason Shetler

Just a day after avoiding arbitration with Gerrit Cole, the Pirates parted ways with the former All-Star by trading him to the Houston Astros in exchange for third baseman Colin Moran, pitcher Joe Musgrove, pitcher Michael Feliz and outfielder Jason Martin. Here is a breakdown of each player. 

Moran comes over as the fifth ranked prospect in the Astros system according to MLB Pipeline. He spent most of 2017 playing for AAA Fresno, posting a .916 OPS, while hitting 18 home runs, albeit in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Moran also appeared in seven games with the Astros. 

Musgrove isn’t far removed from being one of the Astros top pitching prospects. The 25-year-old right-hander pitched in 38 games for Houston, 15 of which were starts. Musgrove posted a 4.77 ERA, along with a 2.3 BB/9 and a K/9 of 8.1. His fastball velocity is good at 93.6 mph.

Feliz pitched all of 2017 in the Astros bullpen. The Dominican born righty throws very hard, as his average fastball velocity last season was 96.6 mph. In 46 appearances for the Astros, Feliz had an ERA of 5.63, but his FIP was much more respectable at 3.78. Like most hard-throwing relievers, his K/9 was stellar at 13.1 and the BB/9 was high at 4.1. 

Martin is the 15th best Astros prospect by the MLB Pipeline rankings. The 22-year-old outfielder split his time last year with High A Buies Creek and AA Corpus Christi. He combined to put up an .819 OPS and hit 18 homers with the two affiliates. 

Analysis: The Astros were obviously able to boost their starting rotation with the addition of Cole. From the Pirates standpoint, they addressed their needs for a third baseman, rotation arm and reliever, all of whom will be on the Pirates roster come Opening Day. They also were able to land a mid-level prospect in Martin, who will probably begin 2018 with AA Altoona. Personally, I feel like the Pirates could’ve gotten a better return, but I do think there is some potential with this deal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates and Felipe Rivero Likely Headed to Arbitration Hearing

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Joshua Sarner – Icon Sportswire

According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Felipe Rivero filed his arbitration figure at $2.9 million, while the Pirates filed theirs at $2.4 million, so it appears both sides could be headed to a hearing in February. MLB Trade Rumors projected his figure at $3.1 million. 

This offseason marks Rivero’s first year of arbitration eligibility The hard-throwing southpaw performed at an elite level in 2017, posting a 1.67 ERA, a 2.47 FIP, a 0.89 WHIP and a K/9 of 10.5 in 73 appearances. Despite those superb numbers, he was inexplicably not named an All-Star. During PiratesFest in December, Rivero mentioned that he would be open to a long-term extension. With no longer having Scott Boras as his agent, it could still be a possibility.