By Jason Shetler
At the 2017 trade deadline, the Pirates dealt Tony Watson to the Los Angeles Dodgers, which did not come as a surprise. Juan Nicasio was not traded at the deadline, but the feeling was that he still could be, if the Pirates began to fall out of contention. Earlier this week, the Bucs made the very curious decision to place Nicasio on irrevocable waivers, meaning that any team could claim him, in order of win-loss record. On Thursday, the Philadelphia Phillies surprisingly claimed the veteran right-hander. The Pirates received a large amount of backlash from both fans and media alike, and it was certainly warranted, given that they certainly could have gotten something in return for Nicasio, rather than losing him for nothing. So which players could the Pirates look to move this offseason? – Here are the potential candidates.
Andrew McCutchen: After coming extremely close to being traded to the Washington Nationals last offseason, the former NL MVP will no doubt be involved in the rumor mill again this offseason. The Pirates however hold a 2018 club option for McCutchen worth just over $14 million, so there is a possibility of exercising the option, especially since Austin Meadows won’t be on the Opening Day roster, because of Super 2.
Daniel Hudson: The Pirates inked Daniel Hudson to a two-year deal this past offseason to serve as a late inning arm out of the bullpen. 2017 has been disappointing for the 30-year-old righty. With the upside of younger guys, such as Dovydas Neverauskas and Edgar Santana, as well as having August waiver claim George Kontos under team control beyond this season, the Pirates could make Hudson expendable in the offseason.
David Freese: Last year, David Freese signed with the Pirates twice. The first time came in Spring Training, where he signed a one-year deal, while the second was in August, coming to terms on a two-year extension. With the Jung-Ho Kang saga, Freese has been the regular third baseman this season. Because he will be owed less money in 2018, it’s likely that the Pirates would hang onto him, but there will be interest from other teams, looking to upgrade their bench.
Gerrit Cole: In 2015, Gerrit Cole had one of the better seasons by a Pirates starting pitcher in franchise history. That year, he was named an All-Star for the first time, while finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. Cole dealt with injuries last season, and was looking to get back on track. 2017 however has been an up and down year for him. In a perfect world, the Pirates would obviously like to receive a big return for Cole, but based on the results this season, other teams may not want to, especially if they don’t view him as an ace type starter. Cole will arbitration eligible for a second time this offseason, so there also isn’t a rush to trade him either.
Ivan Nova: After being acquired from the New York Yankees at last year’s trade deadline, Ivan Nova put up stellar numbers with the Pirates. The 30-year-old right-hander decided to remain in Pittsburgh, by signing a three-year deal worth $26 million. Nova picked up where he left off, as he performed at an All-Star level in the first half. However, the second half has been a real struggle for him. With the Pirates having younger starters, like Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault, they could look to move Nova this offseason. Contending clubs could look at Nova as someone who can provide quality innings at a reasonable cost.
Jordy Mercer: Jordy Mercer entered 2017 in his fourth season as the Pirates shortstop. The 31-year-old continues to be league average with the bat, while still providing steady defense. Mercer is arbitration eligible for a final time this offseason. He is likely to draw some interest from other teams, who will look to upgrade at shortstop, but the Pirates are likely to keep him, with prospect Kevin Newman expected to join them at some point next season.
Josh Harrison: Last offseason, the Pirates had Josh Harrison on the trade block. The move was going to be a salary dump, but there was virtually no interest, since he was coming off a down year offensively in 2016. Harrison has bounced back nicely this season, being named an All-Star for the second time. He is one of a few players that the Pirates could really sell high on this offseason. A Harrison trade seems realistic for a few reasons. The first obviously being that he would net the Pirates a good return. The second is the emergence of Adam Frazier, who could take over at second base regularly. And lastly, if the Pirates are going to pick up McCutchen’s $14 million dollar club option for next season, they will look to move Harrison (owed just over $10.2 million for 2018), in an effort to allocate that money for McCutchen.