Trades could be difficult for Pirates
The much anticipated fire sale by the Pittsburgh Pirates might turn out to more smoke and mirrors than anything else.
Poor performances, injuries and costly contract could make it difficult for the Bucs to make any meaningful trades. Any trades they do make probably won’t bring back much in return.
Bucs’ Fire Sale Going Up In Smoke
The Pirates have been in a deep, downward spiral since May 16 when they were in first place in the National League’s Central Division with a 26-17 record. The Bucs have gone 14-29 since then with a 7-21 record against teams with winning records. With their next 11 games against teams with winning records, their season could well be over by the All-Star break.
So, you have to think the Pirates will be sellers at the trade deadline but just exactly what do they have to sell and can they find any buyers? What type of fire sale will it be?
Here’s a rundown of possible trade candidates.
Veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli got off to one of the hottest starts of his career, batting .306 in April with four homers and 17 runs batted in. He’s slowed down since then, batting .250 in May and .162 (6-37) in June. Unfortunately for Cervelli and the Pirates, injuries, which marred his last two seasons, have returned. He’s been on the bench since June 21 with the fourth concussion of his career. He’s expected to make a rehab start in the minors this weekend, but it’s still uncertain when he’ll be behind the plate again for the Bucs.
Also making it risky for teams to trade for Cervelli is his hefty contract, which calls for him to make $10.5 million this year and $11.5 next season.
Unless Cervelli can show that’s he completely recovered from his latest concussion, it’s unlikely that he’ll be moved.
One good thing for the Bucs has been the play of Elias Diaz, who’s been their regular catcher since Cervelli was sidelined. In 136 at bats, he’s hitting .301 with seven homers and 22 runs batted in.
Corey Dickerson is making $5.95 million this year, which seemed like a bargain in May, but that seems like a long time ago now. His lack of power is awful for a corner outfielder, and you can’t forget that dreadful second half he had last year with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dickerson’s last year of arbitration will be coming up in the off-season before he’s a free agent in 2020. Some team might make a move for Dickerson, but they certainly won’t sending the Bucs much of anything in return unless he’s able to recharge his bat.
It seemed at one point that the Bucs might be able to fetch something for 31-year-old Ivan Nova, the team’s only veteran starter. After six starts this season, he had a 3.23 earned run average with 30 strikeouts and four walks in 35 innings.
But in May he had a 7.21 earned run average, giving up 20 earned runs in 23 and two-thirds innings. He rebounded his next three starts, allowing only two runs in 19 innings. But he’s reverted back to form in his last two starts, giving up 10 runs in 11 innings, including five home runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And Nova won’t come cheap either. He’s making $8.5 million this year, and he’ll make another guaranteed $8.5 million next year. The contract and Nova’s inconsistency on the mound will make it difficult for the Bucs to deal him and get anything of value in return.
With his boundless enthusiasm and energy, second baseman Josh Harrison seems like a perfect pick up for a team in the middle of a pennant race. But Harrison is in a 1-16 slump with his batting average dropping to .256. His power numbers are down too. After slugging 16 homers last year, he only has four dingers this season.
Harrison’s contract also could scare off some teams. He’s making $10.5 million this year with club buyouts of $1.5 million over the next two years.
It’s never a good thing when dependability is your strongest asset. But that’s where veteran shortstop Jordy Mercer is these days. A career .256 hitter, Mercer is batting .251 this season with five homers and 26 RBIs.
He’s also mediocre defensively, making all the plays he should make with but nothing spectacular like we’ve come to expect from modern shortstops.
Making $6.75 this season and headed for free agency next year, the Pirates can only hope that a regular shortstop goes down for a pennant contender, and they can ship Mercer to that team.
Otherwise Mercer might not be moved until late in the season when his trade value will be nothing.
The Pirates have been platooning David Freese, 35, at third base with rookie Colin Moran, and the results have been generally good. Freese has been enjoying a resurgence of late, batting .364 in July after hitting .279 in June.
Overall, he’s batting .267 with five homers and 23 RBIs in 135 at bats. Freese also is still above average defensively. His contract is also reasonable as he’s making $4.25 million this year with a $500,000 buyout for next year.
Freese could well bring something in a trade, just don’t expect any top prospects or high draft picks.
It will be an outright miracle if the Pirates can get anyone to take a chance on Sean Rodriguez. Currently, in the minor leagues on a rehab stint, the veteran utility man is batting .145 with three homers and 13 runs batted in. He batted .040 in June. That’s not a misprint as he only had one hit in 25 at bats.
The Pirates were clearly hoping he would get hot so they could get rid of his $5.75 million contract. That’s not going to happen so the Pirates might be forced to release him and eat about half or less of that salary.
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