It’s much the same for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year.
They have a record of 23-44, 15 games back of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs. As a result, the Pirates are an obvious seller.
The Pirates and Blue Jays are a perfect match in my opinion, not only because of the pieces that could be available but because of Pittsburgh’s general manager, Ben Cherington. Cherington has a Blue Jays connection, as he was recently the vice-president of baseball operations for the team from 2016-2019. He should have more knowledge of the Blue Jays farm system than most general managers in baseball.
The Pirates have some very intriguing bullpen pieces, starting pitchers, and a utility player the Blue Jays should have interest in. As I explained in the Marlins segment, these three positions are the main positional needs for the Blue Jays. With regards to the bullpen, the Pirates probably have the most valuable relief pitcher available for trade, and the Blue Jays need to pounce on the opportunity.
Here are some players that fill the Blue Jays’ needs…
As I stated above, the Pirates have arguably the best relief pitcher available this season. That relief pitcher is Richard Rodriquez. Not only is he valuable because of the numbers he has been putting up, but he is not a free agent until 2024 and is still arbitration-eligible this coming offseason. Through 25 appearances, he has an elite ERA of 1.71 and FIP of 1.99. This not only proves that he has dominant stuff and has been effective all season, but it also proves that it is not because of the defence behind him. In comparison, last season in 24 appearances, he had a solid ERA of 2.70, with a FIP of 2.85. These numbers prove that he has been elite the past couple of seasons, and because he is controllable, this is the most valuable bullpen arm on the market.
One cause for concern, however, is his reduced K/9 this season. Last season, he struck out 34 batters in 23.1 innings (13.1 K/9), whereas this season he has only struck out 20 batters in 26.1 innings (6.8 K/9). Seeing that his FIP is still ridiculously low, this should not be a problem because he is generating soft contact when he is not registering strikeouts. Moreover, Richard Rodriguez has a career-best 3.2 percent walk rate this year, showing off improved control.
The asking price for Rodriguez will assuredly be high, given the fact that he has posted elite numbers to go along with control in his contract. Considering his contract, will the Pirates end up moving him and will they get the offer they truly cannot say no to? We will find out, but the Blue Jays need to try and pry him.
Kyle Crick has a very affordable contract, which will certainly interest teams looking for help in the bullpen. He is arbitration-eligible this coming offseason and is not a free agent until 2024. His current deal is 1-year worth $800K.
This is a relief pitcher the Jays may have interest in, but this is a BUYER BEWARE situation in my opinion. Yes, he has a sparkling ERA of 2.04, however, his FIP is 4.02. Therefore, he has been quite lucky, and his defence has played well behind him. Furthermore, he has walked 12 batters through 17.2 innings. That is an alarming 6.1 BB/9, and he has a career 5 BB/9. His strikeout rates are also down this year despite the good ERA, as he is only striking out 7.6 batters per 9 innings. 2 seasons ago, when he threw 49 innings, his K/9 was 11.1. This proves he has regressed.
If Kyle Crick can reduce his BB/9 over the next month or so, I could see him holding value because he does have good stuff. If it does not, I do not think the Blue Jays should target him despite having another year of control and a low ERA.
Signed to a one-year deal prior to this season, Tyler Anderson has provided the Pirates with some value. When you simply look at his ERA, which sits at 4.89, you may ask yourself, “Why would the Blue Jays want to acquire him?” It appears that he has had a bit of bad luck due to the players in the field, as his FIP is lower than his ERA. His FIP is 4.51, sitting almost half a point down from his actual ERA. Furthermore, he has been able to pitch solid innings this season, averaging over 5.5 innings per game while striking out 65 in 73.2 innings (7.9 K/9). As it stands, he also has his lowest BB/9 of his career right now, only walking 2.4 batters per complete game.
Since Anderson is a rental and does not put up great numbers, the cost to acquire him would likely be minimal. He may be a solid buy-low option for the Blue Jays because his ERA is inflated more than it should be. The advanced statistics say he has been slightly unlucky, and with a better team behind him, his numbers may improve.
The Blue Jays should have an interest in Adam Frazier. He still has one more year left on his current contract, because he is arbitration-eligible after this season. He currently has a 1-year deal worth $4.3M dollars, and with the way he is playing this year, his arbitration salary will be even higher next year.
After 66 games, Frazier currently has a WAR of 1.8, proving he would be a valuable piece for any contending club. Flat out, he helps you win ball games. He is hitting .324 on the season, with an OBP of .386. His OBP is ridiculously high, and he would be another player for the big Blue Jays’ sluggers to drive in. His only downfall is his lack of power, evident by his two home runs this season, however, that is not a big deal because the Blue Jays already have guys that can put the ball into orbit.
Defensively, Adam Frazier has versatility with experience at 2B, 3B, LF, CF, and RF. This kind of versatility can introduce many different positional alignments. If you wanted to put him at 2B, maybe Semien can move over to 3B for a few games. If you wanted to slide him in at 3B, Biggio can move to the bench or move to the outfield. Frazier could also move to the outfield to allow the current outfielders to DH. He has a career 22 DRS between all these positions, proving he can be a valuable defender to go along with his effective bat.
Since he is in the middle of a career year and has another season of control, he will not be a cheap buy for the Blue Jays. I would expect the Pirates to ask for a lot, otherwise, they would likely move him in the offseason or at next year’s trade deadline.
All statistics found on Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.