The Pirates Are Shopping Jon Niese, But What Could They Get For Him?

The Pirates have a wave of pitching prospects reaching the majors right now. Chad Kuhl will be making his third MLB start this weekend. Steven Brault just made his debut last night. Tyler Glasnow will arrive tomorrow to pitch in St. Louis. Jameson Taillon is expected to return from the disabled list right after the All-Star break.

The thing about those prospects is that most of them are looking ready for the majors. Kuhl and Brault have shown good signs, and while they don’t have a high upside, they can be legit MLB starters. Taillon has also shown some good things, with a much higher upside than the other two. Glasnow has the highest upside of the group, although we’ll have to see where his control is at in tomorrow’s start, as that has been shaky in the past month.

Add to this the pending return of Gerrit Cole, the fact that they’re probably not trading and unable to trade Francisco Liriano, and Jeff Locke pitching well lately, and you’ve got a lot of rotation options. So it would make sense if they were shopping some of the veteran options around, looking toward the young guys to take over.

It appears that is exactly what they are doing. Rob Biertempfel reports that the Pirates have been contacting other clubs to get an idea of what Niese could bring in return. That doesn’t make a trade sound imminent, but it does appear they’re open to that possibility, and to moving on to the younger guys.

You might think that Niese has no trade value right now, with his 4.87 ERA and 4.33 xFIP. However, let’s not forget J.A. Happ last year, who had a 4.64 ERA and a 4.15 xFIP before being traded to the Pirates. Happ was three years older than Niese is now, didn’t have the same career track record as Niese, and was owed the remainder of his $6.7 M salary. To the latter point, Niese is owed the remainder of his $9 M salary, plus a $500,000 buyout next year.

The options are what still give Niese value. If a team believes he can turn things around in the final two months, just like Happ did last year, then they get a pretty good value at $10 M next year, with a $10.5 M option in 2018. If Niese doesn’t turn it around, they won’t be on the hook for much beyond the 2016 season.

The Pirates wouldn’t get the same type of return that they sent to the Mets, getting immediate help back. At this point, they’ve lost value in the deal. But they haven’t lost all of their value. Getting a prospect who can provide additional depth, or a few lower level lottery tickets wouldn’t be out of the question. Every year there are teams that desperately need pitching at the deadline. There are already a few teams who fit that bill around the league right now. So if the Pirates did want to move on from Niese and go with the prospects, I think they’d be able to get a return for him, at least getting a depth option now, or a few guys who might grow beyond that in the lower levels.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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i wonder if they could even get close to trading him for someone similar to Walker. I guess if you get a lemon. make lemonade!


Maybe Baltimore can gives us some more young pitching talent. They seem to love giving pitchers to NL Central teams.


Neal Walker?


They might be able to get Neal Walker but I doubt they could get Neil Walker.


If Walker stayed,odds are they don’t sign Freese. Walker staying wouldn’t have helped the pitching struggles or Cutch struggling. So they’d probably be in the same position they are now or worse as the replacement for Niese probably could have been worse. All three are gone at the end of the year. So getting some prospects for Niese maybe better than letting Walker walk at the end of the year.


I am so glad that Jonathan Broxton is on the Cardinals pitching staff – he’s terrible, and because of him we get the comeback win tonight!


I LOVE ME SOME BROXTON!! He’s such a point donor for us!


I wonder if this is why he’s checking on the knee – either for potential buyers or to put him on the dl


well sending him back home to get his knee looked at, certainly doesn’t help his trade value


yep, his trade value was near zero – with knee problem, it is now zero!


Off topic, but I would love to see this team resign David Freese. He can play 1B or 3B and is a great veteran presence on this team. Bell is the future at 1B and we have Kang (that is all tbd obviously) but positional flexibility and what Freese brings I’d love to have him back.


I agree completely. I was thinking the exact same thing recently, although I have to believe that someone will give Freese a better (starting) opportunity next year after what he has done for the Bucs. Maybe not, but I tend to think that he will be able to garner more money, and a starting job, from another team. That said, I would love to see him back in black and gold in the same role that he has occupied this year. We’ll see.


If we shitcan Jaso, then yes- but why would he want to resign given he has recovered his value and can likely get a starting job. unless of course kang ends up with a lengthy suspension, etc… which case he could be gone and freese taking his spot

Luke S

Yeah, seems a typical rebuild value and take market value move.

Worked amazingly for Freese, and the Pirates. Pirates dont have a huge reason to pay market value for him, and he earned a pay day.

Assuming nothing comes of the Kang thing.


Would like to see Freese play the whole year like this and maybe get himself in QO territory. Most likely a pipe dream but that would make this signing one of the best bargains in recent memory.

Mike U

What about the mets? Just put Harvey on the DL and I think syndergard and matz Jaffe both had some health issues.


wheeler is coming back very soon. nothing really wrong with broxton- syndergard either really


Syndergaard has a bone spur in his elbow he is trying to pitch through.


yeah, i know…….but it can be pitched through. Just means he isn’t going to be as good as normal. Bone spurs are in every pitchers elbow/shoulder that is over 30 years old already. Ask any orthopedic surgeon.


Hes worth similar to Bud Norris I’d think. A C level prospect or two.


Niese isn’t worth s%$t. Good luck with that.


How about Locke and Niese for a bag of balls – as long as the other team takes their contracts?


Give it a rest guy


Well, for those of you who held onto the belief that Locke had turned the corner, given his last 2-3 starts, despite the fact that his overall season ERA was over 5.00, I think you can dispel that notion. Locke is, and has always been, a maddeningly inconsistent pitcher – and tonight is another indication – 8 hits, 5 ERs, in 4 innings. Season ERA is now 5.38.
Down 5-2 heading to the 5th, it appears to be another game lost due to the FO giving yet another proven to be sub-standard starting pitcher yet another start.


Spot-on correct. I could not agree more!!!!

Luke S

Well, at least you get to feel good about him struggling.

Since being right apparently is more key than actually hoping he does well for the team.


Luke – you are clueless and your accusations are unfounded. You know nothing about me, other than you use childish name-calling to try to put me down occasionally. I never root against any Pirates player – I bleed black and gold and I’ve been a fan probably longer than you’ve been alive. So to say that is insulting and again – childish.
I know I am right about Locke (and Niese), but that didn’t require me being a genius. Its not like this is his first year in the rotation or first year of struggling in the rotation – its like the 3rd year of him struggling in the rotation. Anyone who has been observant of his career would also likely be able to predict that 2016 would be similar – and that the Pirates were making a mistake to count on him as a starter again. The Pirates FO did this to themselves, by sticking with these guys for 3+ months – when they had options internally.
The biggest shame is that the Cubs are only 27-25, since their 25-6 start – yet. we’ve gained very little ground, if any, over that stretch – largely because of the starting rotation failures.

Luke S

Its childish to post the same thing 3 times a week and get offended when you get called on it.

You post the same thing about Locke, and then act like its some ultra wise declaration. You simply take the hard edge stance and treat it like something no one has thought of before.

Glasnow=ML ready since middle of last year, Locke is one of the worst SP most of his career, rinse and repeat.


Awesome comeback by the Bucs so far – now up 7-5….bullpen has done a great job so far of holding the Cards at 5 runs, after Locke departed. Kang has been able to continue to hit – I thought for sure his performance would really suffer given the big legal cloud over his head.

michael t

It has suffered since the incident.He obviously knew something was up before the story broke, and he was in a serious slump. Tonight was the best he has looked in over two weeks.


Good point…his average has been dropping…you may be right about the timing of that….

Tom Brenholts

Jimmy Dugan?


Avoid the clap.


That’s funny. I love that part of the movie.


One of my favorite baseball movies of all time. Tom Hanks brought his “A” game.

William R. Maloni Sr

Add Liriano to the package, giving some AL team two starters for some minor league prospects.

I think Francisco is past his “sell by date.”


The short answer is……not much. Niese, with his contract and bad pitching performance, could not bring much unless 1-2 other pieces are included. We will be fortunate if someone just takes the contract, even if we get another David Whitehead in return.
Its too bad the Pirates couldn’t have offered Liriano or Niese to the Dodgers, before LA went out and traded for Bud Norris – who isn’t much better. The Orioles could use a starter – but they probably wouldn’t want Niese – he would get killed in the AL East. Liriano maybe.
Like I said, even if we got nothing essentially in return, just unloading Niese’s contract would be a victory and somewhat of a miracle….


I agree. I really do not think that Niese is going to turn things around and become a productive, reliable, starting pitcher again, either this year or next season. If the Bucs can cut bait, I think it would be a good move.


IF by miracle you mean the same level as trading Tabata or Morton…not even close! He’s tradable. Hes a salary dump that even a bad team can inherit esp w those options. Hes gone no matter what but even more w 1-2 more showings esp against the cubs. O agree that offloading that contract is victory enough.


we’d save like 3 million dollars, big whoop. we are better off having him on the team for depth honestly


No thanks, we have better depth options…besides, I thought Niese is making $8-10m per year? Is this his last year on that contract?


after this year is two option years with a 500K buyout. It saves almost nothing…..and no…….we don’t have better depth options. He’s still a legit #5 . If he wasn’t forced to be a #3 , noone would be complaining that much about his stats.

Luke S

Contract has 2 years left, but teams have an opt out clause each year.

So effectively, a team gets to choose to keep him or ditch him after each season for 500K.

Luke S

Not if depth=forced to starting him.

Thats not depth, its using a bad option because you wont get rid of him.

I 99% of the time side with keeping depth, but you’d still have Cole-Taillon-Liriano-Glasnow-Kuhl-Brault.

6 options for 5 spots, and Trevor Williams if everything goes to shit. Thats 2 depth options in case of injury.


well you are never forced to start anyone- if we want to put him as a long reliever, he really has no say so in that….. we should either keep locke or neise for depth and trade the other. I don’t really care which.


I have no clue what Niese’s value would be, but I think there is a team that might give up something if they think they can get rehab him back to the pitcher he was in season’s past. Niese was a poor fit for the Pirates, down and in pitching approach, his sinker away was his best weapon to RHHs.

I don’t really like the Happ comparison, he lowered his arm slot in 2014, which improved his control and his issues with walks. and posted ERA-, FIP- slightly below league average from 2014 through July 2015, including the debacle July, where the Mariners over-reacted and traded him. (Jack Z was fired a month later)

Niese has been a different level of bad, but possibly fixable.

Luke S

Niese is younger, and also has a far longer record of past success than Happ had.

Happ was throwing slightly better, but still back end rotation like. So its not a 1-1 example, but there are reasons why Niese would have similar value. Age and track record on his side, terrible play this year a clear negative.


JA Happ is 9-3 with Toronto.

Luke S

Jeff Locke is 8-5 with the Pirates.

Things that dont show the quality of the arm for 1000.

Daniel C

as always, if you’re going to do it, package things…why not Cole and Liriano (give five more starts) and Taillon and Glasnow and Kuhl and Brault going every six days and trade Niese or Locke and the Three Dominicans getting it done and Watson and Melancon and AJS…now if optimal time for Melancon dealing then him and Niese/Locke and Ramirez or Hanson and get a controllable SP and let us include Jaso and get Josh Bell up here…time for tomorrow and right now…young blood infusion imitates ‘Guin success? aw yeah

William R. Maloni Sr

Not sure what that load of PBC players produces in return, but I like your thinking!!

Matthew R

Really, it should depend on what they could possibly get. It’s selling low on a guy, but starting pitching got real expensive in the last offseason. If the return is nothing more than a salary dump, they are better off keeping him. At least he’s a healthy arm, something you can never have too much of in August and September.


Plus, the free agent class this off-season is weak, especially for starting pitching. MLB Trade Rumors doesn’t list any starters among their top 10 free agents. If Rich Hill is healthy, he will probably in that list by season’s end. Given 2 years of control beyond this season, Niese might bring back a bit more than in a typical year.


I would be thrilled. I understood the trade at the time but he needs to go. I think Kuhl or Glasnow could put up similar numbers and gain experience doing it. Both have higher ceilings than Niese and similar floors. Get what you can and free up a spot.

Andrew Smalley

I think Niese has some value, as the options make him someone that a team – especially a big market team – could have some interest in. I still think he’s got something left in the tank, despite the first 3 months.

However, I’m not sure why Haap was referenced. The Pirates got him for essentially nothing, as Sampson was viewed – rightly – as a AAAA arm w/ very little upside. If the return is a Sampson-like return, I’d rather keep Niese for the remainder of the season and see if they can turn him around.


I agree- he still has value to this team as young arms can implode- i don’t want him in the rotation, but i don’t want him given away for more lottery tickets- we don’t need them. What we need is a good bullpen arm.

Luke S

For what? The 6th inning?

You’ve got Nicasio and Schugel throwing really well, and Feliz-Watson-Melancon not moving anywhere.

Im not overpaying for a replacement for Hughes, since Niese alone doesnt net a “good” bullpen arm when the bullpen is fine.


The Pirates will end up taking anything to dump Neise’s salary. Probably another Morton trade!


for starting as a #6 ……or for the 3rd inning, as we’ve seen Glasnow, Locke, and Frankie all have trouble getting out of the 3rd inning without giving up 4 runs. (same with neise unfortunately for what its worth)


I agree, Luke S. Putting Niese in the bullpen would be like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.


Baltimore but they have a weak farm system. Draft picks and or farmhands but that’s risky. Keep him because three years of control? They should have know that this would happen.


Not sure Baltimore wants a pitcher with home-run issues.


Not in that ballpark and not in the AL East for sure….


Pedro haha

Blaine Huff

Part of the reason they have a weak farm system is that they gave up Brault and Tarpley for Snider.

🙂 🙂 🙂


Better add Jake Arrieta who Baltimore dealt to the Chubs.


That may go down as Neal’s best trade ever, even exceeding the one for Cervelli and the one for Burnett…

Luke S

Lord, we gave up a guy whose name no one can even spell for Burnett.

Robbery that was.


Meaning a lot of options from the system But 5 starts doesn’t make a season! Let it play out through July. This is a continuation of the above post. Sorry


Id love to see Jedd Gyorko in a Pirate uniform.


Yeah he always kills us too… Would solve that problem.

John Allen Habel III

Maybe the marlins with Jim Benedict


I doubt Jim Benedict wants any part of Locke or Neise.

Stephen Brooks

The HR issues would certainly be muted in that ballpark. The only problem with that is, Niese is really no better than the guys he would replace, Chen or Nicollino.


I guess if we dump our failed projects to the Marlins we will find out who the real pitching genius is.


Jimmy Conlin and Foo Radely!!!!!

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