The trade deadline dust hasn’t exactly settled yet. There are still a lot of complaints about the Francisco Liriano trade, and I don’t expect that to go away anytime soon. This is a long-term trade, which means we’re not going to see the MLB results from Drew Hutchison until at least September, and won’t see him in the rotation until next year. We also won’t see how the Pirates spend their saved money until this off-season. That combination means we’ll probably hear about the Liriano trade daily.
But let’s ignore that trade for a second and act like the dust has settled around the deadline. Let’s look at how the Pirates fared for the 2016 roster. Because with all of the complaining, you might have missed the fact that they arguably upgraded their roster in a few minor ways.
First, they traded for Ivan Nova to replace Liriano. Nova hasn’t had the best season, and the Pirates seem to be banking on a J.A. Happ bounce back performance. But even without that, Nova has been better than Liriano. He has a 4.90 ERA and a 4.06 xFIP. Liriano has a 5.46 ERA and a 4.51 xFIP. Neither one represents a good number. However, Liriano is still bad if he reaches his xFIP, while Nova would be acceptable.
Then there’s the swap of Jon Niese for Antonio Bastardo. Neither lefty is having a good season, but if you’re banking on someone to bounce back, the most likely guy seems to be Bastardo, especially rejoining a team where he had so much success, and in a smaller role that will have less pressure.
Nova and Bastardo aren’t guaranteed to provide big upgrades over Liriano and Niese, but there’s a chance they could provide those upgrades. There’s a lot of rebound potential with each pitcher, more so than the guys who were traded away. The approach this year on deadline day was very similar to last year — add some guys who have a shot at boosting your team, with a smaller chance to provide a major boost, all while avoiding the market rates for upgrades.
The key difference was that Liriano trade, which was totally different. I’ve seen some crazy reactions to that deal. They range from calling for Huntington to be fired, to losing faith in Huntington, to acting like that trade ended the chance to contend in the current season and any future seasons. And it’s all a crazy over-reaction to something that looks questionable now, and could end up being a very bad trade, but isn’t going to sink the team.
Forget the 2016 upgrade potential. What has changed for 2017 and beyond as far as the projected rosters?
They swapped out Liriano for Drew Hutchison. And Reese McGuire isn’t available, meaning they’ll go with Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz as their starters.
I didn’t like the inclusion of McGuire in the deal, and think that could really hurt them in the future. But they haven’t taken anything away from 2017. They might have upgraded it, if Liriano continues struggling with his new team. They haven’t taken anything away from future years either.
At the very worst, they will have given away a valuable prospect who shouldn’t have been lumped in the “we’ve got depth to trade” group. That’s not a good thing, as a team like the Pirates can’t afford to waste prospects. And that’s what this is all about: Trading Reese McGuire in a questionable move.
No one seems to have a problem with dumping Liriano. People hate the term “financial flexibility”, but that’s due to the usage when Dave Littlefield was the GM. Littlefield used his flexibility to sign guys like Jeromy Burnitz, Chris Stynes, Randall Simon, etc. Huntington actually signs good players, or players with a lot of upside.
Not many seem to mind trading Harold Ramirez, and I don’t think there would be as much outrage if it was Ramirez and two lower ranked prospects in the deal, rather than McGuire. This all basically comes down to McGuire. And with the reactions, you’d think they just gave Andrew McCutchen away for nothing.
This is a team that still has that outside shot at the playoffs, but probably won’t advance far if they make it past the Wild Card game. They’re still a team looking good for 2017, with the young guys having more experience, and now plenty of payroll space to add a big starter to the top of the rotation with Gerrit Cole.
So nothing has really changed for the worse after the deadline, and you could argue that things have a chance to be better. That perspective is needed, because it seems a lot of people are using their disgust over trading McGuire to proclaim this season and future seasons over, when the reality is that this is just one questionable move, which could result in one talented prospect wasted.
**Prospect Watch: Good Outing From Waddell, Taylor Returns From Tommy John. Live report on Waddell, plus my live report from Morgantown, and some notes on Jacob Taylor and Drew Hutchison.
**MLB Pipeline Ranks Pirates as Fourth Best Farm System. This will probably go down when Jameson Taillon is removed from the equation.
**Barrett Barnes Striving to Rediscover His Old Self This Summer. Sean McCool looks at the success Barrett Barnes has been having over the last month.
**Glasnow and Hanson Listed Among the Best in the International League. Baseball America releases their best tools list for Triple-A.