Today is the MLB trade deadline, which you might not have noticed based on the lack of Pirates rumors. The Pirates are in an interesting spot, not really in position to buy, but also not really in position to do a big sell. The last few years have seen most of their moves happen close to the deadline, and with 30 minutes left to go, we’re now starting to hear a few items.

Most of what is out there right now surrounds Tony Watson. Bill Brink said that the Pirates are fielding offers for Watson and Nicasio, and that they’re looking for controllable relievers.

Ken Rosenthal followed that up later by saying the Dodgers are looking at Watson as a fallback if they don’t get Zach Britton. Jon Heyman said the same thing, while saying Brad Hand is also possible.

It’s not really a surprise that the Pirates would deal Watson. This would be the same scenario that they were in last year with Mark Melancon, who they ended up trading despite Melancon having a bigger role than Watson currently has. Based on Brink’s tweet, they might even be trying to recapture the magic they had last year by trading a reliever on an expiring contract for a reliever who could be better long-term, and under control for many years.

UPDATE 3:36 PM: Heyman says the Dodgers are closing in on Watson, and Rosenthal says they’ve traded for him, pending medicals.

More to come.

UPDATE 3:49 PM: Joel Sherman says the return is two minor league players.

UPDATE 4:27 PM: The Pirates have made the trade official, adding right-handed pitcher Angel German and infielder Oneil Cruz from the Dodgers. More info on those two shortly.

UPDATE 4:38 PM: Cruz is the highest ranked prospect of the two, rating 21st in’s latest Dodgers top 30. He’s 6′ 6″ and plays third base and shortstop. Pipeline says he has “considerable power potential that he’ll begin to realize as he gets stronger.” He has quick hands, although a naturally long bat stroke. Defensively, he profiles best as a third baseman due to his size, and has the arm strength and agility to be a solid defender at the position.

He currently has a .635 OPS as an 18-year-old in Low-A. It’s hard to say where the Pirates will send him. The Dodgers gave him an aggressive push, sending him from the DSL to Low-A in his second pro season. The Pirates could opt to send him to an easier level, giving him a better transition into the system, and allowing for another shot at West Virginia next year.

Angel German is a 21-year-old in Low-A, with a 1.91 ERA in 33 innings of relief, along with a 37:14 K/BB ratio. He’s been reported to hit the mid-90s with his fastball, getting close to 100 MPH. He also throws a sweeping slider that is his out pitch, and is pretty effective by the stats. He didn’t rate in the Dodgers’ top 30, which isn’t a surprise, as he seems like your run of the mill low-level relief prospect. He’s got arm strength and a strikeout pitch, but control problems. My guess is he goes to West Virginia.

The real value here seems to be Cruz. He’s a big lottery ticket, and not much of a prospect now in terms of results, but the skills and potential give him a lot of upside for the future, and at a position where the Pirates are thin throughout the system.

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  1. Granted Watson has been a shadow of his former self, but for a few years he was a key part of one of the best one-two late inning punches in MLB. God bless you, Tony. It was time for you to go, but you gave us some great work. Go win the Series in Dodger blue.

  2. Nice to add another 3B candidate lower in the organization. But we really need a MLB ready 3B candidate for 2018. What does the FA market look like for 3B men? Maybe the Bucs could spend some of the cash they are saving this year for a power bat at 3B next year.

  3. Nice how you only included Cruz’s OPS which is surprisingly one of his better stats (which is not good). The man has 154 Ks to 50 BBs (that is absurd even for an 18 year old)….Oh, and btw, this giant only has 8 career HRs in 144 games.
    If you strike out that much, you better be putting the ball over the fence at a higher clip. Shake the baseball tree and 100 gloves fall out but only one bat. The Pirates don’t seem to be abiding by the old baseball adage, “you can’t teach hitting”…Stephen Alameis (however you spell it) perfect example, I picked him because I know you can’t stop talking about him Tim…might as well call him Stephen Ngope. I hope this Cruz guy turns out like a Judge or a Stanton but I have to go by NH’s track record on power and say he wont. I just wish we managed to get at least one major league ready outfielder or reliever in this deal.

      • He wasn’t even in Rookie ball last year, he was still in the Dominican league. DSL to full-season ball stateside as an 18-year-old is a massive leap and it’s absurd to write this kid off just because he hasn’t torn up the Sally League this season.

        Laughable, too, to think we could have gotten a “Major League-ready” outfielder for 2017 Tony Watson that was anymore more than AAAA waiver fodder.

  4. It’s always going to be speculation, but I wonder what some of the offers over time were for Watson. When he was at his best, RPs weren’t bringing back near the haul they are in this 2017 market. But of course, if something pans out with Cruz in 3 to 5 years, what a win for the organization.

  5. I like the return at this point. Bottom line was if they kept Watson he would be gone at the end of the year getting nothing in return for him. If he stayed he was not going to get the team to the World series but at least now he has a chance to go with LA.

  6. I’m surprised they didn’t trade prospects to someone to eat the balance of Hudson’s contract.

  7. Interestingly, Cruz’s buscone in the Dominican was Raul “Banana” Valera, who has numerous Pirate connections.

    Knowing Huntington’s history, I’d almost guarantee the Pirates were on Cruz before the Dodgers outbid them.

  8. i had no idea cruz was already in low a at 18. i love how aggressive the dodgers are with their prospects. i wish the pirates were more aggressive with theirs

      • that’s a hard question to answer. developmental paths are different for every minor leaguer.

        but the dodgers must be doing something right, since they have better young talent than the pirates.

        and no, i’m not equating aggressive promotions = better talent

        • What I’m asking is that why is the aggressive promotion the only thing that matters?

          I see this all the time where people praise an aggressive promotion, then just ignore when the player struggles. Cruz doesn’t look like he’s responding well to the promotion. And is it really worse if he spends a year in the GCL, then gets promoted to Low-A?

          There are countless players who get ruined by aggressive promotions across baseball. There are some who get aggressive promotions and do well, because their talent and current skills warranted the promotion. I think a blanket promotion scale, especially an aggressive one, can hurt some prospects who aren’t ready for it. Cruz doesn’t look like he was ready for it.

          • Where did I say that aggressive promotions are the only thing that matters? I just said I like how aggressive the Dodgers are. I’m well aware aggressive promotions aren’t for every prospect.

            It’s just a preference thing I guess.

            Off the top of my head I can’t remember the last time the Pirates aggressively promoted a player.

            In any instance this just leads into the Pirates lack of talent being worthy of aggressive promotions.

  9. From a Ben Badler chat on German

    Fredo (Lake Tahoe): Angel German. Young and tall is what I hear, what do you and your team see?

    Ben Badler: His fastball ranks right up there with Jacob Rhame among the best in the system. Sits mid-90s, touches 100 mph, but it’s a young, crude arm. Still learning a lot of the basics, but things like fastball command, improving his slider, learning a changeup and getting some more deception are all focal points for him going forward. Probably a reliever long-term, but a great under $100K find by their DR scouts.

  10. We should’ve traded for this guy from the Dodgers!!!!

    Frank (Chicago, IL): What’s the skinny on Starling Heredia? Can we look forward to reading about him in the 2016 handbook???

    Ben Badler: He’s definitely in there, although I don’t think “skinny” and “Starling Heredia” belong in the same sentence. He looks like he could lift a Volvo. Very strong, athletic, good tools and he’s hit well in games against kids his age, but the pitch recognition and strike-zone management are things he will need to tighten up against better competition.


  11. #27…Oneil Cruz…….SS/3B (WE GOT OUR THIRDBASEMAN!!)

    International bonus baby. Got 950k. Has a .635 OPS in Low A. 19 years old. 6’6″ 175 (he was 6’0″ when signed).

    He’s a good athlete. He has zero plate discipline. (28w / 110k). He has some pop when he makes contact, but his offensive skills are better suited at SS than a corner position. However, if he can get his newly found long levers in sync, he could generate lots of power. A true lotto ticket.

  12. P Angel German (low-A reliever) and IF ONeil Cruz (18 year old A ball 3B/SS, 110K/342AB) come to the Bucs. Bucs also get P Joaquin Benoit from Phils for Seth McGarry

  13. With Watson now gone and Hughes earlier this year, Cutch is now the only Dave Littlefield draftee left I believe although Marte may have been signed during his tenure.

        • Benoit has been a perfectly reasonable arm this year. In fact, he’s basically been the same pitcher as he always is, with worse luck. His dingers are a bit up, but he still strikes guys out at a decent rate, and the walks are about average.

          With Santana struggling right now, he’s a fine addition.

          • sure. he’s a fine player. but the point is….why? what’s the point in adding him? i’d rather just get the young players experience for next season, instead of adding a stop gap reliever for no reason. there is no direction in this move….as usual

            • Because he exactly replaces Watson’s production, with some certainty. Santana or another AAA reliever in the system might do that, but they aren’t guaranteed. Santana only looked passable when he was up with the Bucs earlier this year, and he’s struggled in AAA lately. Benoit assures the team isn’t any worse this season for trading Watson, and he didn’t really cost them anything anyway.

              • Remind me the value of going from a 79 to an 80 win team?

                There are obviously bigger things to worry about but don’t gaslight everything we talked about as “good process” during the rebuilding years. Acquiring Benoit is meaningless, and worthless. He has absolutely zero long term benefit and doesn’t come close to making the current team appreciably better.

                • But most of the players are going to be here next year, and they expect, I’m sure, to contend. Just dealing Watson and not replacing him would not have sat well with those players, especially the guys who have been around for a while.

                  This move wasn’t about “improving the team” in a value sense so much, I assume, as a gesture of good will to the players, telling them the front office didn’t give up on them and pull the rug out from under them.

                  McGary is a non-prospect, no harm in giving him up. Benoit doesn’t really block anyone, since there’s fluidity in the bullpen to allow guys to be called up, and only one month until the rosters expand anyway. If they had traded an actual prospect for him, sure, that’s a decent point, but they paid nothing for good will to the players, and I don’t see any harm in that.

                  • Like I said, the move itself is meaningless.

                    The post hoc rationalization, on the other hand, is annoying. The players aren’t stupid. They know this does nothing for them. Don’t belittle them with silly narratives.

                    • The players aren’t stupid, but they’re not devoid of emotion, either. Neil Walker demonstrated that when he complained publicly that the front office didn’t have the team’s backs after some trade deadline.

                      It’s not an insult to them, it’s human nature. When we’re asked to do a job by our bosses (here, win baseball games), and then our bosses take away a resource (here, Tony Watson) without replacing it with something at least reasonably similar (here, Joaquin Benoit), it’s easy to naturally resent them for it, and for performance to likewise slack.

  14. This is the right move. Tony, for as good as he’s been in his career for the Pirates, is now a nonessential piece of a team which probably can’t compete for the playoffs at this point. He’s been pitching in sufficiently low-leverage situations lately that the impact on the team this year is minimal, and doesn’t really reduce their chances in 2017, and given how expensive he’s likely to be in 2018, and the uncertainty about how good he’ll even be in 2018, getting something for him while he’s still affordable and carries a little value was the best way to go.

    The same can be said of players like Freese and Jaso. Trading Nicasio would actually hurt the team this season, and likely doesn’t yield a proportional return. It’s probably a better bet to hope Hudson rebounds next year than to deal him at low value this season.

    They could also do soft buys, so long as the players they acquire can help next year, too, but after a miserable West coast swing, I just don’t see any real reason to supplement the team right now.

    • I’m with you except for Nicasio…

      If the Pirates aren’t going to the post-season and his contract will end this year…so what if the Pirates are a lesser team without him?

      • Honestly, since they’re not actually technically out of it, trading Nicasio would probably be a mistake. They’d be forfeiting the season at that point, and whatever they get for him isn’t worth forfeiting the season. Trading Watson didn’t forfeit the season, which is why it was fine.

        • I see your point…but the Cubs have been playing below their talent level all season…it was only a matter of time before they righted themselves…I’m guessing they’re probably a lock for 90 wins now and, most likely, 92ish.

          The Pirates aren’t catching them and that puts them 8.5 for the last WC spot. I think it’s a done season…if Nicasio isn’t traded, it’s because NH is looking for a soft-landing in the final standings.

          • We can say that and be 100% correct, but try selling it to the players. And most of them will be here next year. That’s not nothing.

            • That’s a decent point…but that move would open a spot for a guy at AAA…and, lord knows, we’ve got enough of them down there that can pitch in relief…

              Guys might also like to know they can eventually make the team and not be blocked by dead weight. Not a knock on Nicasio…but he’s gone in a couple of months…

  15. MLB reported a bit ago that only one position player changed hands. There just isn’t a market right now for position players. Cutch, etc., will have to wait for the GM meetings in December.

  16. Good for Tony. He hasn’t been good for awhile. Maybe he can get back on track while playing for a winner.

    • I am happy for Watson, getting to go to a team with a legitimate chance to go all the way. The rest of this whole trade deadline situation as far as the Pirates are concerned is nothing short of an absolute disgrace.
      This is a total slap in the face to this team that hung in there all year and fought their way back into contention with Kang and Marte, and to its fans, only to now have Neal H., either of his own volition, or because of shackles put on him by Bob Nutting, do NOTHING TO GIVE THIS TEAM A LEGITIMATE CHANCE TO WIN THIS YEAR.

      • Right there with you. Im a season ticket holder Pirates Steelers and Penguins. Used to love baseball most of all. Now? Not so sure I need to support all three teams.

        • Don’t love baseball as much but read a paid minor league site. Stop with the “I’m not a fan anymore because uncle bobby didn’t buy me a bike” argument. It’s a good team. They’ve been competitive for 6 seasons in late summer and early fall.


  17. I would not stop there. I would put Jaso in play to see what if anything they could get for him. Brault can be better than Watson so it is no great loss. HOpe we get someone of value in return.

    • “Brault can be better than Watson” is one of the more ridiculous things I have read recently. Jeff Locke is better than Brault is or will ever be. Nobody wants Jaso either man, you have to give teams incentive to trade, that is how trading works…sorry to sound curt but, that entire statement made no sense to me.

  18. Watson won’t be back here at more than 6 million in the next arb level. Time to start the who isn’t coming back and see what they can get for them. Jaso as a bench player?

  19. Pirates Breakdown‏ @pbcbreakdown

    Source: Watson WILL be traded by 4pm deadline or shortly after (teams often consummate late of course)

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