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Pirates Analysis

One Year Later: Evaluating the Joe Musgrove Trade



It has been one year since the Pirates shipped right-handed pitcher Joe Musgrove to his hometown of San Diego in a three-team deal that included the Mets in addition to the Padres. Additionally, left-handed pitcher Joey Lucchesi was sent from San Diego to Queens to join the Mets.

In return, the Pirates received five players — right-handed pitcher David Bednar, outfielder Hudson Head, left-handed pitcher Omar Cruz and right-handed pitcher Drake Fellows from the Padres and catcher Endy Rodriguez from the Mets. It was the second major trade executed by Ben Cherington with the first being the trade that sent Josh Bell to the nation’s capital.

After the disappointing season that was 2020, Cherington continued to rebuild and tried to stockpile young talent throughout the Pirates system. So how does the three-team deal look one year later?

Let’s start with the departing players. Musgrove enjoyed a fantastic first year with the Friars, a year that saw him throw the first ever no-hitter in Padres history. In total, Musgrove led the Padres in starts with 31, and finished off the year with a record of 11-9, a 3.18 ERA/3.70 FIP and 203 strikeouts in 181.1 innings pitched.

Despite Musgrove’s success, the Padres, despite their talented roster, ended the season on the outside looking in for the postseason. With a new manager in Bob Melvin, the Padres will be looking to get back into the postseason backed by Musgrove in an impressive rotation. Musgrove is under contract for one more season.

Lucchesi’s season with the Mets ended prematurely thanks to an elbow injury that resulted in season-ending Tommy John surgery. The left-hander pitched 38.1 innings across 11 appearances (eight starts) and had a 4.46 ERA/3.40 FIP. He’s expected to miss most if not all of the 2022 season.

Now for the Pirates side of the deal. The only player of the five that played with the big league club last season was Bednar, who anchored the Bucs bullpen throughout the season. Just like how Musgrove returned home in the deal, the Mars-native did the same.

Bednar broke out for a dazzling 2.23 ERA in 60.2 innings out of the bullpen in 2021. He picked up 77 strikeouts and walked just 19 batters on the year. Bednar is expected to be the Pirates closer this upcoming season.

Head was probably the most highly-regarded prospect of the bunch at the time of the trade and spent the entire season with the Bradenton Marauders. The lefty-swinging Head hit only .213, but posted an impressive .362 on-base percentage and a .394 slugging, good for a 113 wRC+.

Head blasted 15 home runs, and posted an impressive 15.7 walk rate, but that came with an equally unimpressive 31.6 strikeout rate. Head will look to cut down on the strikeouts moving forward, and if he is able to do that, carries a very high ceiling.

The Pirates were thin on left-handers at the time of the trade, so the inclusion of Cruz made sense. Cruz impressed in 21 starts between High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona. On the season, Cruz combined for a 3.44 ERA in just shy of 100 innings between the two levels.

The final of four players acquired from the Padres was Fellows, who pitched just 11.2 innings due to injuries.

Lastly, from the Mets, Rodriguez emerged as one of the Pirates more-promising prospects this past season. Like with Head, Rodriguez spent the entire season with Low-A Bradenton. Rodriguez slashed .294/.380/.512 (140 wRC+) with 25 doubles, six triples and 15 home runs. He had an impressive walk rate (11.5 %) and an impressive strikeout rate (17.7%) to go with it.

Defensively, Rodriguez displayed his versatility and athleticism, appearing behind the plate, at first base and in left field. Rodriguez is surely one to watch as he works his way up the system

A year is hardly enough time to evaluate trades but as things stand right now, I’m sure the Padres and Pirates are both pretty happy with how things have worked out thus far. The Padres found an immediate rotation upgrade and the Pirates have multiple intriguing players as they build for the future.

If Lucchesi can rebound from his injury and flash the potential he showed before he hit the injured list with the Mets, this has the potential to be a win-win-win scenario.

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