The MLB trade deadline is just over a week away. When 6:00 PM ET rolls around on Tuesday, Aug. 1, that’s it. No more trades until after the season is completed.
For what is essentially a certainty yet again, the Pirates will be sellers between now and next week’s deadline.
Last year, the Pirates flipped Daniel Vogelbach to the New York Mets for Colin Holderman and sent pitchers Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton to the St. Louis Cardinals for Johan Oviedo and prospect Malcom Nuñez.
It could look like a similar deadline this time around for the Pirates. They have a handful of veterans on expiring contracts that could realistically be flipped. Outside of that? There aren’t many obvious trade candidates currently on the active roster.
So, who could be wearing a new uniform next week?
OF/DH Andrew McCutchen
- Season stats: .267/.381/.416, 12 doubles, 10 home runs, 28 RBIs, nine steals, 80 games
Let’s just get this out of the way early. Sure, McCutchen is on a one-year deal, but he’s not going anywhere. He could have signed with a legitimate contender this offseason, but chose to come back to Pittsburgh.
He’s happy. He’s playing well. It would be a stunner to see him go anywhere.
1B Carlos Santana
- Season stats: .231/.316/.383, 24 doubles, nine home runs, 48 RBIs, six steals, 90 games
A switch-hitting, slick-fielding, first baseman with a strong clubhouse reputation could make Santana an intriguing trade target for a team looking for a little help at first base.
Santana has been a steady run producer for the Pirates this season and is sitting atop the MLB leaderboard in defensive runs saved for first basemen.
1B/DH Ji-Man Choi
- Season stats: .186/.210/.475, two doubles, five home runs, nine RBIs, 18 games
Choi missed a good chunk of the season with an Achilles injury, but he’s looked good since coming off the injured list earlier this month.
With a solid track record in his big league career, it wouldn’t surprise me to see his name mentioned in trade talks now that he is healthy again.
C Austin Hedges
- Season stats: .177/.231/.228, five doubles, one home run, 14 RBIs, one steal, 63 games
While Hedges has had an abysmal season at the plate, he has been good behind it. If a team wants to improve their catching defense, Hedges could be their guy.
The Pirates, after all, do have two natural catchers currently on their roster in Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis with Jason Delay back in Triple-A if needed to take a roster spot.
LHP Rich Hill
- Season stats: 7-9, 4.84 ERA, 59er/109.2ip, 117 hits, 42 walks, 94 strikeouts, 20 appearances/20 starts
At this point in his career, Hill is what he is. That’s a back-end starter who will eat innings — and there is value in that.
On the flip side, the Pirates’ starting pitching depth has been compromised this season. Would his value as an innings eater outweigh what would likely be a marginal return at best?
Controlled Beyond 2023
OF/1B Connor Joe
- Season stats: .240/.330/.421, 19 doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 25 RBIs, three steals, 86 games
Joe is under club control for the foreseeable future, so the Pirates don’t have to deal him. At the same time, he could be a wanted commodity thanks to that control, his versatility as well as a solid overall season in 2023.
LHPs Angel Perdomo and Ryan Borucki
- Season stats (Perdomo): 1-1, 3.32 ERA, 8er/20.1ip, 12 hits, seven walks, 30 strikeouts, 19 appearances
- Season stats: (Borucki): 1-0, 4.05 ERA, 6er/13.1ip, 11 hits, no walks, 14 strikeouts, 12 appearances/one start
Grouping both southpaws together because they are in similar spots. Both have outperformed expectations this season and contenders can’t have enough left-handed pitching when the calendar flips to October.
Would either be splash moves? No. But both could be had for a team looking to add some bullpen depth.
The Big Ticket
RHP David Bednar
- Season stats: 3-1. 1.15 ERA, 5er/39.0ip, 28 hits, nine walks, 47 strikeouts, 19 saves, 38 appearances
Bednar has established himself as one of the game’s best closing pitchers and was named to his second-straight All-Star team. There has been speculation around Bednar for quite some time but the Pirates haven’t shipped off the hometown player.
This year, Bednar would be one of the hotter names potentially up for grabs, especially when it comes to relief pitchers. Do I think the Pirates will trade him this deadline? No, I don’t. But all it takes this time of year is for one team to make Ben Cherington an offer he can’t refuse.
I’m not expecting too hectic of a trade deadline this year for the Pirates, simply because there aren’t a ton of obvious trade pieces outside of some of the veterans on one-year deals.
Santana, Hedges and Hill might be the most obvious candidates to get flipped, though the return for any of those players wouldn’t be earth-shattering.
Outside of that, I don’t see a whole lot of action from the offices at 115 Federal St. That is, unless Cherington has a trick or two up his sleeve.