The Pittsburgh Pirates have already added a pair of pitchers to their starting rotation ahead of the 2024 season.
Left-hander Marco Gonzales was acquired from the Atlanta Braves at the beginning of the month in exchange for cash considerations. Fellow southpaw Martín Pérez has agreed to a one-year contract with the Pirates, pending a physical.
Even with multiple additions already completed, the Pirates are on the hunt for additional rotation help as the offseason marches on.
“We would still like to add to the rotation.” general manager Ben Cherington recently told reporters over Zoom. “I know I mentioned an optimistic possibility about one more that we’re pretty far along on (Pérez). But even beyond that, we would like to add to the rotation.”
Cherington said the Pirates will explore multiple avenues in their search for further additions. While free agency is certainly an option they are looking into, trades are also on the table. There are plenty of trade candidates who could be of interest to the Pirates.
RHP Edward Cabrera
It has been speculated that the Marlins could move a starting pitcher in search of position player help. Miami and Pittsburgh seem like a good fit to swing a deal on paper.
Cabrera is coming off of a 2023 season in which he tossed a career-high 99.2 innings in 22 appearances/20 starts. The 25-year-old finished the season at 7-7 with a 4.22 ERA (106 ERA+) with 118 strikeouts and 60 walks. Cabrera has a live arm and is capable of racking up strikeouts, but he also can get wild.
Still a young pitcher, there’s plenty to like about Cabrera. If the Pirates feel they can harness his control, he could become a key piece of the rotation long-term. The right-hander is a former top prospect and was ranked the 34th-best farmhand in baseball in 2022.
RHP Alek Manoah
Manoah was brilliant during the 2022 season, his first full-season as a big leaguer with the Toronto Blue Jays. He finished third in the American League Cy Young race after going 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA in 31 starts. In just shy of 200 innings, the big righty struck out 180 batters.
The 2023 season, however, was disastrous for Manoah. This past year, Manoah went 3-9 with a 5.87 ERA with a troubling 59 walks in 87.1 innings pitched. His season consisted of a trip to the minor leagues and an injection in his pitching shoulder.
Even with the disappointing season, there is still plenty of upside with Manoah, who only turns 26 next month. Plus, Cherington was working in the Blue Jays’ front office when the team selected him 11th overall in 2019.
RHP Paul Blackburn
The Oakland A’s have expressed hesitation about moving Blackburn, but he remains a logical trade candidate nonetheless.
The eventual Las Vegas A’s could look to move their right-handed starter, and the Pittsburgh Pirates could look across the country if he becomes available. Last season, the 30-year-old posted a 4.43 ERA (92 ERA+) and a 3.96 FIP.
Blackburn may not give the Pirates a top of the rotation arm, but the 2022 All-Star could help stabilize the rotation.
RHP Dylan Cease
Cease, above all, would be the biggest splash for the Pirates and would be the most costly in terms of departing assets.
On the surface, Cease, who turns 28 on Thursday, is coming off a pedestrian showing in 2023 when he went 7-9 with a 4.58 ERA in a league-high 31 starts. Though the surface numbers were unspectacular, Cease did have a more impressive 3.72 FIP.
Cease was the Cy Young runner-up in 2022 and could be worth it for the Pirates if they opt for upside.
Others of Note
Shane Bieber (Guardians) and Corbin Burnes (Brewers) are two obvious trade candidates, but neither makes much sense for the Pirates as both will be free agents following the season. In Burnes’ case, the Brewers and Pirates would have to get together for a rare in-division blockbuster.
The Seattle Mariners have a host of younger pitchers who could be available — Bryan Woo, Bryce Miller and Emerson Hancock. All three would plausibly be of interest to the Pittsburgh Pirates.