This is one in a series of examining potential trade targets for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2023-24 offseason.
Heading into the offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ biggest area for improvement is starting pitching.
General manager Ben Cherington will be looking to upgrade the rotation through free agency and the trade market. There are a handful of free agents that make sense, but with the Pirates’ — let’s just say reserved spending approach — it might be more sensible to make impactful upgrades to their rotation through trades.
One team the Pirates could look to execute a deal with could be the Miami Marlins, who have a host of young starters. The Marlins still make sense as a trade partner, though maybe not as much as they did a couple weeks ago.
For starters, 2022 National League Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara recently underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss all of next season, leaving them with one less healthy arm — and an impactful one at that.
Additionally, the Marlins unexpectedly parted ways with general manager Kim Ng, who declined her end of a mutual option after it was reported that ownership wanted to add a President of Baseball Operations over her. Miami will now have to bring in a new head of baseball operations, who will need to hit the ground running in terms of getting acclimated to the organization.
With all that being said, it’s still very possible that the Marlins could trade a starting pitcher this winter, and there are two candidates who could make sense for the Pirates.
The first is Edward Cabrera, a 25-year-old right-hander who made 22 appearances (20 starts) with Miami last season and pitched pretty well. He posted a 4.24 ERA to go along with a 7-7 record and struck out 118 batters in 99.2 innings pitched at the big league level. Opponents hit only .215 against him on the year.
An area of concern for the young righty is control. Cabrera issued 66 free passes in his big league workload last year, which equates to 6.0 walks per nine innings. Even with the control issues, though, Cabrera was still effective.
Cabrera has the pedigree. He was rated as high as the 34th-best prospect in baseball entering the 2022 season by MLB Pipeline.
Another potential option for the Pirates is 2021 All-Star and N.L. Rookie of the Year runner-up Trevor Rogers, a left-handed pitcher.
Rogers was limited to only four starts in 2023 after he was placed on the injured list in April with a left biceps strain, and he later suffered a partial tear of his lat to his non-throwing arm. While injuries are certainly a concern, there is upside with Rogers.
In his All-Star campaign in 2021, the left-hander went 7-8 with a sparkling 2.64 ERA in 25 starts. That year, he allowed only 107 hits, walked 46 and struck out 157 batters in 133.0 innings pitched. He excelled at keeping the ball in the park and yielded only six home runs.
The 2022 season was not nearly as kind to Rogers, who turns 26 next month. He struggled to the tune of a 4-11 record with a 5.47 ERA, though his 4.35 FIP was much more respectable. This year, he posted a 4.00 ERA in his four starts before being lost for the season.
While both players come with risk for different reasons, both are intriguing options for the Pirates as they look to shore up their rotation next season. If the Pirates did end up with either Cabrera or Rogers, it would be wise to add a more reliable veteran to the mix in addition to either of the two.