This is one in a series of examining potential trade targets for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2023-24 offseason.
This past season, Michael Soroka took the mound for the Atlanta Braves for the first time since 2020 The results were subpar, but it was a testament to Soroka for finding his way back after a series of grueling injuries.
The right-hander required season-ending surgery after tearing his Achilles on Aug. 3 during the 2020 campaign. After a setback in his rehab, the injury required a second surgery.
Soroka didn’t pitch an inning in 2021. His injury limited him to only six minor league starts during the 2022 season.
In 2023, Soroka combined for 119.1 innings pitched between Triple-A and the big league club. The 26-year-old was solid though his 17 starts in Triple-A. Soroka posted a 3.41 ERA and threw a pair of complete games. The right-hander struck out 92 and walked only 28 in 87.0 innings pitched.
His efforts led to his return to the mound in Atlanta. In six starts with the Braves, Soroka went 2-2 with a 6.40 ERA in seven starts. He totaled 32.1 innings for the National League East champions and struck out 29 batters. Soroka’s season came to an abrupt end with a forearm injury, though no surgery was required.
With all of the injury concerns, why would the Pirates trade for him? Well, Soroka has been a darn good pitcher when he’s healthy.
In 2019, Soroka went 13-4 with a terrific 2.68 ERA across 29 starts. He was named an All-Star that season, finished second in the Rookie of the Year race and sixth in the Cy Young voting. If Soroka is able to regain even a semblance of what he was, he would give the Pirates a major rotation upgrade.
Now, this complicated trade option only works for the Pirates if the medicals come back clean — and that’s a big if. Even then, there are some other factors to take into account.
Soroka is arbitration-eligible this offseason and is projected to earn a $3M salary, according to MLBTradeRumors. The injury history makes that price look a bit steep.
Because of that, Soroka is a non-tender candidate of the Braves prior to Friday’s non-tender deadline. It’s entirely possible that the Braves opt to not tender Soroka a contract and let him hit free agency. In that case, Soroka could theoretically be had for a lesser salary, but the Pirates would have to compete with any other teams with interest across the league.
Again, it circles back to the medicals. If the Pirates are fine with what they see in a physical and after reviewing his medical history, they could ensure that they land him.
With a starting rotation currently in flux, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be in search of multiple starters this offseason. While they should sign or trade for more-reliable arms, they could look to take a gamble on Soroka’s upside to help add depth and fill out the backend of their staff.