Trade talks start to heat up for coveted Bucs

June 19th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- At the helm of a team that will clearly be a seller as the Trade Deadline approaches, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington has gotten check-ins throughout the season from other GMs. The past couple of weeks have been a little bit more involved, though.

“It feels like it has picked up a little bit,” Cherington said of the volume of calls he’s gotten.

It feels a little bit unusual to Cherington, because he knows it should feel natural to get calls at this point, as this would also be when the MLB Draft would typically be held. But with nearly a month to go until the Pirates select first overall, Cherington has had to recalibrate his internal GM clock a bit.

The Pirates have a few guys who will clearly draw trade interest in the coming weeks. Adam Frazier is hitting like mad and will not be a free agent until 2023, making him an attractive, more controllable trade piece. With a handful of strong middle-infield prospects rising through the ranks, the organization will listen to calls about him as they look to the future.

Richard Rodríguez has scuffled a bit recently, but he’s an ideal setup man for a contending team. Tyler Anderson, who has also hit a few bumps recently, is in Pittsburgh on a one-year deal and would provide starting depth for a team down the stretch and into the playoffs. Gregory Polanco’s power potential could entice a club to take a chance on him, despite inconsistent contact this season. Chasen Shreve, who came to Pittsburgh on a Minors deal this offseason, entered Saturday with a 1.88 ERA in 15 games.

So there will be these -- and likely more -- players the Pirates will consider dealing. On the other hand, there are players who are clearly crucial to what the club is trying to build over the next few years. However, Cherington doesn’t like to use the word “untouchable” when it comes to discussions about trades.

“I think, obviously, there are going to be players we value extremely highly and we see as a big part of our future,” Cherington said. “I think you want to keep the phone on, but that doesn’t mean that you’re actively marketing players. We’re responding to interest and, in some cases, it just doesn’t go very far. In other cases, it might.”

In trades this past offseason, the Pirates picked up some young, high-upside pieces who appear to be 3-4 years out of a potential first full season in the Majors, like 20-year-old outfielder Hudson Head (in the Joe Musgrove trade) and 19-year-old shortstop Maikol Escotto (in the Jameson Taillon trade). They also picked up Major League-ready players like Wil Crowe (in the Josh Bell trade) and David Bednar (also in the Musgrove trade).

Even as a smaller-market club, the Pirates’ acquisition philosophy isn’t focused on trying to predict when the next competitive window will be.

“There’s no particular level of player we’re focused on or targeting,” Cherington said. “I think we just want to continue to try to find the players we believe in the most, and believe that if we have enough of them, then that will come together,” Cherington said. “Whatever adjustments we need to make over time to make the team work, we’ll be able to do that."

The fact that calls have picked up is a good thing for the Pirates. It’s the first step in potentially working out a deal with other clubs. But now comes the part that Cherington admits he’s bad at anticipating.

“I’ve never been very good at predicting when the conversations turn to traction,” Cherington said. “I’m just not good at it. So I don’t know if that’s 24 hours or a week or six weeks. I really don’t know, but it does seem like there have been more phone calls over the last week or 10 days.”