PITTSBURGH -- Much like a business’ financial year, the quarter point of the baseball season is a time where we can pause and reflect on how things are going. Forty games provides a big enough sample size to tell us about how our teams are doing, but enough of a slate remains for jumps and falls in the coming months.
In that vein, let’s open up the Pirates Inbox and see what you’re all thinking about.
It’s unlikely, for two reasons. First of all, it’s a big assumption to think a contending team has a need for both a back-end starter and a high-average, low-slugging second baseman. Plus, factor in contract considerations; Anderson is on a one-year deal, though Frazier is a free agent in 2023.
The second part is that Top 100 prospects aren’t traded frequently, and they often require a high fee. Here are a few of the players who have netted those kinds of prospects: Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto, Chris Sale, Aroldis Chapman and a package of Edwin Díaz and Robinson Canó. There have been some other swaps involving lesser Major Leaguers, but often, those involve loads of cash being offloaded (think Jeter Downs in the Yasiel Puig/Alex Wood/Matt Kemp trade).
In the Pirates’ history, the trade of Andrew McCutchen -- clearly a star player -- didn’t even land the Pirates a Top 100 prospect, though it netted Bryan Reynolds, who was not far outside of it at the time. These kinds of deals simply don’t get done very often.
One reason why is a sour memory for some in Pittsburgh. In 2019, the club traded two recent Top 100 prospects in Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, then added current Top 100 prospect Shane Baz as a player to be named later, to the Rays for Chris Archer. We’ve seen how the first two have panned out, we’re close to seeing how Baz fares and Archer is back in Tampa Bay after less than two seasons.
This is not to be negative and say none of it made sense -- heck, Glasnow had a 5.79 ERA in Pittsburgh over three seasons -- but I raise the example simply to say that there is a ton of risk involved in trading a Top 100 prospect as opposed to a younger, high-ceiling prospect (think Liover Peguero in the Starling Marte trade) who could potentially turn into a Top 100 prospect down the road. The latter route is much more likely.
Assuming Ke'Bryan Hayes comes back in early June and stays healthy, do we still think he has the capability to win NL Rookie of the Year?
The good news is that Hayes doesn’t have to face Adolís Garcia, who has already slugged 10 homers in 32 games with the Rangers. The top competition in the National League appears to be Marlins shortstop Jazz Chisholm, Phillies infielder Nick Maton and Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson. Hayes and Carlson were the only ones to get votes in MLB.com’s preseason poll, demonstrating just how much opportunity and health play into who jumps out in this field.
Let’s play a fun WAR-based game to determine how likely or unlikely a Hayes comeback to claim the NL Rookie of the Year Award will be. Chisholm leads the field in the NL with 1.1 fWAR in 23 games entering Monday. Meanwhile, Hayes had 1.6 fWAR in 24 games last season.
Hayes is eligible to come off the 60-day injured list on June 3 -- coincidentally, the date of the Pirates’ series opener with the Marlins at PNC Park. That will give him 108 games. Even if he’s fully healthy, he will get a few days off, so let’s say 100 games for the sake of projection. That insane pace of 1.6 fWAR in 24 games would translate to 6.7 fWAR, and add the 0.1 fWAR he put up in two games to make 6.8.
Meanwhile, if Chisholm plays the next 100 games at his 1.1 fWAR in 23 games pace, he’d end up with 4.8 fWAR in that stretch, plus the 1.1 to make 5.9 fWAR for the season.
Hayes would clearly be ahead, but it would take a near-repeat of the insane numbers he put up last season. So I think he has a shot, but it’s a long one with this much time missed.
What’s going on with Cole Tucker? Do we think he gets time this year in the Majors or is he an irrelevant piece at this point?
Let me start by being clear that I don’t think Cole Tucker is an irrelevant piece. What I will say is that with Kevin Newman, Erik González and Adam Frazier healthy, I don’t think there’s a major necessity at this point.
That’s probably for the best for Tucker, given what the Pirates have told us. General manager Ben Cherington said that Tucker did not join the alternate site in April so that the former top shortstop prospect in the organization could work on developing some particular offensive skills. They’ve yet to pay off on paper at Triple-A Indianapolis (.186 average with two doubles and a triple in 11 games), but that doesn’t mean good habits aren’t being formed.
The argument against keeping Tucker, who played in the outfield in 2020, at Triple-A for a while centers around how the outfield has been a wild ride this season. Bryan Reynolds is firmly in center field, but otherwise, it’s been in flux. We’ve seen Gregory Polanco, Anthony Alford, Dustin Fowler, Phillip Evans, Wilmer Difo, Hunter Owen, Ka’ai Tom, Ben Gamel and Troy Stokes Jr. make entrances to and exits from the outfield as the Pirates continue to see limited production from that group.
But Cherington said he wants Tucker to get in a routine defensively in the dirt at his natural position. Plus, in a season in which playoff contention is a long shot, it doesn’t make sense for the Pirates to plug secondary outfielders in the Major League lineup and risk potentially critical development time, especially with a player like Tucker who has clearly been revamping his offense and will need time to see those tweaks become routine and pay off.