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Inbox: Should Bucs hold on to top prospects?

Pirates beat reporter Adam Berry answers fans' questions
January 17, 2017

I don't see the Pirates giving up a bundle of their top prospects for Jose Quintana. As nice as he would look in the rotation, it is not only against their style, but they would also be trading away similar talents that they could control for an even longer period.

I don't see the Pirates giving up a bundle of their top prospects for Jose Quintana. As nice as he would look in the rotation, it is not only against their style, but they would also be trading away similar talents that they could control for an even longer period. What are the chances of the Bucs bringing in a short-term workhorse, even if it means overpaying for a year of an experienced pitcher while our young guys mature and gain experience?
-- Larry H., Pittsburgh

If the White Sox hold on to Quintana or trade him elsewhere, I wouldn't expect the Pirates to spend big on another starter -- a high-upside reclamation project on an affordable one-year deal, maybe, but not another veteran innings-eater.
Realistically, the Bucs could compete with a rotation of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl and one of Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault, Trevor Williams, Andrew Hutchison or Nick Kingham. The idea behind adding someone like Quintana is that he upgrades the top of the rotation for several years at a low cost -- and there aren't many pitchers like that. Given the available free-agent options, can you say with certainty they'll be better this year than Pittsburgh's internal options?
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Still, it's not as if the Pirates' rotation is incomplete as currently constructed. Cole and Taillon have front-line ability. Nova should provide innings and experience. Kuhl was a league-average starter as a rookie, which is valuable at the back of the rotation. There are some intriguing arms in that fifth-starter race, particularly Glasnow.

You make a great point about how a trade full of top prospects would go against the Bucs' typical philosophy, which makes it seem unlikely even though it makes a ton of sense in a vacuum. Another thing to consider: These aren't just run-of-the-mill prospects they'd probably have to give up.
It's easy to think of the prospects as assets in the offseason, pieces to be moved to make a deal. But seeing most of them last week at minicamp was a reminder of how high their ceilings are. Guys like Josh Bell, Glasnow, Austin Meadows, Kevin Newman and Mitch Keller are future core players -- and aside from Keller, they're either in the big leagues or not far away. That's essentially the strongest case against a big trade like Quintana this offseason.
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Why would anyone think it would be a good idea to trade several top prospects for Quintana? Last year he was 13-12, and over five seasons his record is 46-46.
-- Mark C., Kittanning

OK, one more Quintana question. It is never a good idea to evaluate a pitcher solely by his record. We have so many better ways to judge pitchers' performance than wins and losses, which are dependent upon a number of factors the pitcher can't control.
Let's start here: Quintana has the seventh-highest Wins Above Replacement (18.1) among all qualified starters since 2013, according to Fangraphs. He's in between Jonathan Lester and Madison Bumgarner on that list. He ranks 12th in innings pitched since '13, between Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez. He's put up a 3.35 ERA during that span.
Quintana is a good pitcher, and he's been remarkably consistent -- at least 200 innings the past four years, with ERAs between 3.20 and 3.51. There are valid concerns about pursuing him, primarily the cost of acquiring him, but his record should not be one of them.
Do you believe the Pirates can count on Jungho Kang to be a reliable middle-of-the-lineup bat this year?
--Sam, Mechanicsburg

If he's in the lineup, sure. Obviously, Kang was great as a rookie, and he overcame a summer slump last year to bat .255/.354/.513 with 21 homers in 103 games. When he's on, he looks like a Major League cleanup or five-hole hitter.
The question is how his recent DUI arrest will affect his availability next season. The Pirates are awaiting word from Major League Baseball and preparing as if Kang will be with them at the start of Spring Training and on Opening Day. For now, that's all we know.
Why didn't the Bucs bring Travis Snider back as Matt Joyce's replacement? Any idea who the fourth outfielder/lefty bench bat might end up being? Is it John Jaso?
-- Mark E., Orbisonia

Snider recently signed with the Rangers. He spent most of last season with the Royals' Triple-A team and didn't hit all that well, batting .245/.340/.350 in 84 games. Snider's last big league appearance came in 2015, the year the Pirates traded and wound up re-signing him after he struggled with the Orioles.
An aside: How about that Snider trade tree? Pittsburgh got back Brault, who could crack the rotation this year, and prospect Stephen Tarpley, who turned out to be half of the package (along with outfielder Tito Polo) the Bucs sent to New York to get Nova last year.
Anyway, yes, Jaso looks like Joyce's successor as the fourth outfielder/left-handed bench bat. He will also continue to play first base, backing up Bell, and he may mix in some third this spring. He's set to earn $4 million this year, which is less than Joyce made but still completely reasonable for a bench player.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.