Mets Monday Morning GM: Scouting the Pirates for a trade target

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: A general view of PNC Park during the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: A general view of PNC Park during the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

We’re scouting some different teams around the league looking for trade candidates the New York Mets could use. Our first stop is with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In my lifetime as a baseball fan beginning in 1996, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been a nearly perpetually bad team. The only time they experienced any winning was in the early 2010s. Their recent history makes the New York Mets look like perennial contenders.

This winter, as we look to build the Mets up into a truer contender, we’ll look plenty at different trade options for the team to explore. In this week’s edition of Monday Morning GM, I’m scouting the worst team in baseball from the 2020 season for some players.

First, let’s start with what the Mets need.

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A catcher, a center fielder, and some pithing both in the form of starters and relievers is on their offseason to-do list. The Pirates don’t have any trade candidate at catcher or center field so let’s save some time and move to the mound.

In case you haven’t paid attention to the Pirates lately, they have a plethora of young pitching. How talented they are has yet to be determined. For whatever it’s worth, their closer led the team with three wins in 2020.

On the starting pitching front, the Pirates have six guys under 30 that made five or more starts for them this past season. I wouldn’t expect them to make anyone that’s cheap and controllable available which immediately eliminates someone like Mitch Keller.

Fortunately, they do have some other guys nearer to putting a dent in the budget.

Joe Musgrove may be the most attractive of the bunch. Already traded twice in his young career and the owner of a 2017 World Series ring as a member of the Houston Astros, he had an interesting 2020 campaign.

In eight starts for the Bucs, Musgrove went 1-5 with a 3.86 ERA. He’s now 29-38 with a 4.33 ERA for his career after 496.2 innings of work.

With a 3.90 FIP, we can assume Musgrove has been unlucky at times. A little more straight-forward as to unlucky he is can be shown by his win/loss record this past year while posting pretty good numbers. On a better team, he would have gone at least .500.

Steve Brault and Trevor Williams are two other Pirates starters that have shown promise but haven’t reached the status Gerrit Cole did before he was traded. Brault was 1-3 with a 3.38 ERA this past season. Williams would be more of a buy-low option for the Mets to consider. He went 2-8 with a 6.18 ERA in his 11 starts for Pittsburgh.

Neither Brault nor Williams is all that great. Their entire rotation seems to have floundered rather than flourish. The Mets need a whole lot more than any of these guys to improve their chances.

We do have one more spot to explore. Out in the bullpen, the Mets have a place to aim their binoculars.

Richard Rodriguez worked as the team’s closer this past year and did so successfully. He won three games, saved four, and ended the year with a 2.70 ERA.

Rodriguez has quietly put together a fine three-year stretch with the Pirates. In 158 innings with them since 2018, he has pitched to a 3.02 ERA with a strikeout rate 10.5 per nine.

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Easily the best fit in any trade the Mets could make with the Pirates is a deal for Rodriguez. He’s not flashy, glamorous, or a high-profile player. What he can do is give the team yet another option to close or work those setup innings.

Next year is his first as an arbitration-eligible player so he won’t cost Pittsburgh all that much. They would be much wiser to hold onto him as long as they can and deal him at the trade deadline to a desperate team.

Unfortunately, the worst team in baseball doesn’t have much to offer the Amazins this winter. They are in a rebuilding process without a whole lot of veterans making big money. I wouldn’t hate to see them add one of their younger starters as an emergency option with the goal to use him as a reliever until then. I also wouldn’t pay the price to make a trade like that happen.

Next. Starting pitching doomed the 2020 Mets

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If the Mets are going to find a team selling this winter, they’ll need to go somewhere other than Pittsburgh. Next stop, the Texas Rangers.