As the situation currently stands the MLB Hot Stove has been more of a slow simmer rather than the rolling boil we have become accustomed to in previous years. As Chris pointed out in the most recent episode of Bucs In The Basement, this is the first time in around 20 years that a free agent in the top 20 of MLB Trade Rumors list has not been signed through this period of the off-season, following the Winter Meetings. And over the past few days, after recording on Monday evening, nothing has really changed. Across the landscape lower tier free agents continue to sign and minor trade moves occur with less than notable pieces exchanging hands. Sure people will try to point to the Lance Lynn Trade to the White Sox as a major move that has taken place; but even if I give you that one, which I am not sure I would, it is the glaring exception and not rule.
With the way things are going this could open up a litany of opportunities for General Manager Ben Cherington and the Pittsburgh Pirates to take advantage of if he starts to ask and then ultimately answer the right questions. Instead of asking if a player should or should not be traded, they need to be figuring out when to trade, in an attempt to maximize value, and who the most likely trade partners. In previous years the how to trade players by drumming up interest to make them more appealing than the available free agents could also come into play, and it still could. I just don’t see it as being as much of a challenge as it has been prior to the current off-season.
Sure you could point to the rumors swirling surrounding teams being interested in signing available free agents, such as Tomoyuki Sugano of the NPB Yomiuri Giants, Julio Teheran, Marcus Semien, Liam Hendricks, Justin Turner, Corey Kluber, Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill; however at this point that is all they are, rumors. How much interest have you seen in Trevor Bauer or JT Realmuto that wasn’t drummed up by themselves of their agents. It is clearly a different market where the signing of Anthony DeSclafani by the Giants at $6 million for one year, Mike Zunino staying with the Rays for $3 million guaranteed and rather inconsequential trades between the Rangers and Reds or Mariners become headlines for days at a time because there is nothing else to report.
So how do Cherington and the Pirates make the decision on when to trade and who the most likely trade partners could be?; while remembering that Ke’Bryan Hayes and maybe a couple of other players are the only ones not on the table. Well, first of all there is no time like the present. I understand that many Pirates are possibly at the lowest trade values of their respective career, but I will only consider taking them off the block if you can guarantee me their value won’t decrease between now and the next trade deadline. Also, there are lower ranked farm systems, but there are no systems that are completely devoid of talent. I get that most people are targeting top 10 organizational prospects from loaded systems or those that are in the top 100 in all of MLB, and I can’t blame them. Just remember who Starling Marte got the Pirates a year ago; two prospects that many had never heard of prior to the deal, from a somewhat rejuvenated system thanks to the Goldschmidt and Grienke trades, who were not in the overall top 100 and only one of whom was in his own teams top 10. Yet somehow I am supposed to believe that every or any Pirates current trade chip is worth more.
Let me put it this way; if any team offers you a top 100 prospect for almost any Pirates player, and especially the ones that have been mentioned by myself and others, you take it and run. If not you listen and at least try to work out a deal. This is not saying that Cherington has to or should eventually make each and every deal, but he has to at the very least listen; seeing as I can’t think of too many untouchables that exist on a team that picked 7th in the MLB Draft this year and is set to pick #1 overall in the next.