Talent In, With No Accompanying Risk

So what right? What’s another outfielder who hasn’t cracked MLB? Looks like the Pirates are dumpster diving again!

These were some of the instant reactions I saw regarding the Pirates acquisition of Dustin Fowler from the Oakland A’s for cash.

First of all, don’t assume anything based on this move. In other words, this doesn’t doom Anthony Alford to become a DFA candidate even if his arm isn’t right yet, this doesn’t mean Brian Goodwin isn’t in the mix. You shouldn’t assume they have a trade partner for Gregory Polanco.

Any of that could wind up being true, but that’s not why they got Dustin Fowler. They picked up this player to add depth to a position that they simply don’t have any.

We’ve heard several suggestions that somehow Travis Swaggerty would be ready at some point in 2021 to contribute at the MLB level. I’ve thought that was a stretch from the jump, and I still do. That’s not a reflection on Swaggerty’s ability as much as a simple fact, Travis hasn’t played beyond AA and he hasn’t exactly thrived with every jump. It’s a lot to ask. OK, and it’s a little about Swaggerty himself, I’m just not sold.

I truly believe he’ll be in the mix for 2022 at some point, but 2021 still needs played. Heading into the season the club has Brian Reynolds, and Gregory Polanco as locks to make the club and start, health permitting. Beyond that, Goodwin is pretty close to a sure bet and then you have real question marks.

Jared Oliva, Anthony Alford and well if you really want to dig you run into Chris Sharpe. That’s not enough to attempt to get through a season and on top of that, this was an opportunity to bring in a player who has some power.

The wrinkle here with Fowler is that he has exhausted all his options so should he not make the team, the club wouldn’t be able to send him to AAA without possibly losing him.

There are some other weird things that could happen. Polanco could potentially not be ready for the season opener depending on how his wrist performs. That could open up a possibility.

Alford is also out of options, in fact beside the obvious differences in how they were acquired, they’re the same type of player. A fully mature prospect that never got a full shot due to injury or opportunity who just might pan out and provide lightning in a bottle.

Flip the script on this, it would be like the Pirates dealing Kevin Kramer or Will Craig for cash. Two guys aging out who haven’t managed to get a foothold but put up decent AAA numbers.

A while back Craig wrote a piece about all the different ways Ben Cherington needs to continue to bring talent into the organization. This is one of those methods.

In fact, Fowler is the exact type of player Neal Huntington would target, the difference is he’d trade actual players to get it. He would have been one member of a 5 player “haul” for a star.

All of Cherington’s trades have primarily returned high upside, young prospects. For a club that lacked any semblance of a close to the majors pipeline, that leaves the MLB squad and AAA for that matter in a sketchy spot. That’s not to say he’s taken the wrong path, instead I’m simply illustrating that filling the MLB and close to MLB depth is important too. Now that could have easily been another Goodwin type, but why not take a shot at seeing if you can find something someone missed?

Point is, it’s either a great pickup and he earns a spot, or they find a way to mash him through waivers to bolster AAA depth, or lose him for nothing but some of Bob’s money which I know all of you love to hear.

Moves like this aren’t worth getting excited about, but hit on one or two of them and man can it accelerate things.

Fowler’s path was hampered back in 2017 when he made his debut with the Yankees as he suffered a catastrophic knee injury. It wouldn’t be until 2018 when he would pop back up with the A’s after being dealt. He put up solid numbers in AAA and then really pedestrian in his stint with the big club.

The numbers you see the Pirates touting, Fowler hit .277 with career-highs in hits (154), home runs (25) and RBI (89) in 130 games with Triple-A Las Vegas, are intriguing, but he wasn’t part of the plan in Oakland. 67 games represent his entire MLB body of work, so this isn’t someone who has spoiled for opportunity and we’re hoping a change of scenery works magic. This is a guy who has legitimate power, an observable missing element from the MLB level for this club who lacked a path.

I understand the dumpster dive aspect of this and it may turn out to be an exercise in paper moves that net nothing but some money going out. That said, I respect the effort, and I like the understanding of areas this club can try to put effort in to catch that elusive lightning.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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