The Trade Piece That Isn’t Getting Enough Attention

July 30th (so used to saying the 31st) is right around the corner, and that means that trade talks are going to ramp up drastically. We’ve already seen Adam Frazier shipped off to the Padres, and Tyler Anderson and Richard Rodriguez are likely on the way out. Maybe sprinkle in Chad Kuhl if you’d like. But, there is one specific arm that didn’t even start the season on the major league club, and he has been sneakily good for the Bucs’ bullpen this season. Good enough to be traded at the deadline? I’ll be diving into that and other possibilities in today’s player profile.

Chasen Shreve was drafted by the Atlanta Braves back in 2010 at the age of 20, earning his first callup four years later in 2014. He had a very impressive debut with Atlanta, allowing just one earned run in 12 ⅓ innings, while also striking out 15 batters. After the season, Shreve would change teams just after starting his career. 

Shreve was shipped off to the Bronx to join the Yankees on New Year’s Day in 2015, along with fellow pitcher David Carpenter for Manny Bañuelos, a left-handed pitcher who was a top 15 prospect at the time. Carpenter would only pitch about 18 ⅔ innings before being designated for assignment mid-season. Bañuelos, on the other hand, would also flame out, turning into a career minor leaguer and recently spending time in the Mexican League. Shreve would fare pretty well for New York. In about three-and-a-half seasons in the Bronx, Shreve compiled a 3.92 ERA across 180 games (174 ⅔ innings). He also had 201 strikeouts in his time with the Yankees.

On July 29th, 2018, Chasen Shreve would find himself on the move yet again, this time to St. Louis, along with Giovanny Gallegos for a struggling hitter by the name of Luke Voit. Of course Voit would go on to hit 60 home runs (and counting) for the Yankees. Perhaps Gallegos needed a change of scenery too, turning a 4.75 ERA in his first 30 innings with New York into a really good 2.55 ERA in 141 innings with St. Louis. Shreve would unsurprisingly pitch very solidly with the Cards down the stretch in 2018, pitching to a 3.07 ERA in 14 ⅔ innings. The surprising part is that Shreve was designated for assignment before the 2019 season and only pitched in three major league games (two innings), giving up a pair of runs. 

Shreve elected free agency after 2019 and signed a contract as a non-roster invitee with the other New York team in the Mets. Shreve made the 2020 Opening Day roster and appeared in 17 games (25 innings), putting up a 3.96 ERA. He also had his career best mark of a .191 opponent batting average. Despite his pretty good season, the Mets decided not to re-sign Shreve and he once again elected the right to become a free agent. 

On February 7th, 2021, Chasen Shreve signed with the Pirates, once again finding himself a non-roster invitee. The belief when the signing was announced was that Shreve was most likely going to find himself a spot on the big-league roster, barring injury or poor performance. Shreve allowed four earned runs over 9 ⅓ innings in Spring Training, seemingly locking down a spot. Unfortunately for him, the acquisition of Duane Underwood Jr. and signing of Trevor Cahill, along with a breakout performance from David Bednar did not leave any room for Shreve on the 26-man roster. To further complicate things for Shreve, he was not already on the 40-man roster, and Pittsburgh was not willing to part with any of those players-yet

It took Shreve about a month to get a call-up, pitching two scoreless innings in Triple-A Indianapolis before an injury to Kyle Crick forced the Pirates’ hand. There were no real expectations for Shreve besides the fact that he’s left-handed and he could possibly eat up innings. Instead, we are watching a guy who’s having his best statistical season of his 8-year career, with a 2.25 ERA in 27 games (24 innings).

What’s weird is that there’s no real reason why Shreve is performing so well. His K/9 is the lowest of his career at 6.4 and all of his other statistics are pretty consistent with previous seasons, yet his WAR (0.6) is at its highest since 2017. Maybe his pitches have ramped up in velocity or spin? No, his velocity is about the same as last year and Shreve’s primary breaking pitch, his split-finger has the worst spin rate (on that particular pitch) of his career. His FIP is also much higher than his ERA (4.88 vs. 2.25), which may be concerning if that wasn’t the case for that last eight years. His career FIP is one whole run higher than his career ERA (4.73 vs. 3.60). 

So where does that leave Shreve? If the Pirates do decide to move on from Shreve, there would be some holes left in the Pittsburgh bullpen. The top lefty option to replace Shreve on the big-league squad would be the newly acquired Dillon Peters from the Los Angeles Angels. Peters has struggled in Triple-A this year, putting up a 4.35 ERA in 41 ⅓ innings. Perhaps the Pirates acquired Peters with the anticipation of a Shreve move at the deadline, and they wanted to have another lefty option. Or, they felt they were short on depth at that spot. The only other southpaw on the 40-man not currently active is Sam Howard, but he is battling his second injury of the season and it seems he will miss additional time.

The factor new to this year is the fact that international bonus pool money can not be exchanged this year (i.e. last year’s Jarrod Dyson trade). So, a team would have to be interested enough to trade from their own system to get a guy like Shreve. Salary may be something that goes in Shreve’s favor, as a potential trade partner would only have to take on a portion of his 1.5 million dollar contract. Also, he’s a lefty, and those are always valued in contenders’ bullpens. Technically trading cash is always an option, but the Pirates would (hopefully) not do something like that. 

There’s also the option of not trading Shreve, and keeping a solid bullpen lefty for the rest of the season. He could also be re-signed, he’s only 30 years old. 

I found it interesting that Shreve couldn’t find a spot on a major league team, considering he consistently pitches well and consistently pitches. He’s only been injured once in his career, back in 2016. His veteran leadership could be appealing, but he’s never pitched in a playoff game, which came as a surprise to me. With Tyler Anderson trade rumors swirling, it seems like there is interest in a left handed arm, which may help the cause. Other teams’ loss may become the Pirates’ gain, as a sign and trade could become a very solid outcome for a minor league signing. 

What will the Pirates end up doing with Shreve? We won’t have to wait long, but it feels like Ben Cherington is doing a very fine job as the Pirates’ general manager, and evaluating possible returns seems like a strong suit of his. Stay tuned on the other Pirates’ trade chips, but keep your eyes peeled for Chasen Shreve, perhaps the most underrated piece available for the Bucs, and could be a productive reliever for a contender down the stretch. 

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