Well, now that the dust has settled, it's time to look at where the team stands. The Pirates made a couple of bold moves by trading Cutch and Cole (moves that would polarize and anger the fan-base) along with a small move to acquire Josh Smoker. Without further ado, here's a look at some of my favorite new additions.
From Cole trade:
- Colin Moran 3B
- Michael Feliz RHP
- Joe Musgrove RHP
- Jason Martin OF
From McCutchen trade:
- Bryan Reynolds OF
- Kyle Crick RHP
- Josh Smoker LHP
With the acquisitions of Feliz, Crick, and Smoker the Pirates have bolstered their bullpen with a bunch of reclamation projects for Searage to try and work his magic on. There seemed to be a common theme with the pitchers they picked up: all of them have fastballs over 95. The organization wants to go all in on speed in the bullpen and hope that Searage can help fix guys like Feliz and Smoker's control. If they pan out, the Pirates might be on the verge of having another shark tank. If not, yikes.
The main pieces that excite me from these trades are Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran. At first (and probably still), a lot of Pirates fans were mad about the Cole trade. They expected to get Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley, which wasn't going to happen after Cole's two down years, and because of this fans thought the deal was garbage. Well, they don't know Colin Moran or Joe Musgrove.
Musgrove is the more easily recognizable name after his World Series performance and his success late in the season in the Astros' bullpen. However, the Pirates believe he has the tools to start. Musgrove needed the time in the bullpen to learn the game more, but he has the potential of three, maybe four plus pitches that would go to waste as a one inning guy. While he isn't a flamethrower, Mus has great control and the ability to work in high pressure situations. If Searage can work some magic on him, Musgrove could be the steal of the Astros trade.
That is if Moran doesn't outperform him. Colin Moran has had a wild ride in his short major league career so far. From a foul ball fracturing his face to him moving to a completely different swing, Moran has been through a lot for a 25 year old. Even with that turmoil, the only thing Moran has done is improve.
I'd go in depth on how his swing change has affected his play for the better but Fangraphs writer Jeff Sullivan has already written a beautiful article about it here. The gist of the matter is Moran has bought into the fly ball and dropped his ground ball rate by 12.9%. His homers rose from 10 in 2016 to 19 (one in the majors) in 2017 with around three-fifths of the plate appearances. That's absolutely insane. The fact that Moran made this change in one year is a testament to his dedication to baseball. However, this was in the homer friendly PCL so there's a chance his power won't translate. But going by other players who closed their swings and changed their launch angle, things are looking up for former first round pick Colin Moran. If he keeps this up in the majors, he might just be the third baseman the Pirates need.
Another prospect that interests me is Bryan Reynolds. While he's only in High A so far in his minor career, Reynolds is putting up good all around numbers. Last year, he posted a .312/.364/.462 slash line with a .826 OPS in 121 games with 10 homers and 63 RBIs all while being an above average defender. Reynolds has high upside and is a backup plan if Austin Meadows busts. He needs more development for me to really key in on his value. But for other fans, if he isn't of McCutchen's caliber he's not worth anything.
While it hurts to say, I think the McCutchen and Cole trades were the best thing for the Pirates to do. Now, is the organization cheap? Yes. But did Neal Huntington get robbed? No. Huntington got a lot of young, controllable players with high upsides which is what a GM of a small market team needs to do. The Pirates probably won't contend unless a combination of Moran, Musgrove, and Glasnow (there’s still a chance) break out this year, but the Pirates are preparing for the future. In the future if the Pirates really want to contend, they have to spend the money they saved from Cole, Cutch, and probably Josh Harrison (if he gets traded) to get an impact player. They could splurge this off-season, but a big signing will probably come next year when a bunch of big names become free agents. Hopefully the Pirates decide to take advantage of that market.
The cycle of mediocrity and wildcard games has been a staple of the Nutting era in Pittsburgh. He's put out teams that are just good enough to get fans hopes up but let them down when it matters. That needs to change. It's up to him to right the ship and take the Pirates to the promised land.
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