Another trade deadline has come and gone in Major League Baseball and, like many teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates were very active on the trade front.
With an offense that has been relatively good this season, the Pirates turned their attention strictly to pitching as they made four deals leading up to the deadline. However, questions surround these new acquisitions and how they will impact the Pirates the rest of this season and into the future.
Let’s take a look at each trade and examine what each acquisition brings to the table for the Pirates.
Pirates trade Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals for LHP Felipe Rivero and LHP Taylor Hearn
The first of the four deals occurred in the days leading up to the trade deadline. Though it wasn’t an unthinkable possibility, the Pirates dealt fan favorite All-Star closer Mark Melancon in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and left-handed pitching prospect Taylor Hearn.
This deal made plenty of sense for the Pirates since they weren’t going to re-sign Melancon at the end of the year. It also made sense given the return.
While Tony Watson takes over the closer role, Felipe Rivero provides the Pirates with another late-inning relief option. He is a guy who can slot into that seventh-inning role while Neftali Feliz takes over the set-up man role.
Rivero has been a solid bullpen piece for the Nationals this season, despite posting an 0-3 record and an ERA over four. After a less-than-stellar month of June in which he compiled a 10.64 ERA in 11 innings through 11 appearances, Rivero settled down in the month of July, posting a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings through nine appearances with the Nats.
Rivera made his Pirates debut Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers and showed a glimpse of what to expect as he threw a scoreless inning while walking one and striking out two.
When it comes to Taylor Hearn, the Pirates received a low level prospect that has a ton of upside. He has reported to the West Virginia Power, the Pirates Single-A affiliate, and is already ranked as the Pirates 28th best prospect, according to MLB.com.
In 10 appearances (four starts) with the Gulf Coast League Nationals and Hagerstown Suns, Hearn went 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 29 innings.
With the massive youth movement the Pirates have endured this season, their top pitching prospects are making the transition from “prospect” to “major leaguer.” Hearn joins the next crop of young prospects that the Pirates could look to in the next few years.
Pirates trade two players to be named later to the New York Yankees for Ivan Nova
The Pirates were adamant about needing starting rotation help and are hoping to have found it in the form of Ivan Nova. It is still unknown who is heading back to the Yankees in return, but New York reportedly has a list of players that they can choose from.
Yankees have a list of Pirates players to choose from to complete the Ivan Nova deal. Will keep scouting before deciding who to take.
— Lohud Yankees Blog (@LoHudYankees) August 1, 2016
Since making his MLB debut in 2010, Nova has continuously tried to put things together as a member of the Yankees. Nova had a stellar season in 2011 when he won 16 games and even went 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 23 appearances in 2013.
In April of 2014, Nova went down with an elbow injury and missed the remainder of the season due to Tommy John Surgery. He returned in June of 2015, but wasn’t the same pitcher. He went 6-11 with a 5.07 ERA in 17 starts and compiled a 6.03 K/9 and a 3.16 BB/9.
This season has been more of the same. Nova hasn’t exactly been able to figure things out again. The 29-year old is 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA in 21 appearances (15 starts).
Nova has allowed 19 home runs this season, the most he has allowed since 2012, but there is some good news. This season, Nova’s 6.93 K/9 rate is an improvement over last year, and he is walking hitters at a career low 2.31 BB/9 rate.
It is clear that the Pirates have a starter who can immediately be placed within their starting rotation. Nova has the ability to be a quality major league starter, and maybe a change of scenery can help the veteran figure things out once again.
Pirates trade Jonathon Niese to the New York Mets for Antonio Bastardo
This particular trade provided two separate reunions, ones that I’m sure both teams are OK with.
After arriving via an offseason trade for Neil Walker, Jonathon Niese didn’t exactly pan out for the Pirates. Niese posted an 8-6 record with a 4.91 ERA in 23 appearances (18 starts) this season for the Pirates. He has also allowed at least 21 home runs, the fourth time in his nine-year major league career that he has allowed more than 20 long balls in a season.
Niese will likely be a bullpen piece in New York and allowed the Pirates to acquire themselves a familiar bullpen arm.
Antonio Bastardo is not unfamiliar with the Pirates. In fact, one year ago, Bastardo was a huge contributor in the Pirates bullpen.
Last season, Bastardo went 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 66 appearances. Bastardo also held opposing hitters to a .188 batting average and compiled 64 strikeouts in 57.1 innings.
This season, the 30-year old has a 4.74 ERA in 41 appearances and 46 strikeouts in 43.2 innings.
Bastardo will likely fit into the Pirates bullpen once again, and if he can provide the team with the same type of production he had last season, this could end up being a steal of a deal.
Pirates trade Francisco Liriano, Harold Ramirez and Reese McGuire to the Toronto Blue Jays for Drew Hutchison
The final trade of the day was the one that had everyone buzzing.
It was no secret that Francisco Liriano was struggling. The veteran was having his worst season as a Pirate, posting a 6-11 record with a 5.46 ERA in 21 starts. Liriano is also on pace to set a career high in walks as he leads the league with 69 of them.
The Pirates wanted to dump salary and did just that with Liriano, who is signed through 2017. He is owed more $13.66 million next season, and the Blue Jays are paying for all of it.
Catching prospect Reese McGuire and outfield prospect Harold Ramirez were also involved in this deal as the Pirates sent two of their top 10 prospects to the Blue Jays. What made this trade such an interesting topic was that the Pirates only got one player in return.
Drew Hutchison is the newest Pirate and was worth a veteran left-hander and two top prospects. However, his career numbers don’t exactly point to that worth.
In his career, Hutchison has compiled a 30-21 record with a 4.92 ERA in 76 appearances (73 starts). He has also maintained a 8.28 K/9 and a 2.84 BB/9 rate throughout his career.
Hutchison has only made three major league appearances (two starts) this season and has only one quality start.
In 18 minor league starts for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, Hutchison is 6-5 with a 3.26 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 102 innings.
Though it is uncertain whether or not Hutchison will play at the major league level, signs are pointing toward him beginning at Triple-A Indianapolis with him starting in the future remaining a possibility.
Neal Huntington is dancing around the answer, but it sounds like Drew Hutchison will start at AAA Indianapolis for now.
— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) August 1, 2016
All of the Pirates acquisitions during this year’s trade deadline bring something different. However, they might not be enough to make the Pirates better moving forward.