Ben Cherington wants to accomplish a few things this week before the MLB trade deadline, which will arrive Friday at 4 p.m.
At the same time, the Pirates general manager also insisted on his Sunday radio show on 93.7 FM The Fan that he isn’t about to force a deal.
Given where they’re at in the competitive and team-building process, more talent is obviously necessary. They also have several attractive trade candidates in Adam Frazier, Tyler Anderson, Richard Rodriguez and more.
The key, Cherington said, will be finding a trade that works for both parties.
“My hope is that we can find opportunities that we think make sense for us,” said Cherington, who added that trade talks have picked up -—as expected — in recent days. “The mindset we have is really to help two teams. It’s not that we’re trying to get one over on anyone. That rarely happens anymore anyway. … If we can find those, great. But no need to force it.”
Finding a match for the Pirates involves a couple things, Cherington explained. Although the trade partner will be likely be sending out longer-term assets for some type of rental — with anywhere from two months to two years in terms of club control — Pittsburgh must think bigger-picture.
Cherington has said numerous times that the Pirates are fine taking younger players and also trying to do their homework: learning other teams’ systems, digging for diamonds in the rough and stockpiling as many as possible. For a multitude of reasons, the Jameson Taillon trade that netted Roansy Contreras, Miguel Yajure, Canaan Smith-Njigba and Maikol Escotto is a perfect example.
If the Pirates don’t get enough of those guys, or the right ones, then Cherington said he would be absolutely fine folding his cards and pushing away from the table.
“We don’t need to make a trade for the sake of making a trade,” Cherington said. “We didn’t really last year at the deadline. We’ve certainly made trades since I’ve been here. I think you just have to evaluate every situation as it comes.
“We’ve got to stay focused on adding talent and young players who have a chance to grow with us, get better and help us win.”
Speaking with Pirates broadcaster Joe Block, Cherington was also quick to say “sure, absolutely” when asked whether he would consider more of a major league-level return like they did with David Bednar in the Joe Musgrove deal.
Of course, they also got Class AA left-hander Omar Cruz and three guys who are now in Low-A: Endy Rodriguez, Hudson Head and Drake Fellows.
Bottom line, the return can come in various shape and sizes. The important part is that, one, the Pirates have gathered enough intel on the players they’re potentially acquiring (or at least know where they can get it). And two, those players meet an established value threshold for whatever the Pirates might be giving up.
If it doesn’t well … you know.
“If we’re making trades, we’re looking for the best possible return we can get,” Cherington said. “If we don’t feel like we get one that is justified, we need to be patient and hold.
“We’ll see what the next few days bring. I’m confident we’ll be busy. We have a great team of people in place in baseball operations working around the clock on this stuff. It’s not just me with a phone. We have a bunch of people who are involved in talking to other teams. It’s all hands on deck, and it’ll be an exciting week.”
Keller in ‘good spot’
It’s hard to know what to make of Mitch Keller at Class AAA Indianapolis.
His last two starts have been rough, with the right-hander allowing a total of 11 runs (though just six earned) in eight innings. At the same time, Saturday was the first time Keller has allowed more than two earned runs in a start. He’s also struck out three times as many as he’s walked (39-13) in 28 innings while pitching to a 3.21. In total, that’s pretty good.
Cherington was asked about the progress Keller has made and said he expects him to get another chance in the major leagues. The Pirates also do not have a timetable for when that might be.
“His mindset is in a good spot,” Cherington said. “He continues to work hard. He’s been filling up the zone, keeping the walks down, striking guys out. He’s been really pretty consistent with that.
“We know how talented he is. Really appreciate how he’s gone back to Indy with a great attitude, working hard. He’s gonna earn his way back. There’s no timeline for it. We’ll see. But he’ll earn his way back, confident in that. We need lots of good pitching to go where we want to go. Very confident Mitch can be part of that group.”
Releasing Kyle Crick, as the Pirates effectively did last week, qualifies as one of the more surprising moves the Pirates have made under Cherington.
At the same time, Crick is walking a career-high 7.03 per nine innings in 2021, had a 7.50 ERA in his final 12 innings before he was designated for assignment this past Monday and also didn’t really offer much in terms of versatility.
So the Pirates, looking to audition pitchers in the bullpen, decided to cut bait and give Crick the chance to start over somewhere else.
“Kyle’s a talented guy,” Cherington said. “People know about the slider and how well he spins it. It’s something not a lot of guys can do. I think we just got to the point where we weren’t seeing enough consistency in terms of the execution of strikes.
“He just wasn’t as consistent. Some of those high-leverage opportunities started to go to other guys, then once he’s out of that role, he’s not really a length or multi-inning guy. It just kinda got squeezed on us.
“We wish him well. In the meantime, it will give us a chance to get a longer look at some other guys like Austin Davis and Kyle Keller who have come up and thrown the ball well.”
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