Closer Richard Rodriguez has represented one of the few bright spots for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021. (Matt Freed, Post Gazette)

What will the Pittsburgh Pirates do ahead of the July 31st trade deadline?

Going into the 2021 season, it was clear that the Pittsburgh Pirates were in for a long season. Bereft of talent at the major league level and with few minor-league prospects ready to make the leap to the majors, we knew that this year’s iteration of the Pirates was going to be hard-pressed to compete on a daily basis. As we expected, the season has played out with the Pirates sitting at 29-48 through June 28th, 16.5 games back in the NL Central. With a run differential of -87, this is a team that both struggles to hit or pitch consistently. Nevertheless, there are a few pieces that the Pirates would be wise to flip by the July 31st trade deadline. Here are three players the Pirates should consider dealing in the coming weeks.

Trade Prospect #1: Richard Rodriguez

First and foremost atop the list of players the Pittsburgh Pirates should consider trading is closer Richard Rodriguez. Currently holding a 1.78 ERA, a sparkling 27:3 K-to-BB ratio, and a minuscule .692 WHIP, Rodriguez represents the type of investment any contending team would buy into to strengthen their playoff prospects. Relief pitchers are one of the most volatile groups in all of professional sports. You can’t sit on this commodity if you’re the Pirates. Rodriguez’s trade value is about as high as it’ll ever be at this point. They need to be proactive in trading him to net the best possible return because all it takes is a bad week or two to crater a reliever’s trade value.

What teams need relief help? Well, just about every major league team would benefit from an arm like Rodriguez’s. Looking at teams that would most likely be buyers at the July 31st deadline, the Cincinnati Reds, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Oakland A’s are all teams that have struggled to consistently string together quality innings at the back end of games. Rodriguez would slot into the closer role for any of these teams. Acquiring him would have the added benefit of allowing other pitchers to step into lower leverage situations.

Then again, it’s just as likely that the rich get richer with teams like the San Francisco Giants or Toronto Blue Jays jumping in on Rodriguez’s services. The options should be plenty for the Pittsburgh Pirates in spinning a deal for a package of minor league prospects.

Trade Prospect #2: Kyle Crick

Like Richard Rodriguez, Kyle Crick is another relief pitcher that the Pittsburgh Pirates should consider moving in the coming weeks. One of the longer-tenured members of the Pirates at this point in time, Crick’s history of wildness (career walk rate of 5.0 per 9 innings) has done little to diminish his effectiveness (career ERA of 3.26). His success stems from his ability to avoid bats (opponents are hitting only .108 against him) and rack up strikeouts (21.8% of opponents faced). Will Crick keep up this level of performance? Probably not, a .108 opponent AVG is unsustainable over the long term, especially given that their BABIP is .146 (MLB average is .296). Sooner or later, some of the balls put in play versus Crick will fall in for hits.

Still, Kyle Crick is an arm that would slot in nicely into that 6th-7th inning bridge from starter to closer. His market will differ from that of Rodriguez. Would an arm like Crick fit on a bullpen-needy team like the Phillies? Probably not. The last thing Philadelphia needs is another high-octane arm that could just as easily implode as he could succeed. Some teams need consistency while others have the luxury of taking a chance on a player like Crick. He’s a high-risk, high-reward type of arm that could absolutely dominate in October. He won’t cost nearly as much as Richard Rodriguez, but he should still yield a decent mid-level prospect, especially if he’s packaged together with another pitcher or positional player.

Trade Prospect #3: Adam Frazier

This is a tough one. The Pirates don’t have a tremendous amount of talent in their positional player pool to deal from and Adam Frazier represents the closest thing Pittsburgh has to a star in their lineup. Dealing him will make an already unwatchable product…well, more unwatchable. After seeing his batting average dip to .230 in 2020, Frazier has punished the ball with authority in 2021, putting up a batting line of .330/.399/.471. A left-handed bat with pop who can play all across the diamond (Frazier has played every position besides pitcher, catcher, and first base in his MLB career), the asking price for Frazier will, understandably, be high.

What teams might be in contention for Adam Frazier? The New York Yankees could certainly use Frazier at second base (the beardless Rougned Odor experiment hasn’t worked out particularly well for them). The Cleveland Indians would desperately benefit from Frazier’s services as they’re currently hitting a paltry .230 collectively. With injuries up and down their lineup, surely they’d be able to find a position for Frazier. The San Francisco Giants are currently leading the NL West but look at their second base situation. Is Donovan Solano striking fear into the hearts of anyone out there?

Prognosis for the Pittsburgh Pirates

As with Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez, there should be plenty of suitors for Adam Frazier for the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the rest of this season and one more year of arbitration left, Frazier represents more than a short-term rental as well, thus driving the asking price up even more. Don’t be surprised if we see players like Chasen Shreve or Tyler Anderson also get moved in the next few weeks. Will the yield be as high for these players? Probably not. Still, is there any player on the Pirates who should be considered off the trading block outside of Ke’Bryan Hayes? Maybe Bryan Reynolds? At this point, the Pirates need to do whatever they can to strengthen their organizational depth.

The Pirates desperately need to try to revamp their roster lest they go on to suffer another twenty-year stretch of losing baseball (1993-2012 was a dark time for Pittsburgh fans). It will be interesting to see what the team does with the few attractive trade pieces that they possess. Let the trade season commence!

Pirate Parrot, Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh fans and parrots alike can only pray for some salvation in the form of prospects at the MLB trade deadline (per GIPHY).