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Yankees potential trade partner: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Bucs were always going to be sellers at the deadline, but the question is if the Yankees will be buyers.

Atlanta Braves v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Yankees and Pirates have linked up in trade negotiations quite a few times over the last handful of seasons. Of course, the story begins with Brian Cashman’s failed pursuit of Gerrit Cole in 2017, thanks in large part to the GM’s unwillingness to part with both Clint Frazier and Miguel Andújar. Then this past offseason, the Yankees were rumored to have interest in both Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon before settling on a package for just Taillon.

As we near the trade deadline, there are once again a handful of Pirates who could pique the Yankees’ interest. The Bucs are in full on rebuilding mode, so outside of budding phenom Ke’Bryan Hayes, there aren’t many players on the major league roster who are likely to be off-limits. Let’s take a look at the pair of Pirates most likely to draw trade interest as well as some under-the-radar types who could nonetheless contribute if traded.

Bryan Reynolds is the crown jewel of the Pirates’ trade targets. He leads the team in fWAR (3.2) and actually sits 14th in MLB. He owns a .307/.392/.530 slash line with 15 home runs and 46 RBI. On top of that, he is a wizard in the field with 85th percentile sprint speed and four Outs Above Average in center, placing him in the 91st percentile leaguewide. He has four years of team control left, meaning the acquiring team would get four years of peak performance at a fraction of the market cost.

All of this is to say that any team interested in acquiring him would have to back up the Brinks truck of prospects. Despite a potentially massive return, at only 26-years-old, the Pirates may view Reynolds as part of their long-term future. They would need to receive an offer that blows their socks off, and even then it might not be enough to pry him away from Pittsburgh.

Closer Richard Rodríguez is the other Pirate most likely to swap ships. He leads the pitching staff in fWAR (1.2), good for tenth in the league among qualified relievers. His 2.5 percent walk rate is second-lowest among MLB relievers. He owns a 2.51 ERA, 2.17 FIP, and a microscopic 1.9 percent home run per flyball rate.

Despite possessing a fastball that only sits at 93 mph, its deceptive cutting action allows Rodríguez to throw it more than 85 percent of the time and still be effective. The 31-year-old righty has already drawn interest from the Blue Jays. He will be one of the most coveted relief arms on the market at a time when they go for a premium, and with two more years of team control after this season, could net the Pirates a hefty return.

Elsewhere on the roster, there are a few intriguing names who would cost much less than Reynolds or Rodríguez. On the position player side, Gregory Polanco’s name always used to come up in trade rumors, but he has been a below replacement level player for the last three seasons. Adam Frazier is putting together a career year, with a 138 wRC+ and 98th percentile walk and whiff rates. His defensive versatility — he can play every position except catcher — and year of team control beyond 2021 make him the Pirates’ third-most valuable trade chip.

Otherwise, you’re looking at a collection of depth pieces as opposed to difference-makers. Former Yankee farmhand Ben Gamel can deputize in the outfield and has figured it out some with the bat since being claimed off waivers by the Pirates on May 9. Jacob Stallings is having a breakout campaign, his 1.3 fWAR eleventh among MLB catchers — not that the Yankees need help at the catcher position. Colin Moran owns a 112 wRC+ dating back to the start of last season and can play all four infield positions in a pinch.

On the pitching side, things look a little more bleak. Tyler Anderson has been their best starter, but as a rental with a 4.39 ERA and FIP that’s not saying much. Chad Kuhl gives you an extra year of team control, but is having the worst season of his career and might not even be seen as a reclamation project at this point. As for relievers, the quintet of Duane Underwood Jr., Chris Stratton, David Bednar, Kyle Crick, and Chasen Shreve all own sub-four ERAs, with only Shreve becoming a free agent after the season.

Of course, the two Pirates who would interest the Yankees the most are the two who would cost the most. Reynolds seems like a perfect fit with Aaron Hicks done for the year, but it’s unlikely the Yankees have the prospect capital outside of Jasson Dominguez to tempt the Pirates. Rodríguez would help shore up a bullpen that has stumbled in recent weeks, but the Yankees would be guaranteed to face competition for his services. However, given the recent trade history between the two teams, I wouldn’t write anything off just yet.