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Yankees potential trade partner: Pittsburgh Pirates

For a few weeks, it looked like the Pirates had arrived. They have fallen back to earth a bit, though, and could consider dealing some veterans

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

After a scintillating start of the 2023 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have fallen back to earth a bit. As of Thursday afternoon, they were already fourth in the NL Central with a 40-46 record and a -40 run differential.

Still, even with the bitter taste on their mouths that they actually led the division until not so long ago, Pirates fans must feel good about the direction of the franchise. All-Star Mitch Keller has finally developed into an ace, they extended Bryan Reynolds, they have had several prospects make the majors (including 2021 No. 1 overall pick, Henry Davis), and they still have help on the way if we consider that top-100 prospects Endy Rodriguez, Termarr Johnson, and Quinn Priester are still in the minors.

The fact is that the Bucs’ hopes of contending in 2023 are slowly vanishing while they wait for Oneil Cruz to come back from his fractured fibula. As a result, the organization could consider trading some of their veterans before the deadline. Should the Yankees be interested in any of them?

Having tasted hope for the first time in years, the Pirates won’t be trading Reynolds or Keller. It’s just not going to happen. They are also likely to keep prospects and young building blocks, so that removes Davis, Cruz, and probably Nick Gonzales and Jared Triolo, too.

As for everyone else? Well, they should at least listen, but Andrew McCutchen certainly represents a complex case.

When the former MVP signed with the Pirates in the offseason, he probably did it with the idea of eventually retiring with them in mind. It’s unclear if he would give up those thoughts to try and look for his first World Series ring, but if he is willing to do that, the Yankees could be interested in him as an on-base machine (.383 OBP) with some power and speed.

With news that Aaron Judge is taking things slow with his recovery and Jake Bauers will get an MRI on his ailing shoulder, the Yanks could use an above-average outfielder and Cutch fits the bill with his 123 wRC+. He has mostly DH’d in 2023 but had 5 DRS and 2 OAA last year in limited time in left field.

McCutchen could potentially go to a team with better chances than the Yanks, but if Judge comes back and Carlos Rodón pitches well in pinstripes the outlook is much more positive. He already knows what it’s like to play (and thrive) in New York and would be a nice addition if he is willing to ignore all the hair policy stuff.

Jack Suwinski has been the Pirates’ best player this year, with 2.3 fWAR, 19 home runs, seven stolen bases and a 138 wRC+. He strikes out a lot (30.9 percent K rate) but plays capable defense, even in center field. If he is up for discussion, the Yanks could certainly be interested but he is likely staying in Pittsburgh as a building block for the future. He is still 24, after all.

Other hitters such as Connor Joe, Carlos Santana or Ke’Bryan Hayes are not as enticing for the Yankees. There aren’t a lot of fits on the pitching side, either, unless the Yankees decide to bring a depth arm like Rich Hill or Johan Oviedo or the Pirates are willing to discuss the possibility of trading for another All-Star reliever: David Bednar.

Bednar is the type of arm a team like the Pirates, on the verge of contending, does not typically trade. He is making the minimum this year and has three arbitration seasons remaining, he is relatively young at 28, and he is very, very good (1.36 ERA in 33 frames with a 30.2-percent strikeout rate). It would take a decent haul to get him but the Yankees sure love dominant relievers.

There is also the chance that the Yanks try to get a “project” reliever like Clay Holmes in 2021: someone with bad numbers on the surface but good underlying stats or a great arm who is an adjustment or two from taking off. Ángel Perdomo (4.73 ERA, but a 2.92 FIP and a 38.2 percent strikeout rate) could be an option for a cheap, under-the-radar trade.

All things considered, there aren’t too many matches between what the Yankees need and what the Pirates have available. Still, a trade or two could be worked out, and these squads are no stranger to negotiating deals.