The Pirates first half is an unmitigated disaster. They are basically out of the playoff race, and will probably trade some people down the stretch. The only question left in the Pirates season is will they trade McCutchen and/or Cole.
If you had told me at the beginning of the season the McCutchen was going to be hitting near .300 and going back and forth for the HR lead on the team with Josh Bell, I would have said the Pirates were going to make the playoffs. But while the questions were all answered yes, the sure things all fell to pieces.
Bell is hitting for power, but is too streaky with his average. Polanco is disappointing to say the least. Frazier has cooled off considerably, Freese is what he is, and Cervelli is an offensive liability. What is worse is the times Jaso has to play in the outfield. He leads a bench that has had many incarnations and almost all disappointing. Moroff is currently on the roster hitting below .100. Nuff said.
Of course most of that is directly related to Marte’s steroid use and Kang’s drinking problem. Frasier and Freese would be able to be occasional bats, it would have limited Jaso, and Morroff would not need to be on the roster at all. Even just having Marte around would drastically improve the offense by adding another power threat and a near .300 hitter. Imagine Marte and McCutchen both clicking with Harrison’s year. It is a picture of what could have been, but never will be now.
The Pitching has likewise been a disappointment. Glasnow was the big question mark that was answered with a no. He will be back, but right now he is not ready. That experiment cost the Pirates several games. But Cole has been so-so. He has had some great outings, but he has had some really bad ones. Kuhl’s expected step back was a bit larger than I thought, further hurting the team. Taillon’s absence is probably what sunk the Pirates. His ace level pitching probably could have saved the Pirate three to four games in the standings and kept them right in the mix. Tony Watson’s implosion was also unexpected. Couple that with the underwhelming performance of Daniel Hudson, and the Pirate bullpen becomes a huge weak spot. The bullpen did not really even replace Trevor Williams with a decent arm. Williams has done very well after the first outing in the starting spot, but the bevy of arms thrown into his spot have all failed to perform. Both Santana and Neverauskas did little to show their potential in brief stints with the club.
As much as it pains me, I think the Pirates have to move McCutchen. He should bring a nice return and he can go get the ring he ought to have. I would try to keep Cole, but there are others that might could be moved. Watson won’t bring much, but if there is a buyer, I would be a seller. Cervelli should also be shopped. Catchers have a good value usually and Elias Diaz showed he may be able to handle the majors now. One hopes that McCutchen can bring in a big prospect, and maybe some smaller pieces. A Felipe Rivero kind of return would be nice for Cervelli, and anything for Watson would be fine.
It would have been a good year. Marte deserves a lot of blame for his actions that tanked the Pirates season. I hope he cleans up and is still good without the drugs, but he will never have my full support again.