St. Louis Cardinals: Could the Pirates be a trade partner?
By Jason Grose
Recent reports have stated that the Pittsburgh Pirates could quickly turn into sellers if they don’t turn things around quickly. Could a trade between them and the St. Louis Cardinals make sense for both?
Jon Morosi recently tweeted that the Pittsburgh Pirates are likely to make veteran players available on the trade market. Francisco Cervelli, Ivan Nova, and Josh Harrison were all mentioned as players that could be dealt. Let’s take a look at each player and if it makes sense for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Francisco Cervelli has an OPS of .901 and is generally regarded as a good defensive catcher. While he would make for a great one-two punch behind the dish, the St. Louis Cardinals have Yadier Molina. Neither player is a part-time starter. This trade doesn’t make sense for either team so let’s not spend a lot of time on this one.
Ivan Nova was traded from the New York Yankees to the Pirates in 2016. He made 11 starts for the Pirates and went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA. In 2017, he made 31 starts and posted a 4.14 ERA which was good for 2.2 bWAR. All-in-all, a solid season.
So far in 2018, he has made 12 starts and has a 4.68 ERA. But, his BB/9 is down from 2017 and his K/9 is up. His BABIP is up from his career average so he’s pitching into some bad luck.
For his career, he has a 4.29 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He’s a decent back-end of the rotation type of guy – nothing more, nothing less.
With all of that being said, do the St. Louis Cardinals need another starting pitcher? No they don’t. For all the faults this team has at the moment, starting pitching is not one of them. Ivan Nova does not make sense.
Josh Harrison is the most intriguing trade candidate for the St. Louis Cardinals. In a recent article of mine (read it here), I advocated for an upgrade at second base and he could provide a cheaper upgrade than a Brian Dozier type of player.
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Harrison missed about six weeks earlier in the season after suffering a broken hand from being hit by a pitch. The same injury ended his 2017 season early. But, he’s been a productive player the past two seasons when healthy. In 2017, he hit .272 with 16 home runs and a .771 OPS. He also stole 12 bases, his fourth consecutive season of double-digit steals. All of that coupled with above average defense at second and third base totaled 3.3 bWAR.
Through 34 games played this season, Harrison is hitting .293 with three home runs and a .749 OPS. He does have -2 DRS (defensive runs saved) at second base, the first season he has posted below average numbers at the position.
For comparison, Kolten Wong has 10 DRS for the St. Louis Cardinals. However, he’s hitting .182 with a .581 OPS. Wong has a .692 OPS for his career and has been worth 8.3 bWAR in 2060 plate appearances. Harrison has a career OPS of .736 and has been worth 14.0 bWAR in 2793 plate appearances.
Harrison has a $10.5 million team option for 2019 and a $11.5 million team option for 2020. Wong is under contract for the next two seasons for a total of $16.75 million, and he has a $12.5 million team option in 2021. Wong is also three years younger than Harrison.
Harrison might be worth Wong and a lower-level prospect. But I think the Pirates would want more than that. Harrison would provide a slight to moderate upgrade over Wong, at least offensively. But Harrison’s more expensive contract, acquisition cost, and age make it a trade that doesn’t make sense, at least for me. Plus division rivals often don’t like to trade with each other.
While the St. Louis Cardinals might call the Pirates to test the waters on at least one of these names, none of these players make much sense to me. Josh Harrison would be the only one worthwhile, if the price was right.
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What do you guys think? Should or would the Cardinals call the Pirates about any of these guys? Let me know. Thanks for reading.