On Monday, it was reported by Ken Rosenthal that the Pirates are interested in trading for some of the Padres’ pitchers:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2018
The most likely candidates to be traded in any potential deal by the Padres are Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates. Other candidates could include Matt Strahm, Robbie Erlin, and Phil Maton — though the last three are much less likely to be dealt. Considering the value the Padres got for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, we can have a fairly good idea of what they could get in return for Stammen and/or Yates in a potential deal with Pittsburgh.
There is a legitimate argument to be made here that Yates and Stammen have actually been better than Hand and Cimber were — take a look at the statistics of the four relievers courtesy of Fangraphs:
The two relievers that have remained with the Padres have been more valuable by WAR than those who were just shipped to Cleveland, and have also recorded lower FIP numbers. Yates has been especially impressive this season, and even better against right-handed hitters, as Dennis Lin pointed out:
Other teams say the price for Padres reliever Kirby Yates remains quite high. Yates is 31, but he has held righties to an .085/.146/.085 line and is under control for two more seasons. With many alternatives still on the market, there is a decent chance he stays put for now.
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) July 30, 2018
Clearly, they are guys who have been just as valuable as the two who fetched Francisco Mejia from the Indians. If both players were dealt together to the Pirates, the Padres would reasonably expect a similarly talented prospect in return once again. It sounds like A.J. Preller and his staff agree, and have asked for a strong prospect return in any potential trade.
With that in mind, let’s imagine some scenarios in which the Padres and Pirates could come to an agreement on a deal involving Yates and Stammen. Let’s begin with a situation in which the team trades just Stammen to the Pirates, because he’s the pitcher the Pirates sound most interested in.
Pirates Receive: RHP Craig Stammen
In this scenario, the Pirates would be getting the reliever they covet most from the Padres, and he would solidify the back-end of their bullpen. On the other side, the Padres would get a smooth-fielding third baseman in Hayes, whose bat is starting to come around at Double-A. They’d also be acquiring an interesting outfielder in Bryan Reynolds, who has fringe-average tools across the board and figures to play some kind of major league role relatively soon.
Pirates Receive: RHP Kirby Yates, RHP Craig Stammen
In this case, the Pirates would be really beefing up their bullpen with two very useful relievers for the late innings. Joining forces with closer Felipe Vazquez, the two relievers would make for a formidable triumvirate to pitch the final three frames in the steel city. San Diego would be getting one of the best right-handed pitching prospects in the game in Mitch Keller, who ranks as the fourteenth-best prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Lefty Taylor Hearn is a power arm who is still working on harnessing his stuff, but has the high potential the Padres have been known to covet during A.J. Preller’s tenure as general manager.
This is an interesting situation for the Pirates because they are a smaller-market team that usually does not have a very high payroll. The Pirates need to be more careful as far as giving up prospects is concerned, because a lot of the team’s success relies upon homegrown players who are cheaper and more controllable. Being four games out of the wild card race, though, likely makes the team tempted enough to try to upgrade their bullpen. Getting one or two of the aforementioned pitchers would vastly improve the Pirates’ bullpen, so such a deal would seem to be conceivable.
The Padres have had the luxury of a strong bullpen this season, despite their struggles to win very many games. Bullpens are more easily constructed than any other part of a team, so it makes sense for a losing team like the Padres to get some good prospect value for the relievers contenders are interested in. By getting younger players who will be more valuable down the road, the Padres can pave the way for the next contending team in San Diego. Hopefully, the Pirates are going to be willing to give up the prospects necessary to acquire at least one of the Padres’ valuable bullpen arms.