Jun 12, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcherJeff Locke
(49) looks on from the dugout against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Pirates
When Jeff Locke dominated the International League at Triple-A Indianapolis in 2012, the Pirates thought they had a rising star. This year at the Major League level, Locke has a 4.55 ERA and is struggling to get through five innings per start. The Pirates are a contending team, and Locke certainly makes them nervous every fifth game.
Vance Worley, who had a strong 2014 campaign, was supposed to be one of the best back-end starters in baseball this season. But the Vanimal was disappointing through seven starts this season, posting a 4.38 ERA and 1.615 WHIP through those starts. The Pirates relegated him to bullpen duty, where he unexpectedly became a lights-out reliever. In eight relief appearances, his ERA is 1.40 and his WHIP is down to a stellar 0.828. This is good news for the Pirates bullpen, but it means the contending club needs to find a starter to fill in the very obvious gap.
The Pirates currently own the top wildcard spot, but their main competition both in front of and behind them resides in their own division. They are seven games behind the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, and the Chicago Cubs are only two and a half games behind in the wildcard race. This is going to put a lot more weight on their remaining divisional games, because the Pirates will want to win any tiebreaker that they possibly can.
Top pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow is promising, but he needs another year of minor league ball before being called up. Jameson Taillon is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and Indianapolis’ Nick Kingham would not be a surefire way to solidify the back end of the rotation. From the Pirates’ perspective, 15 Scott Kazmir starts sound much better than 15 more Jeff Locke starts, and that may be the difference between being home or away during the playoffs.
What do the A’s get in return?
Beane could approach this trade from two angles.
The first and more probable angle would be to target upper-tier prospects that are near Major League ready. The A’s are slated to lose a lot of their Major League roster to free agency in 2017, namely Josh Reddick, Sam Fuld, Coco Crisp, Ike Davis, and Jesse Chavez. So it would be prudent for Beane to target players that could spend 2016 in the minors and move up the following year.
That looks like a lot of outfielders, which is why Beane might have his sight set on Austin Meadows. This outfielder was Pittsburgh’s first draft pick in 2013, and is ranked 37th on MLB’s Top-100 prospects list. Although he is currently playing for A-Advanced Bradenton, he is projected to be MLB ready by 2017.
The second angle from which Beane could approach this trade is to prepare for an impending Ben Zobrist trade. The A’s would have an immediate need for middle infielders, and the Pirates have several in Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer, and Jung Ho Kang. Since the Pirates have control over Mercer and Kang’s contracts at least through 2019, they are probably most willing to deal Walker, who will be a free agent in 2017.
The A’s would certainly welcome Walker’s bat in their middle infield.
Next: The Chicago Cubs