Are the Pirates Keeping Some Trade Competition for the Cubs Off the Market?

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Are the Pirates Keeping Some Trade Competition for the Cubs Off the Market?

Chicago Cubs

At The Athletic, Rob Biertempfel identified six players from the Pittsburgh Pirates who could be on the move before the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline. To my surprise, neither outfielder Bryan Reynolds nor closer David Bednar made the cut (and this was before Reynolds hit the IL with an oblique strain this afternoon).

But this discussion isn’t predicated on a simple omission or two. Biertempfel goes on to say that neither is likely to be dealt at all this month:

The Pirates already have rebuffed tempting offers for both players, sources told The Athletic, and it appears unlikely Reynolds or Bednar will be traded during this season. Check this space again in late July 2023.

Setting aside the possibility that the Pirates are just trying to hold out for as much leverage as possible, this seems pretty notable for general-baseball-market reasons, but also for some Cubs-specific reasons.

Why does this matter to you, a Cubs fan? Well, there are a couple surface level angles: (1) Maybe the Pirates’ competitive timeline in the NL Central moved up with the successful debut of Oneil Cruz, and other internal developments? That’s worth knowing all on its own, given that we hope the Cubs can start being competitive again as soon as next season, too … and (2) it’s useful to understand what’s happening on the trade market among other possible sellers, since the Cubs will soon find themselves in that space. Both Reynolds and Bednar were frequent trade targets/rumors, but now neither are expected to be dealt.

Let me get even more specific than that, as it relates to the Cubs and these two particular players.

Both Bednar and Reynolds could be seen as the more attractive alternatives to a few Cubs pieces: David Robertson (Bednar) and Ian Happ/Rafael Ortega (Reynolds). They are controllable for multiple years, they are performing very well, and they are plausible impact players in the second half.

So, if Reynolds is off the table, for example, then the trade market for impactful outfielders takes a hit. The Cubs may not have a one-to-one-caliber replacement option available, but any team that landed Reynolds would not have likely pursued Happ or Ortega. Now, they might. Remember: there aren’t yet a TON of definite sellers that have the volume of pieces available that the Cubs will, so any impact to a specific market – like the outfield market – is potentially important.

The story is similar for Bednar, though again, the team-control considerations make it not a one-to-one situation. But the success David Robertson’s had this season (2.10 ERA) plus his postseason and big market experience are enough to attract any suitor that wants to add to their bullpen. And teams are always looking for closers at the deadline. But on the rumor mill, Bednar was often brought up as the bigger play for closer-hungry teams. Bednar, 27, (2.63 ERA, 15 saves) is still young and under team control through 2026. He’d cost more to acquire than Robertson, but he might be just as good this season and a useful piece over multiple years.

Thus, take him off the market and the price on Robertson might tick up slightly.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami