A Full Season Later, How Do Cherington's Offseason Trades Look Now? - Final Part

AP Photo/Gene J Puskar

The Pirates made three high profile trades last offseason.  They sent starting pitcher Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres, starting pitcher Jameson Taillon to the New York Yankees, and first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals.  

At the time, it was a clear message to Pirate fans.  Nobody is safe in this rebuild if they can be used to acquire young and talented prospects.  Those being dealt were also all players who would be unrestricted free agents by 2023, the year when most of these shiny new prospects are supposed to either be debuting or well established in the MLB.  If you are not protected past that year, you are not valuable to this organization.

However, instead of looking at these trades as salary dumps and purely means to clean house, the trades have actually started to look pretty great for the Pirates.  Let's grade these trades one-by-one after another season's worth of data.  The final part of this three-part series focuses on the trading of Joe Musgrove.

Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres - B+

On January 19th of this year, Joe Musgrove was involved in a 3-team trade.  The trade sent Musgrove from the Pirates to the San Diego Padres, Joey Lucchesi from the Padres to the New York Mets, and the Pirates received three prospects from the Padres and one from the Mets.  From the Padres, the Pirates received outfielder Hudson Head, right-handed pitcher David Bednar, right-handed pitcher Drake Fellows, and left-handed pitcher Omar Cruz.  From the Mets, the Pirates received catcher/outfielder Endy Rodriguez.

In the first half of the 2021 season, Musgrove was making the Pirates look awfully silly for trading him away at all, regardless of the return.  In addition to throwing the first Padres no-hitter in franchise history, Musgrove had 116 strikeouts in 98.1 innings in the first half of the 2021 season.  He also had a dazzling 2.93 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.  However, despite deserving it, Musgrove was not elected to the National League All Star team to reward him for a fantastic first half.

Whether it be slightly regressing back to the mean, or really just the whole Padres roster taking a step back in the 2nd half of 2021, Musgrove did have a worse second half.  He was still 6-2 with just a 3.47 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, but relative to his first half, it was worse.  It led to an overall season ERA of 3.18, a 1.08 WHIP and 203 strikeouts.  Musgrove had a very good 2021 season and could be a No.2 or No.3 starter on any pitching staff.  This makes grading this trade in favor of the Pirates a bit tougher.

Hudson Head

Outfielder Hudson Head was thought very highly of when he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Padres in the 2019 amateur draft.  So highly, in fact, the Padres signed him for $3 million, which at the time was a record for a 3rd round draft pick.  After having a productive 2019 in Rookie ball, and was forced into an off year due to Covid in 2020, Head started the 2021 season in Single-A Bradenton.

Head had a lousy season at Single-A ball in 2021.  He did show his ability to hit for power with 15 homeruns in 101 games, but he batted just .213 with 137 strikeouts in 348 at-bats.  It was certainly not the year the Pirates were hoping for from what was seen as the premier piece at the time of the trade.

However, Head is still the 12th ranked prospect in the Pirates organization and is just 20 years old.  He isn't even expected to debut until 2023, giving him plenty of time to develop and prove his worth.  However, another down year in 2022 will be very discouraging.

David Bednar 

David Bednar was one of the most pleasant surprises for the Pirates and Pirate fans in the entire organization.  Bednar instantly became a fan favorite as a Pittsburgh native from Mars, PA, and his pitching made him even more well liked.  In both of his major league years with the Padres, Bednar struggled mightily.  In 2019, he had 13 appearances and a 6.55 ERA and in 2020 he had a 7.11 ERA in 4 appearances.  Fortunately, something about being with his hometown team clicked for Bednar.

Bednar had an overall great 2021 season.  In 60.2 innings pitched in relief, he had 77 strikeouts, a 2.23 ERA, and a 0.97 WHIP.  He pitched so well that after Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez was traded to the Atlanta Braves, Bednar became the team's co-closer with Chris Stratton.  Bednar recorded three saves and 15 holds in 2021, paving the way for him to start 2022 as the team's potential closer.  The only down side to Bednar is that he is already 26 years old, however, he is not an unrestricted free agent until 2027, and if worst comes to worst, could be a valuable trade piece at any of the next three trade deadlines.

Omar Cruz

I would characterize Omar Cruz as a solid pitcher.  Looking at his numbers overall, and at every minor league level he has pitched, his numbers don't jump off the page, but they are solid.  And this is to be expected of Cruz.  He is graded to have great command of all three of his pitches, but his ceiling is not as high as some of the other pitching prospects in the Pirates system currently.

In 2021 Cruz had the opportunity to pitch in AA-Altoona, after pitching well enough for High-A ball in Greensboro to get the promotion.  In 14 starts for Altoona, Cruz had a 3.44 ERA, but a discouraging 1.30 WHIP.  His ability to get strikeouts decreased at the higher level which led to more hits, but his control appeared to get better as his K/walk ratio decreased over time.  

Cruz is ranked as the 23rd overall prospect in the Pirates organization and the 11th best pitcher.  He is only 22 years old and could easily fit in as a left-handed No. 3 or No.4 starter in the future.  He, like Head, is projected to debut in 2023.

Drake Fellows 

Drake Fellows was drafted out of Vanderbilt so he was on the older side of prospects playing in Rookie ball at 23 years old this past season.  He had three scoreless appearances in Rookie ball, before getting the promotion to Single-A Bradenton.  

Fellows only had two appearances with the Marauders before suffering an injury that knocked him out at the end of July for the remainder of the 2021 season.  His first appearance was decent, 2.1 innings pitched, four strikeouts, and only one earned run.  His second appearance did not go as well.  In just 1.1 innings, Fellows gave up three earned runs on four walks, and had no strikeouts.  

Unfortunately, that was his last appearance of the season and he will have that bad taste in his mouth all offseason while he rehabs his elbow injury.  I'm not sure if I see Fellows being much more than a career minor leaguer or the occasional bullpen call-up, especially as a right-hander.  Fellows is the only player received in the trade that is not ranked in the Pirates Top 30 prospects, aside from Bednar, of course, who is no longer prospect eligible.

Endy Rodriguez

Endy Rodriguez was the lone prospect the Pirates received from the Mets.  What's nice about Endy is that he can play all over the place.  He started 54 games at catcher, 23 games as a DH, 15 games as a first baseman, and 4 games as a left fielder, all just in 2021 with the Bradenton Marauders.  In addition to being versatile in the field, Rodriguez is also versatile at the plate as a switch-hitter.  He has shown the ability to hit for contact very well from both sides of the plate with more of his power numbers coming when he is hitting from the left side.  

Rodriguez had a stellar 2021 season.  He batted .294 with a very impressive .892 OPS, driving in 73 RBI with 15 homeruns.  He also walked 50 times in 434 plate appearances.  All of this at just 21 years of age.  

Rodriguez is very valuable as a quality hitting catcher as those are becoming much more rare.  However, he is going to have to compete with, No. 1 overall draft pick and No. 1 prospect, Henry Davis.  It'd be a shame to have these guys compete for playing time with how highly ranked they are in the system. Rodriguez is ranked as the Pirates' 19th best prospect, so hopefully they can find a way to work both into the roster.  

With how versatile Rodriguez is, maybe he could become a Buster Posey type who can move all around the field, while also providing some rest for Davis in the future.  Rodriguez could also prove a very valuable trade piece if the Pirates do find the catcher position too log-jammed.

Concluding Thoughts

I do feel the Pirates received an absolute haul in this trade, similar to what they received in the Jameson Taillon trade.  In fact, this trade alone makes up 10% of the Pirates' top 30 prospects.  However, unlike the Taillon trade, the player the Pirates dealt increased his value during the 2021 season.  So while I still feel very good about the return, Musgrove may be even more valuable this offseason or at next season's trade deadline.  However, with him becoming a free agent is 2023 the time to deal him was approaching anyway.

We always try to evaluate which team "won the trade."  However, in this case I think the Padres and the Pirates both won.  Joey Luchessi had a ho-hum year for the Mets, barely appearing, so the Mets may have potentially lost the trade.  Time will tell.