Keller, Brubaker Performing Well Should Keep Reynolds a Pirate

Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

Mitch Keller and JT Brubaker turning their seasons around could discourage the Pirates front office from trading star center fielder Bryan Reynolds.  

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At the beginning of this season I was vehemently against the Pittsburgh Pirates trading star centerfielder Bryan Reynolds.  I argued that, especially in Major League Baseball, a team like the Pirates cannot afford to part ways with talented players with still several seasons of team control on his contract.  Especially when those years of control should be during a window of success for the Pirates.  

I started to ease off of that argument when the Pirates starting pitching was performing poorly to start the season.  I, for one, had expected Mitch Keller to take a step forward.  He had put in great offseason work that should have led to success.  I was fooled.  Keller started the season with a 6.61 ERA in his first seven starts.  Basically picking up right where he left off the 2021 season.

I had also hoped that one of Bryse Wilson or Miguel Yajure would prove themselves to be capable of filling a 4th or 5th starter role.  Wilson has filled in for a couple spot starts as of late with the Pirates currently in a brutal stretch of games before the All-Star Break.  However, beyond that, he has not contributed much and is not likely to as a Pirate.  Yajure has spent most of the season in the minor leagues and still appears to be a season or two from making any true major league contributions.

JT Brubaker was also still starting for the Pirates.  He was not one I had much hope for just based on track record alone.  He proved me right in his first five starts, nearly matching Keller, with a 6.20 ERA.  

So my "hold on to Bryan Reynolds at all costs" argument was beginning to crack.  Our starting pitching staff wasn't even close to seeing success in the next two, three, or even four seasons at that rate.  It appeared we would need to use Reynolds as a trade piece to acquire some quality starting pitching.

Luckily, and with great timing before the trade deadline, Keller and Brubaker have began performing very well.  Since returning to the rotation after making two appearances out of the bullpen, Keller has seen his ERA drop from 6.62 to a 4.88.  He still has a ways to go, but he has pitched 6+ innings in now four of his last seven starts, having done so just once in his first seven.  

Keller also has shown flashes of dominance that he has never shown before in his still young career.  This is in large part to him adding a new pitch to his repertoire.  Keller now relies on a sinker instead of a four-seam fastball.  This pitch, and the results that have followed, has given him ace potential.

Brubaker has also seen his ERA steadily come down.  It now sits at a respectable 4.02.  In his last 13 starts, he has a 3.42 ERA, and has struck out 76 batters in 73.2 innings.  Last night he had a fantastic outing, throwing seven scoreless innings while striking out nine.  It could be argued it was the best start of his entire major league career.  

So what does this mean for Reynolds?  Assuming Keller and Brubaker can stay on this pace until the August 2nd deadline, the Pirates may have two starters they couldn't count on just a couple months prior.  Add in Roansy Contreras, who is working through some rookie struggles but projects to be a solid starter next season, and you already have over half of your rotation in 2023.  

Add in a free agent or two over the offseason, and the Pirates only need to hit on one more pitching prospect.  Then, voila.  A full starting pitching rotation has formed.  

With this in place, the desperate need for starting pitching is no longer as desperate.  Therefore, the Pirates no longer need to acquire the arms it looked like they did back in May.  If Pirates GM Ben Cherington receives a call with an offer that is a massive overpay, then maybe Reynolds still gets moved.  However, the need to do so is no longer as prevalent, thanks in large part to Keller and Brubaker.

Keller and Brubaker should each get at least two more starts before the deadline.  If they can prove to the front office that they can positively impact the starting rotation moving forward, then that greatly reduces the need to move Reynolds.  Let's hope, for the sake of keeping our star center fielder in Pittsburgh, that these two do keep it up.  

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