The Pirates Should Sell High on All-Star David Bednar

Photo credit: Antonio Wolfe

The burnout of MLB closers is a clear trend throughout the years, which is why the Pittsburgh Pirates need to sell high on All-Star David Bednar..  

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I've struggled to write this one.  I don't want it to come off as just another, "this Pittsburgh Pirate is playing well so we might as well trade him" hot-take blog.  That's not the case at all.  I also love rooting for Pittsburgh native, David Bednar.  For me, however, it really just comes down to the nature of closers, and why Bednar is unlikely to break the trend.

Take away the name David Bednar, and the fact that he is a Pittsburgh native.  He is just another closer having a great season for the Pirates.  We have seen dozens of them throughout the years.  In fact, it's why when the Pirates need an All-Star game representative, like this season, it is typically a closer.  

However, there are only a handful of pitchers in Major League Baseball history that have served as consistently dominant closers for longer than 3-5 seasons.  Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner, Aroldis Chapman, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, and Goose Gossage are among the 10-15 or so that have ever closed out games consistently.  It is extremely difficult to close out games on an ongoing basis at the major league level.  It takes a special kind of pitcher.

Even some of the best to ever do it, have had their struggles.  Francisco Rodriguez, the holder of the single season saves record, only dominated for three seasons as a closer.  Eric Gagne, the record holder for the most successful saved games in a row, only had three seasons where he registered 20+ saves.  And even Aroldis Chapman, after years of dominance, has seen his closer role lost to former Pirate Clay Holmes.  The ups and down of being a major league closer are only natural.

Look at the Pirates history of closers.  Many current Pirate fans remember Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, and most recently Richard Rodriguez, as dominant closers.  And rightfully so.  Each had their dominant stretches with the team.

However, Hanrahan had just two seasons in his entire career where he had over 9 saves.  Jason Grilli had just that one season in 2013 with the Pirates where he was a successful primary closer for a team.  And while Mark Melancon found success last season with the San Diego Padres, he saw a 5-year stretch where he was not a primary closer for any team.  Pirates' 2021 closer, Richard Rodriguez, who was highly valued at last season's trade deadline, isn't even on an active roster this season.

With all of these examples, it is more likely that David Bednar is not a dominant closer by 2025.  This is not me rooting against Bednar, nor hoping his career declines.  I am just following the trends that have plagued the position for years.  It is extremely difficult to have sustainable success as a Major League Baseball closer.  

Also, despite being in just his 2nd full season with a ballclub, Bednar is 27 years old.  He is not this young phenom or highly coveted prospect that was destined to dominate the league.  Bednar was drafted in the 35th round of the 2016 Amateur Draft.  

This isn't to knock Bednar.  He has earned his current status as a dominant closer in the league.  However, he doesn't fit the profile of a pitcher that is going to buck a decades-long trend of closers burning out after 1-2 seasons of dominance.

So while Bednar has his highest trade value, it is time to move him.  The Pirates need starting pitching if they are to be successful in 2023, 2024, and 2025.  The pipeline is weak in regards to pitching prospects, and JT Brubaker and Zach Thompson are not the answers.  It is prime time to move Bednar for starting pitching that can help the team in 2023, 2024, 2025, and beyond.