Pittsburgh Pirates: The time to trade Joe Musgrove is now

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 18: Joe Musgrove #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates heads back to the dugout after the final out in the first inning during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 18: Joe Musgrove #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates heads back to the dugout after the final out in the first inning during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 18, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates should have trading Joe Musgrove at the top of their offseason to-do list.

As the 2020 MLB trade deadline approached, and the Pittsburgh Pirates fell further back in the standings, Pittsburgh remained silent and kept their roster intact, despite possessing a few trade chips and speeding headfirst into a long rebuild in the Steel City.

But it now appears that general manager Ben Cherrington is actively shopping what trade chips he does have on the roster, looking to add to their talent pipeline down on the farm and build a contending team from the ground up.

While Josh Bell could have been Pittsburgh’s top trade chip this offseason, after coming off a down year, the Pirates may benefit from keeping Bell around until at least next year’s trade deadline, in hopes of a rebound season in 2021.

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The one player with some noteworthy value that Cherrington does have to dangle in front of other teams is starting pitcher Joe Musgrove.

With multiple years of control remaining, the Pittsburgh Pirates don’t necessarily have to deal Joe Musgrove this winter, but keeping him around with an extension would be a mistake.

Looking at the Pirates with supreme confidence, you’re looking at 2023 at the earliest before Pittsburgh enters a window of contention, putting Musgrove on the wrong side of 30 at that time.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old is coming off a solid season on the mound, recording a 3.86 ERA (3.40 FIP), a 33.1% strikeout rate, and a .223 average against in eight starts for Pittsburgh. An injury limited his innings to begin the season, but Musgrove finished on a very high note.

Over his final two starts (against two playoff teams in St. Louis and Cleveland), Musgrove tossed 13 scoreless innings, striking out 22 hitters, walking two, and allowing just six hits. It was a clear sign that he was finally healthy and possibly on the verge of getting back to his 2019 form in which he was worth 3.3 Wins Above Replacement across 31 starts.

Musgrove won’t be asked to lead a playoff team’s rotation, but for teams like the Yankees, White Sox, Twins, Angels, Giants, and a plethora of other teams across the league, Musgrove can be a solid mid-rotation arm.

When it comes to pitching, years of control is gold, which is what Musgrove has. Dealing him now with those years of control and an expected 2021 salary of less than $5 million, the Pirates should be able to command multiple prospects in a deal.

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After nearly dealing Joe Musgrove to Toronto recently, the time has come to finally pull the trigger and trade him if you’re the Pittsburgh Pirates.