Blue Jays and Pirates still make sense as trade partners

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Andrew McCutchen /

The Blue Jays and Pirates have been linked in trade discussions in the recent past, and could look to rejuvenate those discussions this offseason.

We’re going to be talking about the Blue Jays’ roster needs for quite awhile this offseason, at least until they slowly get filled through trades and/or free agency. Open season on free agents begins this week, so the hot stove will be ripe with rumours as teams begin their quest to re-tool for 2018 and beyond.

The Blue Jays are expected to be active in free agency this offseason, but are also likely to be rumoured as trade partners for several teams. One of those could be a team they’ve had lengthy discussions with over the last couple seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates have been a disappointment in the last two seasons after having three consecutive years in a row of making the postseason. While plenty of other teams in the National League have taken significant leaps forward, the Pirates haven’t been able to develop the same quality of homegrown stars, and their core is getting older, as it does for every franchise.

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If the Pirates decide to make some wholesale changes this offseason, there are a couple veterans on the roster that could make a great deal of sense in the Blue Jays lineup.

We’ll start with the obvious name of Andrew McCutchen, who is set to be a free agent after the 2018 season, and has been a rumoured target of the Blue Jays as recently as last season. He had a very rough 2016 season, but bounced back to hit .279/.363.486 with 28 home runs and 88 RBI, and was worth 2.5 WAR in his age 30 season. After having been a MVP candidate in the past, he may not play at that level again, but he should still provide plenty of value in the short term future.

He would make some sense in Toronto (depending on the asking price of course), as he fits the need for an outfielder, and provides more athleticism and on-base ability than they’ve had in the corner for awhile. He’s not a tremendous stolen base threat anymore, but he is a much better baserunner than almost all of the Blue Jays, and his 11 swipes would have put him behind only Kevin Pillar on a team basis.

For McCutchen it will come down to what the ask would be for one year of his services, and whether or not the Pirates believe they can contend in 2018. In the era of the second Wild Card position it doesn’t take nearly as much to get to the postseason, and anything can happen from there, so the front office may choose to hang on to their home grown star and give it one last shot. They wisely exercised for contract option for 14.5 million last week, so they should be able to get a decent return without eating any of the contract either.

Whether they choose that route or not, they might make another player available that could have interest to the Blue Jays, Josh Harrison. Harrison has played mostly second base in recent years, but is also capable in the outfield corners, and at third base. His skill set is a little more of a leadoff type, which the Blue Jays are on the look out for, and he’s under club control through club options for three more years at 32 million.

He’s been a relative bargain for the Pirates for awhile now, but now that he’s entering eight figures in AAV, the Pirates’ front office may decide they can spend that money more wisely. If they do, the Blue Jays could be among the interested suitors, and the fit would make sense in nearly every way, except that Harrison doesn’t have any experience at shortstop.

At this point there haven’t been any hard rumours linking the two clubs, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see them linked once the trade winds starting flying. The Blue Jays’ front office has stated that they want to compete in 2018, and acquiring either McCutchen or Harrison would certainly help toward that goal. We’ll see if the talks rekindle, or how Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro decide to spend their money. It should be an interesting offseason.

Next: Blue Jays: Jay Bruce is not the answer for 2018