The most annoying trade proposal that won’t go away, Pittsburgh Pirates OF Bryan Reynolds to the Mariners, got another kick to the text thread the other day when Jon Morosi went on Seattle Sports to suggest the Seattle Mariners actually benefited from the Toronto Blue Jays sending a hefty trade package to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for CF/C Daulton Varsho. By Morosi’s logic, that takes Toronto out of potential landing spots for Reynolds, which therefore increases the Mariners’ chance at getting the outfielder. But removing one possible suitor doesn’t increase the Mariners’ chances if it doesn’t lower the acquisition price.
Rather, what the Varsho trade did was likely move the Mariners even further away from Reynolds as a possible trade target. To acquire Varsho, who had a wRC+ of 106 this past season, Toronto parted with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who posted a wRC+ of 114 this season, as well as Gabriel Moreno, a Top-10 prospect. While opinions on the deal vary based on one’s belief in Varsho’s career arc and defensive abilities, it’s undeniable that Toronto paid a hefty price tag in giving up their best position prospect.
The Pirates have set a high asking price for Reynolds, a price that so far other teams have been unwilling to pay. If Varsho commanded a Top-10 prospect in baseball plus a fringe-to- everyday player, it’s not unreasonable for the Pirates to expect that Reynolds—a year and a half older than Varsho and less defensively valuable, but with a more robust MLB resume and a proven ability to hit—should net a similar, if slightly less impressive, return.
Pittsburgh is said to be seeking MLB-ready pitching, with Morosi in the past throwing out names like the Dodgers’ Bobby Miller or Toronto’s Ricky Tiedemann as potential fits. Miller is ranked 26th on MLB Pipeline; Tiedemann is 33rd. The Mariners don’t have any Top-100 pitchers, let alone Top-50, so either Pittsburgh would have to adjust their ask, or Seattle would have to dip into their trio of young pitchers already at the MLB level: Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, or Matt Brash.
It’s safe to assume Kirby, one of the brightest rising stars in baseball, is a nonstarter. Brash, as a reliever, would have limited appeal to Pittsburgh in their search for the starting pitching they seem unable to grow; maybe Brash plus Bryce Miller/Emerson Hancock/both is a more appealing package, but the quantity-over-quality approach doesn’t seem to be what Pittsburgh is seeking at this point, if Seattle was even willing to make such a deal. The Pirates, after years of face-planting through the NL Central, have a well-stocked farm with plenty of arms; what they lack is that frontline pitcher, after years of disappointing returns from their homegrown arms like JT Brubaker and Mitch Keller (2019 first-rounder Quinn Priester also looks to be on that pathway, as he’s showed an alarming inability to miss bats in the upper minors). So that leaves Logan Gilbert.
The Pirates would likely accept Gilbert as a centerpiece, as he’d immediately slot in as their best pitcher, and his age fits the hypothetical competitive window with Pittsburgh’s bright young stars in Oneil Cruz and Ke’Bryan Hayes as the Pirates transition (hopefully) from being bad-bad (the Athletics) to fun-bad (the Orioles). But, even if Pittsburgh signed off on Gilbert+ as a package, would the Mariners deal him? One hopes not. Aside from the hole it would create in the Mariners’ lone arena where they can go toe-to-toe with the Astros, starting pitching, it would be extreme personnel mismanagement. What a reward it would be for a pitcher who, over the course of his development, has done everything the team has asked him to do, helping to break a decades-long playoff drought in the process, to be unceremoniously shuffled to a non-contender. For the analytically-minded Gilbert, always looking to improve, it would be an extra insult to be deposited in Pittsburgh, a club that has struggled to help pitchers reach their potential. Such a deal would have larger ramifications in the clubhouse and among the fanbase, as well, as the removal of an integral part of the Mariners’ young core would deepen the perception that the club trades players with impunity to shore up holes that could be patched in free agency. The idea is too dreadful to consider, and so we will stop considering it.
So once again, that leaves the age-old Bryan Reynolds Trade Problem: the Pirates, who are under no pressure to deal Reynolds (except from perhaps Reynolds himself), have set an unreasonably high price for his services, one that other teams are unwilling, as yet, to pay. Rather than losing leverage, they gained it with the Daulton Varsho trade, both in setting the market high and in ensuring that Reynolds remains the most attractive option for teams looking to upgrade the outfield via trade. Pirates owner Bob Nutting may run the team like a particularly rickety traveling carnival, but he still knows that in order to turn even a modest profit, at the end of the day there have to be a few attractions to get butts into seats, and dealing away Reynolds will remove the team’s lone consistent offensive threat. So the price stays high, and teams remain unwilling to pay it, and round and round we go. This isn’t even our first article about a Bryan Reynolds trade; last season John attempted to craft a trade package with a lot more than is currently on the farm, although one that in retrospect looks laughably light now that we know the scope of Pittsburgh’s ask. (Sorry, John. The thought process behind the trade proposal remains solid.)
In what’s been a frustratingly slow off-season for Mariners fans, it’s understandable to want to spice things up a little by dreaming of a splashy trade. But barring a major shift in expectations for a return from the Pirates, this endless will-they-won’t-they dance will continue until Reynolds gets traded somewhere else (like the Marlins, who need offense and have a plethora of young arms they could send; or Tampa Bay, should they be willing to part with Top-100 prospect Taj Bradley in order to make some Yankee fans’ heads explode); either that, or time wears on enough that Reynolds creeps closer to free agency/becomes too expensive for the perpetually-impecunious Pirates to keep. We’re on year two of this ride, as the Pirates continue to aimlessly swipe through trade offers looking for a fleecing and other teams continue to resist being fleeced, and are dangerously close to reaching Bryan Reynolds Inception, where there are more articles written about potential trades than he has hits in a season. Engage with subsequent rumors at your own peril.