After a slow start to the MLB offseason, the hot stove has ignited over the last few weeks. The Padres shocked the baseball world by acquiring two top arms in Yu Darvish and Blake Snell. With those pitchers off the board, many teams will now turn their attention to other options on the trade market. One pitcher who’s name has become popular in the rumor mill is Joe Musgrove. The Pirates starter is coming off of a career year and is Pittsburgh’s biggest remaining trade piece.
Although Musgrove was limited by injuries last season, he did make eight starts. In 39.2 innings of work, he posted a 3.86 ERA and struck out 55 batters. On a Pirates pitching staff that struggled at times, Musgrove was one of their most consistent arms. The California native was particularly dominant in September as he held opponents to a .226 average.
Unbelievably athletic play by Joe Musgrove. This is why pitchers back up bases. pic.twitter.com/bDDxjME1Of
— Ben Porter (@Ben13Porter) July 25, 2020
Furthermore, Musgrove’s strikeout rate increased as he changed his pitching style. In 2020 the former first-round pick used his curveball more than in previous seasons. As a result, his strikeout rate increased by 12 percent, which did cause his walk rate to increase. Musgrove’s control, however, improved as he became more comfortable with his new pitching approach.
While those numbers came in a small sample size, they demonstrate Musgrove’s potential. Since being acquired by Pittsburgh, Musgrove has been an average arm. His underlying numbers, however, suggest he is a better pitcher. Over the past three seasons, the Pirates have been the second-worst defensive team in baseball. That has put more pressure on Pirates pitchers to be perfect.
What Musgrove Brings
Additionally, Musgrove ended the season in dominant fashion. In his final two starts, Musgrove did not allow a run in thirteen innings of work. He also struck out 22 batters in that span and did not allow a home run. That is the pitcher Pittsburgh was expecting to get when they acquired him in the Gerrit Cole trade three years ago.
In 2020, Joe Musgrove earned a 23.5% K-BB & 3.50 SIERA
& over his last five starts of 2020, he earned a 33.7% K-BB, 55.6% GB, & 2.40 SIERA
— Fantasy Central (@FantasyCentral1) December 16, 2020
Although Musgrove would not be easy for Pittsburgh to replace, he could bring back a decent prospect haul. The 28-year-old was nearly dealt at the trade deadline last year before a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays fell through. He also comes with two years of control and his numbers should improve with a change of scenery. Some teams that have shown interest in Musgrove, according to MLB insider Jon Morosi, are the Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Angels.
With Snell now in San Diego, the market for Musgrove should start to heat up. Teams looking for help with pitching would be getting a solid starter full of potential. Musgrove, however, would not come cheap and would most likely cost a package of prospects. With pitchers and catchers reporting in about six weeks, Musgrove may have a new home sooner rather than later.
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