Mock Trade #1
To TB: RHP Jose Quintana, RHP Duane Underwood Jr.
To PIT: RHP Ryan Thompson, LHP Ian Seymour
Position players were an area of need before the Kiermaier and Zunino injuries, so that has only been magnified. However, the Rays have dealt with injuries on the pitching side too despite the fact that run prevention has been a strength. Jose Quintana might be the best value play on the market this year in terms of starting pitching, and he's currently riding a brilliant comeback season. His current ERA of 3.70 is his lowest in a full season since 2016, when he was still logging 200 innings in his days with the White Sox. As well, his FIP (3.27) hasn't been this low in 7 years.
Quintana would slot in perfectly at the back end of the rotation, and acquiring him would necessitate a demotion of Ryan Yarborough, either to the minors or off the 40-man roster entirely. Unfortunately, Yarborough hasn't been his best self for a while, and a 5.61 ERA with 5.4 K/9 isn't going to cut it on a contending team no matter what role he's in. This would result in a rotation of McClanahan-Kluber-Rasmussen-Quintana-Springs, which looks tough to beat on paper.
Duane Underwood Jr. is one of those relief pitchers that seems as though he was born to be a Ray, with a high ERA but outstanding peripherals in a limited sample. When healthy this season, he has pitched to a 4.00 ERA in 27 innings, which may cause his 2.39 FIP and 3.38 Statcast xERA to go overlooked. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, as well as a nasty changeup and cutter, both of which sit in the low-90s. Underwood has shown plenty of unlocked potential in the bullpen with that pitch mix and his strikeout stuff, and no organization helps relievers flourish better than the Rays.
Acquiring 2 pitchers would mean the Rays would have to free up a roster spot, so I have Ryan Thompson going to Pittsburgh with Underwood effectively taking his place in this scenario. Thompson's ERA and FIP are both north of 4, but his exit velocity and expected stats are brilliant, meaning his ERA should probably be lower given the quality of contact he gives up. He would fit better on a rebuilding team; in an intense playoff race where every win counts, the Rays simply don't have time to hope that he will "positively regress" and start pitching like his peripherals say he should.
The Pirates will undoubtedly ask for a prospect if they have to give up a pitcher with team control alongside Quintana. By himself, Quintana doesn't have a whole lot of value: he was awful in 2021, with a 6.43 ERA between the Angels and Giants. His age and his worsening track record prior to this season suggested that his time in the majors might have been over, so given that, I would assume the Rays see him purely as a rental. It's tough to make a full financial commitment to a pitcher when it's unlikely he'll pitch like this again.
So, bearing in mind the fact that Underwood could very well be the more valuable piece in this deal in the long run, I have the Rays sending their #11 prospect according to MLB.com, southpaw Ian Seymour. The 23-year-old has a good pitch mix and quickly made it known that he was too advanced for class A in 2021, so he got 2 starts in a small stint at AAA Durham at the end of last year and didn't give up a run in 10 innings. He started this year in AA, but performed poorly before going down with Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out for the foreseeable future. The Rays made him a 2nd-round pick in the limited 2020 draft, so the Pirates would be getting a skilled arm once he heals.