The San Diego Padres continue their busy off-season by adding their third starting pitcher. Joe Musgrove, who turned 28 in December, was one of the better pitchers left on the trade market after recording a career-best 3.82 ERA in 2020. In return for Musgrove, the Pirates received a package of OF Hudson Head, RHP David Bednar, LHP Omar Cruz, and RHP Drake Fellows from the Padres and C Endy Rodriguez from the Mets. As a part of this trade, the Mets also received Joey Lucchesi.
Joe Musgrove joins a stacked rotation in San Diego, who also acquired Yu Darvish and Blake Snell this offseason. That leaves San Diego with a rotation of Darvish, Snell, Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack, and Musgrove, with Mike Clevinger available in 2022. This further solidifies the Padres’ chances in the competitive NL West.
Musgrove arrived in Pittsburgh as a part of the Gerrit Cole trade three years ago. Since then, Musgrove put up a relatively average ERA in 2018 and 2019, before taking the next step during the shortened 2020 season with a 3.82 ERA and expected stats suggesting more. Musgrove also saw a significant increase in strikeouts in 2020, crushing career highs with a 33.1 K% and 33.0 Whiff%.
According to Baseball Savant, Musgrove saw a 10% decrease in 4-seam fastball usage in 2020, and for good reason. Musgrove’s fastball has an underwhelming average velocity of 92.6 mph, which hitters have been crushing. Through 997 pitches in 2019, Musgrove’s 4-seam fastball had a terrible xwOBA of .387 and a hard-hit rate of 39.7%. With this decrease in fastball usage, Musgrove threw his curveball ~10% more often and his Slider 2.1% more often in 2020, which yielded incredible results (xwOBA of .147, Hard hit% of 14.3% on his curveball, and xwOBA of .188, Hard Hit% of 23.5% on his slider.) If Musgrove continues to throw his better pitches in 2021, he could enjoy a breakout season.
The Mets became the third team in this trade when they traded for Lucchesi. While Lucchesi didn’t spend much time with the Padres in 2020, he is still a solid back-end starting pitcher. Lucchesi holds a career ERA of 4.21 and a 9.26 K/9. Lucchesi likely slots into the Mets rotation, with Seth Lugo moving back to the bullpen.
While at face value Lucchesi doesn’t seem very exciting, he does have some interesting underlying numbers. He only pitched 5.2 innings in 2020, adding a curveball to his arsenal. Though he did have a small sample size, his curveball gave promising results and it will be interesting to see how he performs with his new pitch in 2021. On top of this, Lucchesi also throughs his changeup less often than he should. Lucchesi’s changeup is his only pitch that has had an xwOBA below .300, and it happened in both 2018 and 2019. While a 35% usage rate is rather high, he could use his cutter less often in favor of his better pitch. If Lucchesi can change his approach for the better under new management, the Mets could have a diamond in the rough.
What the Pirates are Getting
In exchange for Musgrove the Pittsburgh Pirates are receiving a haul of five players, headlined by prospect Hudson Head. Head, ranked the Padres’ 7th best prospect by MLB Pipeline, was the Padres’ 3rd round draft pick in 2019 and turns 20 in April. Head set a record in 2019 when he received a $3 million signing bonus, the most any 3rd round pick has received. Head has only played one minor league season, where he recorded a 119 wRC+ in Rookie ball. At his age, he has a high ceiling and could develop into a major-league contributor.
The Pirates also acquired David Bednar in the trade, a 26-year-old relief pitcher who made his MLB debut in 2019. Through 17.1 innings in the big leagues, Bednar has failed to find consistency and holds a career 7.11 ERA. Bednar’s minor league stats suggest that he may become a solid middle reliever, most recently recording a 13.34 K/9 and 2.95 ERA in AA in 2019.
Omar Cruz, ranked the Padres’ 17th prospect by Pipeline, is a 21-year-old (turns 22 this month) starting pitcher. Cruz progressed rather quickly since signing with San Diego in 2017, who had an ERA of 2.76 through 49.0 innings in A during the 2019 season. Cruz projects to be a back-end starting pitcher in MLB.
Drake Fellows was taken in the 6th round of the 2019 MLB draft from Vanderbilt. He doesn’t project to be much of an impact player in MLB.
The Pirates initially acquired Joey Lucchesi from the trade, but immediately flipped him to the Mets for 20-year-old switch-hitting catcher prospect Endy Rodriguez. Rodriguez is ranked as the Mets’ 14th best prospect by pipeline, who played most recently in Rookie ball during the 2019 season. During small (150 PA) sample sizes in 2018 and 2019, Rodriguez had a wRC+ of above 120 in each season. Rodriguez still has a while before he makes MLB, but if he can continue to play catcher he could become a valuable asset.
At the moment, the Padres seem like the clear winners of this trade. Musgrove is a serious breakout candidate and they didn’t have to give up any of their top five prospects to get him. For a price like this, one might wonder why a team like the Angels or Blue Jays didn’t try to make better offers. The Mets got an interesting piece in Lucchesi, who could provide good value for them. The Pirates got a handful of young, high upside players in return for their best pitcher. This seems to be a running theme with Ben Cherington at the helm in Pittsburgh, who acquired other young prospects in Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone from the Starling Marte trade, and Eddy Yean from the recent Josh Bell trade.