1. Pirates: David Bednar, Wil Crowe Dream?
Bad news: the Pirates won’t let the Yankees steal another reliever with tons of control attached the way they did in the Clay Holmes deal last year. Won’t get fooled again!
The good news? The Pirates still have some more impressive relief arms for the Yankees, their favorite trade partners (post-Gerrit Cole talks), to attempt to pry off their roster.
These guys are performing well, though, unlike the flat-lining Holmes, who had stalled out in Pittsburgh. New York would have to surrender two top-10 prospects (at the very least) for either of these arms, and will have to determine just how dire their need is when the deadline is approaching.
In essence, the Royals are an easier match, but the Pirates have more impressive talent.
Wil Crowe, controlled through 2026, has thrown 23 innings in just 14 appearances (one spot start), and holds a 1.13 WHIP while whiffing 23 batters. He’s also, uh, broken Statcast, ranking (alone?) in the 100th percentile for hard-hit rate. The Yankees could be interested in someone who’s busted the system so spectacularly.
Could the Pirates be ruthless enough buccaneers to trade David Bednar, their breakout closer/likely All-Star/Pittsburgh native? They only have one hometown boy, Neil Walker-style, to lead them through their currently endless rebuild. At this moment, they’re probably hoping Ke’Bryan Hayes/Oneil Cruz are enough to keep the fan base enticed. They’re also hoping Bednar makes the midsummer trip to Los Angeles and raises his public profile ahead of the deadline.
Also controlled through 2026, Bednar’s hard-hit metrics (11th percentile in average exit velocity, 16th in hard-hit percentage) tell a very different story than his upper-echelon xWOBA, xERA, and xBA. Thus far, the bulldog’s elite fastball has led to an overload of swings-and-misses (27 Ks in 20 innings), and he rarely gives batters a chance to reach base (0.60 WHIP, 0.90 ERA). He’s also got that unquantifiable DAWG in him, staring down hitters and bringing the appropriate level of intensity for the late innings.
Both Crowe and Bednar would be idealized targets, but the less flashy Crowe’s success seems a bit more sustainable.