Ian Happ has been stuck coming off the bench despite having pretty fair showings in his limited playing time. Victor Caratini is stuck behind Contreras and could be available. Both would be an upgrade to the Pirates team in 2020 and beyond.
Lets recap the Pirates needs. Catcher, Pitching and Third Base. Getting these two in one trade hits two of those marks.
Looking farther into the Cubs catching. They have Miguel Amaya who is coming up in the next couple years, just in time for Contreras’s contract year. Making Caratini more expendable.
Caratini’s contribution behind the plate would likely be a sizeable upgrade on both sides of the plate and still be on his rookie contract. Should he continue his path its not unreasonable to think he could pull a 1-2 fWAR with out much of an issue.
Ian Happ leaves some to be desired on defense in a fairly small sample but dropping him in at third base with consistent reps should be a defensive upgrade and his bat as well should also be a good upgrade and provide better production over all. Based on his limited time last year you could also guess about a 1-2 fWAR if his defense doesn’t hold him back too much. Ian is also on his rookie contract through 2023.
Colin Moran pulled a 0.1 fWAR in 2018 and Elias Diaz a -1.5 fWAR. Both Caratini and Happ would be sizable upgrades to both positions. Now that Diaz has been non-tendered the Pirates NEED to find a catcher in 2020 either through trade or free agency.
But what do the Chicago Cubs need that we have? They need a center field upgrade in a fairly bad way, Starling Marte. Having Marte would likely give the Cubs one of the best all around outfields in the NL.
A trade of Happ and Caratini for Marte is close to fair. But given the players the Pirates would be getting have basically been prospects and backups at the MLB level, there would need to be more value coming back to Pittsburgh.
This value could easily be settled with Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay. Mills still has some molding to do having mixed results the past few years both in the minors and MLB. Alzolay a former fringe top 100 prospect that fell off the map. Some new eyes on him might be able to turn him around.
There are two other things holding it up. There is a market for Marte that extends to many teams across the league that could easily out bid the Cubs. The other is that it would be a divisional trade. This would likely cause the Cubs to up their offer in the way of adding on another depth minors player, Cash or International bonus money nothing to fancy.
In the end the trade would likely help out the Pirates more than keeping Marte. Caratini’s play should improve the pitchers at least a little while providing a bit more pop out of the catchers position. Happ at third should give better defense and better bat than Moran in 2020.
This also saves about $11M in payroll that can be used to fill a third hole in pitching and filling the out field spot left over. An out fielder like Dickerson or Garcia on the free agent market would do nicely. Also someone like Teheran would fill a rotation spot.
This deal could also work out even better if they where interested in Kela to fill a bull pen hole though likely wouldn’t get much in return or maybe just a “toss in” to help make the trade more palatable.
In the end, for the Cubs to trade for Marte would be pretty costly, but most of that cost is in players that are blocked or have some question marks. Where as Marte has been consistently a 3+ fWAR type during his career minus the suspension year where he was 1.7fWAR in half a season.