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Choosing a centerpiece for a Pirates trade: Austin Meadows vs Josh Bell

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Choosing a centerpiece for a Pirates trade

Recently converted 1B Josh Bell
Recently converted 1B Josh Bell
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates, like many teams, are interested in the Rays' starting pitchers. Early reports implicated Jake Odorizzi as their target, but Matt Moore and Chris Archer (the most expensive and least likely to be traded) have also been rumored. You can include the likes of Drew Smyly and Erasmo Ramirez for good measure.

For their part, the Pirates could certainly use the help. Already relying on rookies Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, the Bucs need one more arm to fill in between the young guns and the veterans Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano. All other options have been relegated to the bullpen.

The team has several starters near major league ready, and could turn to the likes of Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams to meet immediate needs, but looking to the trade market seems to be an obvious solution for a team in the thick of the NL Wild Card race.

As for what the Pirates could offer the Rays for any of their starters, two names stand out as clear trade cornerstones and players that are close enough to the majors to offer Tampa Bay a solid piece with which to reload for the following season.

OF Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows is putting the finishing touches of what looks to be a respectable major league profile. Batting for extra bases on a consistent basis, hitting the ball hard with developing power, ever improving reads that could have him playing center at a high level.

If he can improve the accuracy of his throws, he may very well be a five-tool player at the Triple-A level, with an emphasis on his bat speed and a young age.

The lefty was recently promoted to Triple-A for the first time this month after boasting a .419 wOBA and 161 wRC+ with an 8.4% BB and 16.8% K-rate over 190 PA in Double A. He has eight home runs and eleven stolen bases in his age-21 season.

A top-10 prospect in baseball, and the former ninth-overall selection in 2013, Meadows is well blocked at the major league level by the presence of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco.

1B Josh Bell

On the opposite end of the prospect spectrum is Josh Bell, an outfielder converting to first base as he looks for a faster track to the majors. And his strength may carry him there as he develops from a power prospect into a power hitter.

Here's what Baseball America told subscribers about Bell in its mid-season update:

Bell has learned to turn on the ball for power more consistently—he hit seven homers in June, or the same number he hit during the entire 2015 season—though scouts don't love his swing mechanics.

And here are those mechanics in action:

That was from the 2015 Futures Game, and having watched some tape I can say that his footwork at the plate seems to have developed well over the last year from that showing, though those videos don't have the statcast above. You can watch a couple here.

Pittsburgh gave Bell a cup of coffee earlier this month, promoting him the week before the All-Star break, during which he showed off with a pinch hit grand slam that bounced its way out of the park and into the river.

It's easy to get caught up in his power, but it's worth mentioning it's something only recently translating to in-game ability. Bell is a switch hitter, and though he does not hit with the same power from the right side, he's competent and exhibits grate plate discipline (his 15.1% K-rate this season in Triple-A is his highest since Class-A ball).

Numbers wise, Bell has been a success in the minors (Triple-A: 174 wRC+ in 2015, 165 wRC+ in 2016), making it a wonder why he hasn't remained in the majors. It may just be that the top-50 prospect needs consistent playing time.

Drafted from high school in 2011, Bell will turn 24 next month. If the Rays are looking for a new answer at first base next season, his time is now.

What say you?