Inbox: Who is ideal return if Bucs trade J-Hay?

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If the Pirates were to trade Josh Harrison to the Mets, besides Brandon Nimmo, who would the Pirates want in return?
-- Eric C., New York

Back to the trade rumors! Multiple reports, including one by MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, have linked the Pirates to Nimmo as the potential return if they move Harrison.

The New York Post reported on Monday the two sides have been "continuing dialogue" about Harrison, who would answer a big question in New York's infield. Mets officials have publicly said their preference would be to sign a free agent, however -- someone like, say, former Pirate (and Met) Neil Walker.

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Harrison requested a trade if the Bucs don't intend to contend over the next two years. The Pirates' response was that they do, in fact, expect to be competitive, and they want Harrison to be a part of their next successful team. I think they will continue to explore the market, but the price will be high.

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Nimmo makes a lot of sense, more so than anyone else with whom the Mets are probably willing to part. Trading Andrew McCutchen opened a spot in Pittsburgh's outfield, and the 24-year-old Nimmo could fill it right away.

The 13th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, Nimmo hit .260/.379/.418 and played all three outfield spots (mostly left) in 69 games last season. He's under club control for five years, so he would fit well with the young core the Pirates seem to be counting on (and "retooling" around) in this post-McCutchen/Gerrit Cole era.

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Obviously such a deal would create an opening at second base, but the Pirates would probably be comfortable there with Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez and Max Moroff, plus prospect Kevin Kramer waiting in the wings.

Since Josh Bell was an outfielder in the Minors, do you think the Pirates would sign a first baseman for a year until Austin Meadows is ready? We need not only a fourth outfielder but also a third outfielder. Melky Cabrera for one year?
-- Randy H., Tuscola, Ill.

No, the Pirates seem committed to keeping Bell at first base. They could have moved him last April, when Starling Marte was suspended, but didn't then, either.

Cabrera is one of many free-agent outfielders who could take a one-year deal in this slow-developing offseason. The 33-year-old was a roughly league-average hitter and a below-average defender last season, though. Is that a big enough upgrade over in-house options Frazier, Rodriguez and Jordan Luplow?

The most interesting bounce-back candidate on the long list of available outfielders is probably Carlos Gonzalez. The former Rockies star struggled through most of last season then put up a 1.250 OPS in September, reportedly after seeing a sleep specialist in late August.

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How is this going to affect the Pirates' TV deal with both stars gone? It would have made sense to keep McCutchen.
-- Gary T., Fairmount City, Pa.

Only in the sense that it affects their record. If they're winning, people will watch at PNC Park and from home. They drew record attendance and ratings during their 98-win 2015 season, but those figures reportedly declined over the last two sub-.500 campaigns, even with McCutchen on the field.

According to Nielsen data, however, they still ranked sixth in the Majors last year in terms of average household ratings. There are two more years on the Pirates' current local television contract, so theoretically, yes, viewership in 2018-19 will be important as they evaluate their options.

Will the Bucs attempt to get J.T. Realmuto? They have plenty of pitching prospects and need this kind of catcher.
-- Harry E., Kalamazoo, Mich.

I wouldn't bet on it. Realmuto is a good, young catcher, and the Marlins have been shipping out established players to rebuild. But that kind of deal would require the Pirates to give up a big haul of young talent -- look at the package the Brewers sent to Miami for Christian Yelich -- and we just haven't seen general manager Neal Huntington part with premium prospects like that.

For now, they seem set with Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz behind the plate.

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