The Pittsburgh Pirates are atop the NL Central standings. But what can they do to improve the 25-man roster heading into the most important stretch of baseball we’ve seen in Pittsburgh. Should the Bucs put it all together this year….provide a Hollwood like ending to an unlikely turnaround, the movie release date is the only detail that will be missing.
As we look at what the Pirates are interested in as the deadline approaches, we have seen the two big stories as focused on pitching, mainly Ryan Dempster lately, as well as being involved in some Justin Upton discussions. But say those deals fizzle….what is the Pirates back-up plan?
Let’s say those veteran pitchers go elsewhere? It looks like L.A. is a favorite in the Ryan Dempster Watch. Cole Hamels might just end up a Phillie and not be moved at the deadline.
Justin Upton doesn’t look like he will be patrolling the outfield at PNC Park in black and gold. How would Chase Headley really fit with the Bucs?
Let’s face it, a big splash might not happen. So let’s look at a lesser impact that could happen at the trade deadline.
The biggest hole, the largest outmaker in the Pirates lineup is when Clint Barmes steps to the plate. It’s seriously still too early to speculate, but that’s what we are good at around here, so with the Pirates seemingly swinging and missing on a big impact trade, are they now in back-up plan mode? Is this the reason there was some buzz about the Bucs looking at shortstops?
Barmes, or #AlwaysSmooth as he’s called on this blog, has provided some of the best defense in the game–currently ranked fourth in UZR. But that swing…..that lack of awareness at the plate reminds me of Uncle Skip at the family picnic. It’s ugly.
So the dilemma around upgrading the shortstop position remains for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s something the team has struggled with for years.
One shorstop name that has come up recently which sparked our interest is Yunel Escobar of the Blue Jays. Toronto wants to give the job to a qualified young player and it looks like they will shop Escobar.
Escobar might not interest them, as he hasn’t been connected to Pittsburgh yet, but perhaps he should?
If the team can’t get a deal done to upgrade the pitching staff or the corner outfield production, could improvement at the shortstop position be the back-up plan? We think it might be. But of course it must come in conjuction with plan Number One, Exhibit A being to call up Starling Marte for this home series.
It’s a thought.
Escobar has had a down year much like many of the players available at the deadline. He’s offensive numbers don’t jump off the page this season with a triple slash of .249/.294/.335, but of course, he is an improvement over Barmes.
And…he plays better defensively according to UZR.
Here are his offensive numbers in a really bad graph ….
Now look at the recent numbers for Clint Barmes which are somehow an actual improvement over how he has performed over the course of the season.
We have to think upgrading shortstop, promoting Marte, and then concentrating on improving pitching would be a good back up plan.
If Marte comes up this series, the Bucs can see what they have and it could allow their focus at the deadline to be on pitching if Marte shows he can help the offense.
If Marte struggles, the focus should change. But at least getting a look at Marte would start the process.
The biggest challenge for the Pirates is the fact that all of this is happening while the team is in first place. They can’t afford to stumble in the standings. They can’t afford to piss off attitudes in the locker room. They can’t afford to have Marte look like a fawn on the parkway at midnight.
Another collapse won’t happen, but to their credit, the Bucs have raised the stakes immensely and anything less than a playoff berth would be disappointing for us. And to that end, the trade deadline is more meaningful than we can ever remember, at least since the days of Andy Van Slyke, Bill Madlock, and other legendary names in Pirates lore.
Maybe 2012 will add a new name to the mix. A lot rides on the 2012 Pirates season. Good luck Neal, Frank and the boys.