The Pittsburgh Pirates and Neal Huntington didn't pull the trigger on several opportunities to get players many deemed to be upgrades last season.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Missed Opportunites

One thing that every fan can agree on is that the Pirates’ offense has been absolutely awful to start the season. Pittsburgh ranks dead last in every major batting category: AVG (.119), OBP (.188), SLG% (.159), and OPS (.348).

The Pirates also have the fewest amounts of homeruns (1), runs (8), and RBIs (8) and are tied for fourth in strikeouts (54). Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte are the only two players that have more than 2 hits and are hitting above the Mendoza Line. In fact, there are only four players hitting above .100.

It’s important not to give up hope just yet. Many players are under performing and they have faced some excellent pitching. Just remember that the team’s bats started slowly last year before finally heating up. In June and July, there wasn’t a hotter hitting team in baseball than the Pirates. However, one can’t help but be dismayed by the overall failures at the plate. It borders on the line of unwatchable.

The worst part about this is seeing the early success of players that had been linked to the Pirates and wondering about what might have been. Therefore, without farther ado, here are your early season missed opportunities.

April 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton (8) hits a RBI sacrifice fly in the third inning against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Upton: I’ll start with the trade scenario that got the most media attention. In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline there was a lot of speculation that Pittsburgh would go all in, sell the farm, and trade for the young superstar out of Arizona. The exact details of the trade weren’t disclosed but one can assume that either Cole or Taillon would have been in the mix along with some other top-10 talent.

There was much debate on whether Huntington should/would pull the trigger but in the end, Upton stayed put. In the offseason, the Atlanta Braves acquired Upton for Martin Prado, Chris Johnson, top-pitching prospect Randall Delgado, and 3 other prospects. This was a hefty cost but so far, Upton has been worth it. Upton is leading the league in homers with 5, has 7 RBIs, and batting .318.

April 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton (8) celebrates a home run with first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Upton is one RBI away from tying the entire output by the Pirates and would lead the team in every batting statistic. Right now, the Pirates’ clean-up hitter, Pedro Alvarez, has 2 hits, 1 RBI, and is batting for a .091 average.

Upton would most likely have played RF for the Pirates, a major concern early on. As a whole, Pittsburgh’s right fielders are hitting for a .105 average with no extra-base hits and no RBIs. What an immediate upgrade Upton would have been to start the season.

Apr 6, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstop Jed Lowrie (8) hits a home run during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jed Lowrie: Another player Pirates’ fans were hoping for was Astros’ shortstop, Jed Lowrie. Lowrie would have replaced Barmes in the middle of the field and could have been the leadoff or second hitter the Pirates desperately need. Like Upton, Lowrie was traded in the offseason to the Oakland A’s for some middle of the pack talent.

This trade hurts the most because Lowrie would have been a perfect fit and the Pirates’ farm system could have easily swung it without losing the “untouchables”. Lowrie has started the season strong and is second in the league in BA. He is batting .500 with 13 hits, 3 homers, and 6 RBIs. Out of his 13 hits, 7 have been for extra bases.

Clint Barmes has actually been one of the better hitters to start the season. He is only hitting for a .154 average but his 2 hits were both doubles. However, Barmes will never be the type of hitter that Lowrie is. Man, this one still stings.

Apr 3, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) reacts after hitting a two-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. The Giants defeated the Dodgers 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hunter Pence: Finally, we get to the player that has been a trade candidate for the Buccos for the past 2 seasons. Fans and twitter were buzzing about landing the right fielder but alas, he was traded to San Francisco. The trade worked out for both Pence and the Giants because 3 months later they were World Series champions. Pence hasn’t had quite the same start the other two players have but is still having a very respectable year. Pence is batting .286, with 2 homeruns, 1 double, and 1 RBI. Out of the 3 players, Pence’s numbers appear to be the most sustainable as he is hitting around his career average.

Pence’s stable bat and glove would have fit in great down the stretch last year. His veteran presence and leadership also might have helped right the ship when the Pirates began their collapse. I’m not saying with the addition of Hunter Pence the Pirates would have went to the playoffs but I do believe with him they win more than 81 games.

March 8, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) hits a double in the first inning during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Scottsdale Stadium. The game was canceled in the second inning due to weather. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back there will always be missed opportunities. You go to any draft or trade and see players that you cant believe teams missed. That’s why hindsight is 20/20.  Tough times like these magnify these chances. The Pirates’ will turn their offense around just like these players will cool off a bit. However, I cant help but wonder how the Pirates’ would have ended last season, or started this one, with 1 or 2 of these trades.

Would you have pulled the trigger and whom would you have dealt? Please let me know what trades you would have done and how you would have handled these opportunities. Thanks for reading.

Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates

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