Recently, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been buyers at the trade deadline and went after players such as Derrek Lee, Ryan Ludwick, Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez, and Wandy Rodriguez in hopes of improving their chances of a playoff run. Unfortunately, both those teams suffered historic collapses, and didn’t even get a winning season.
The deadline rolls around on July 31st, and there are always a few big name players who are on the radar for days in advance.
This year, guys such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza, Chase Headley (again), Giancarlo Stanton, and Justin Morneau headline the players who are likely to be dealt. Sure, it’d be sweet to have some of those guys on the team, but looking at it from a realistic standpoint, the Bucs should look elsewhere.
Ellsbury was a stud back in 2010, but has had trouble staying healthy since. With the outfield situation in Pittsburgh, I don’t see much of a need for him.
Garza is a decent veteran pitcher who wouldn’t be bad to throw in to the Pirates rotation, but I’m sure the Cubs would make the Pirates eat a lot of his contract, as he makes $13 million dollars a year.
Headley was consistently brought up last season as a trade candidate, but somehow stayed in San Diego. The Pirates took a little bit of a run at him in 2012, but discovered they would have to give up a lot more than they wanted to.
Stanton is the best player on this short list, and is rumored to want out of Miami. He’s currently having a rough season for the Marlins, but I’m serious when I say that he has more power than any other player in the league. It’d be awesome if he somehow ended up on the Bucs, but they would have to send a huge return for him, for a guy who plays a position that the Pirates aren’t in need of.
The final player I mentioned, Justin Morneau, has been injury-prone with the Minnesota Twins these past couple seasons. Personally, I’ve liked the whole Garrett Jones-Gaby Sanchez platoon role this season and don’t find Morneau a logical trade piece for the Pirates.
As I mentioned, those five guys are the kind of players who are almost a sure-pick to get dealt at some point before August comes around. Thinking logically, the Pirates won’t pick any of these guys up, as either the asking price is too high, or they just aren’t in need of him.
Instead, I’m going to name six players that I would like to see the Pirates pursue before the deadline on July 31st.
Clint Barmes’ days in Pittsburgh have just about ran it’s course, and I’m not all that sure Jordy Mercer is an everyday shortstop. Lowrie, currently playing the Oakland Athletics, would be a good player to insert at the top of the order.
He’s able to hit for power, and brings a solid glove to the field at the shortstop position. He’s been on the block a few times now, and the Pirates have never taken a serious run at him. With the poor play of Barmes, I think shortstop is the main priority for the Bucs at the deadline, and the Pirates wouldn’t need to give up any superstars in attempt to get him.
Of course they’ll have to give up something, with Oakland on top of the division grabbing Lowrie won’t be an easy task. But Lowrie could definitely hold down the fort until a player like Alen Hanson makes it to the show.
The bullpen is going to get worn down eventually, and the Bucs need to pick up a good reliever in attempt to prevent that from happening. Last season, they failed in doing so, as Chad Qualls and Hisanori Takahashi were pretty awful out of the ‘pen. Betancourt has been a closer these past couple seasons and has done a good job at it, as he closed out 31 games for the Rox last season. He’s obviously not going to be used as the closer, as Jason Grilli has been the best closer in baseball so far this season, but Betancourt could definitely solidify the “Shark Tank” in the seventh and eighth inning if acquired. Betancourt might be a little bit of a stretch, as you very rarely see a closer acquired at the deadline, and end up not being used as the teams closer, but this team is going to need bullpen help before the season is over. There are a few guys in the minors who could help out in that, but Betancourt is a proved major league reliever who would help shutdown the seventh and eighth inning when called upon.
Profar would be the toughest player to get, but he wouldn’t be out of the question. Commonly referred to as one of the best prospects in baseball, and the best shortstop prospect in the MLB, Profar has seen limited play with the Rangers recently.
The Bucs would have to toss around a few key prospects if they want to land Profar, but it would be worth it, as the shortstop position has looked like the weakness of the team these past couple seasons. Waiting for Alen Hanson is another option, but sometimes it’s hard to predict that he will pan out in the MLB. I didn’t really think the Rangers would be interested in dealing Profar, but after Elvis Andrus was given an 8-year extension worth close to $120 million dollars this offseason, I thought that Profar would ask to be traded.
Acquiring Lowrie would be key if they look to win now, but future wise, Profar would be a stud. He wouldn’t be easy to acquire, but it’s not crazy to say that Profar could be dealt somewhere in July.
I read a statistic earlier today saying that of the ten players to start a game for the Pirates this year, eight of them were on the disabled list at some point. After reading that, I figured the Pirates better look to acquire some sort of starting pitcher at the deadline.
With the asking prices of pitchers like Matt Garza, Cliff Lee, and David Price likely being too high, Nolasco could fit right in. He’s currently the highest paid player on the Marlins roster (by a long shot), and there’s not much of a discussion when it comes to whether or not the Marlins will want to trade him. For a guy whose had double-digit wins in six of his first seven full seasons, Nolasco is a proven veteran pitcher who would definitely help out in the rotation.
A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have thought the Pirates should look at a starter, but after the recent injuries to A.J. Burnett, Jeanmar Gomez, Wandy Rodriguez, and Jeff Karstens, it wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. Nolasco’s contract is up at the end of the season, and he would most likely not return for 2014, but he’d be a big contributor in August and September if the Pirates are still a contender.
Bud Norris/Lucas Harrell
The Houston Astros, like any other year, will be sellers at the deadline, and have two decent trade pieces that will most likely be moved. Bud Norris, the 28-year old starter, has always been one of the more underrated pitchers in the MLB. He doesn’t get much credit since he’s an Astro, but goes out there and pitches well in almost every start he makes.
His teammate, Lucas Harrell, is similar to him. Also a 28-year old, Harrell is one of the few good pitchers on the Astros team. Both of them can help out at the back of a rotation, and if I had to pick between one of the two, I’d go with Norris. His strikeout numbers are always around the top of the league, while Harrell is an up-and-coming pitcher who isn’t a free agent until 2018.
The bottom line:
Some of these players, especially Profar, might be a little bit of a reach. Betancourt is a little out there as well, but I would hope the Pirates acquire some sort of reliever, whether it’s through trades or free agency. Norris, Lowrie, Harrell, and Nolasco are all trade candidates, and I hope the Bucs pick up the phone and make a call on one of them. The shortstop position has been a mess, and Lowrie also has the ability to play shortstop and second base, which they could use him at if Neil Walker isn’t extended this winter.
Nolasco is one of the most talked about trade candidates, and will almost surely be dealt somewhere this summer. Harrell and Norris are both trade pieces as well, and it wouldn’t take as much to acquire them as people think.
With the trade deadline a little more than a month away, the rumors are going to start pouring in here pretty soon. Last season, the Pirates were connected with Justin Upton, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Chase Headley in July. While the talent isn’t as good this season, the Bucs should look to pick up a player or two in hopes of being a contender. If they’re not a contender, hopefully the pickup(s) could lead them to a .500 season, and end one of the worst records in American sports.