It’s June and the Pittsburgh Pirates have a good record. That means next month is July, and the Pirates are probably going to still have a good record in July. That means the Pirates front office could be looking to be buyers at the trade deadline and see what they can get to improve the teams World Series chances. That means that it’s just about time for sports radio hosts and fans of all ages to start playing GM and telling everybody else what the Pirates should do at the trade deadline. That means it’s time for me to switch back to CD’s and reduce my use of social media.
I used to have a lot of looking at what players might be available and what the Pirates and other teams could do at the trade deadline, but then I turned 12.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. It’s something to talk about. Lots of people are interested, and I can see the appeal. But I don’t think I’m being ridiculous in saying that it’s one of the most overly talked about things in sports, and it’s even more of a waste of time when you’re talking about the Pirates.
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I’m not going to tell you how to live your life, but here are a few things to keep in mind as we approach the trade deadline.
The Pirates will never truly be buyers. No matter how much everyone talks about it, and how many possible offers the 93.7 The Fan Morning Show comes up with, the Pirates are never going to trade for Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels. There have been names like this out there the last four years when the Pirates had a competitive record in July, and the same thing happens every year. Let’s take a look at what the Pirates have done at the last four trade deadlines:
2014 Acquisitions: Ernesto Frieri (traded for Jason Grilli)
2013 Acquisitions: Marlon Byrd, John Buck (for Dilson Herrera and PTBNL/cash)
2012 Acquisitions: Travis Snider (for Brad Lincoln), Wandy Rodriguez (for Rudy Owens, Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain)
2011 Acquisitions: Derrek Lee (for Aaron Baker), Ryan Ludwick (for PTBNL/cash)
The 2012 trade deadline was the only one that made the Pirates really look like buyers, and even then they weren’t giving up much. They lost (what looked like at the time) a strong bullpen arm and two mid-level prospects in Owens and Grossman. None of those pieces were ones that the Pirates weren’t confident they could do without, and the last three years have shown how little the Pirates actually lost in those moves. While Snider and Rodriguez made their contributions to the Pirates in the last three seasons, they weren’t hot commodities in 2012.
In my opinion, the Pirates are completely right to not want to trade legitimate prospects for big names, which is what it takes to pull in a name like Cueto or Hamels. If the previous two years have proven anything, it’s that Neal Huntington and company value young players with lots of years of control way more than a veteran guy with less than two years of control on his contract. Don’t expect that to change this year. The Pirates are not going to trade Gregory Polanco, it’s just not going to happen. Polanco is exactly the player that this management team loves to have. He’s young, he’s talented, and he’s cheap (for right now). They’ve already tried to extend him, he’s a potential star and they can lock him up through his prime for a bargain (just like they did with Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte).
Another thing I want to point out is that even if the Pittsburgh Pirates do make moves this summer, it’s not going to be until the week of the trade deadline. Lots of people have been saying if the Pirates are going to tighten up the rotation by adding a starter or getting a better option at first to platoon with Pedro Alvarez, they should do it sooner rather than later so they have more time to catch the Cardinals. That makes sense, sure, but it doesn’t work like that. There is no advantage for a seller to sell before they have to. The longer they wait, the more possible interest there is in what they have, and the more possible return they can get. You don’t see trades made in June or early/mid July often, and expecting the Pirates to buck that trend this year is a bit delusional.
If this post feels like bad news, it’s not. The front office has been and will continue doing exactly what is best for the franchise. Being in a small market, trading all your prospects for rentals can set a team back for years at a time. The Pirates simply can’t afford to keep all their Major League players, so they need a strong farm system that can fill holes and keep the team competitive. And at the end of the day, this Pirates team is more than good enough to win the division and make a playoff run as is. Most teams have fifth starters with an ERA in the high 5’s, and if you look you can find a couple players in every starting lineup with holes in their swing.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in a great spot right now, and risking the future for a slight, temporary boost just doesn’t make sense.