Pittsburgh Pirates: The Time to Buy is Right Now
The Pittsburgh Pirates have quickly found themselves back in playoff contention. With that, the team should consider buying at the upcoming deadline.
It is July 23rd, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are two games over .500 with a record of 51-49. The team is currently eight games back of the NL Central leading Chicago Cubs, but they are only fout games back of a Wild Card spot. If one would go back one month and predict the Pittsburgh Pirates to be in the position they are in, they would be laughed at. After having one the best starts in Pittsburgh Pirates franchise history, the team quickly began to unravel. The team went from one of the best records in April, to falling under .500 by June 8th. At one point the team was seven games under .500 and only 3.5 games ahead of the lowly Cincinnati Reds.
How did this team get there?
However, something changed for the Pittsburgh Pirates in June. Was it the team seeing Sean Rodriguez go to the disabled list and not have him being unproductive 4-5 games a week? Maybe. Or was it inserting Nick Kingham back into the rotation and Felipe Vazquez looking like he did most of last year? This definitely helped. However, what has really led to the Pittsburgh Pirates surge up the leaderboard is their offense getting back on track. While the team has received quality pitching work, the offense is the true difference maker. Leading the way has been the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield as a whole. Corey Dickerson has settled in as the team’s new leadoff hitter, while Gregory Polanco is driving in runs and Starling Marte is doing just about everything one can ask a hitter to do.
Marte is the leader of the pack. Since being called a liability, he has done nothing but be the catalyst to the team’s offense. In July, Marte is batting .369/.397/.708 with six home runs, four doubles, and 15 RBIs in 17 games. As a whole, he has 24 hits and has added seven stolen bases as well. Polanco started to turn things around in June when he saw his batting average go up after hitting .306 for the month. While his batting average in July is only .238, he still is doing enough of the other things. He has six home runs, two doubles, and a triple. Furthermore, he has 12 RBIs and 15 total hits in 16 games. Meanwhile, Corey Dickerson is doing exactly what any team wants from their leadoff hitter. The left fielder is batting .391/.409/.813 this month. He has six home runs, five doubles, and two triples to make up part of his 25 hits in 16 games this month.
So now what?
As mentioned earlier, if one would go back a month from today they would be thinking that the Pittsburgh Pirates would be selling veterans like Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Ivan Nova, and even Corey Dickerson. However, that should not be the case now. While, I still believe the team should look to trade Jordy Mercer, due to Kevin Newman‘s strong play at Triple-A, the team should not be looking to be sellers per say. Instead, they are in a position to acquire talent for the future and this year.
The Pittsburgh Pirates farm system is still ranked in the top half of baseball. Even more interesting is a lot of their top prospects are in the upper minors. Obviously, the team should not deal top prospect Mitch Keller, who is as Triple-A, or Kevin Newman who should be the team’s shortstop after July 31st. However, they could look to deal other prospects who are virtually blocked over the next 5 years.
The first prospect that comes to mind is Cole Tucker. Tucker was a first-round pick back in 2014 and is extremely projectable due to his size and athleticism. Unfortunately for Tucker, the team has another first-round pick in Kevin Newman in front of him. The same could be said for Ke’Bryan Hayes who is quickly rising up top 100 prospect lists. While there is a lot to be excited about Hayes, the Pittsburgh Pirates currently are employing another young former top pick at third base in Colin Moran. The last player that really comes to mind is Will Craig. Craig was the team’s first-round pick in 2016 and was promptly moved to play first base. Like Hayes, Craig’s path the majors looks to be blocked by Josh Bell for the next 4-5 years.
Of course, there are other positions in the minors that have depth and trade flexibility too. The outfield prospects come to mind first. Players like Jason Martin (AAA) and Bryan Reynolds (AA) are both top 15 prospects in the system. Looking at the current outfield and figuring in that Austin Meadows will be the first to replace one of the current three should make Reynolds or Martin available for trade. Further down the pipeline is Cal Mitchell and Connor Uselton, both who were top picks in the 2017 draft. So even if you traded a Martin or Reynolds there are still other outfield prospects developing in the lower minors. The same can be said for pitching, the team has a plethora of young intriguing arms that could be tacked on to any sort of deal.
Now is the Time
The point is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are back in playoff contention. There is starting to be a buzz again about the team. The beginning of the year was tough for the organization, even with them playing well fans were still protesting the organization. Now, the team is starting to turn things around again at the right time. They have the prospect depth at the upper minors to make a significant move without being a detriment to the future. Also, any such move to acquire an asset that can help them win now should help reinvigorate the fan base for the last few months of the season. If there was ever a time for the Pittsburgh Pirates ownership group and front office to redeem themselves with the fan base, now is the time.