As the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the hunt for their first playoff berth since 1992, they, like any team in competition, were in some trade rumors. Let’s look back at some that might have been forgotten from the summer of 2013.
At the 2013 MLB trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates looked to be on course for their first season in 20 years where not only did they reach at least 82 wins, but also made the playoffs. Like any team in contention, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in a handful of trade rumors. Any team looking to compete would do.
Most of the rumors the Pittsburgh Pirates were a part of were for outfield capable sluggers. One of which, and the most prominent was Giancarlo Stanton. The then 23-year-old right fielder was seen as an outstanding young slugger. Through an injury limited 280 plate appearances, Stanton had a .256/.375/.491 line on July 31st, with 13 long balls, and a 144 wRC+. He also walked 15.4% of the time after walking just 9.2% of the time the year prior.
This was all after a season where Stanton hit .290/.361/.608 with 37 long balls, and a 153 wRC+. Despite his below average defensive numbers the year prior, Stanton had +22 DRS, 13 range runs above average, and a 6.9 UZR/150 in the three years prior combined. Not only were the Pittsburgh Pirates connected to Stanton, but so were the Boston Red Sox.
Well the Marlins ended up holding onto Stanton at the time, and why wouldn’t they? Stanton was part of a core that consisted of Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Nathan Eovaldi with many top prospects on the cusp of MLB action like Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley, Jake Marisnick, Andrew Heaney, and J.T. Realmuto in the minors. I go further into detail why the Pirates didn’t land Stanton, and the possible pieces that could have been involved here: That Time The Pittsburgh Pirates Almost Acquired Giancarlo Stanton
But Stanton wasn’t the only 2012 All-Star the Pittsburgh Pirates had showed interest in. They also looked into Angles’ slugger Mark Trumbo. In 2012, Trumbo hit for a solid .268/.317/.491 with 32 long balls, and a 124 wRC+. Now Trumbo wasn’t as effective of a defender in the outfield compared to Stanton. He had -1 DRS, with .5 range runs above average and a 0.8 UZR. But he spent a good amount of time at first base in 2012 as well.
At the July 2013 trade deadline, Trumbo was putting up solid slugging numbers batting .246/.310/.468 with 23 long balls and a .222 isolated slugging percentage. He also had a 116 wRC+. Again, he had solid but unimpressive outfield defensive numbers with -2 DRS, 1.4 range runs above average, a -0.3 UZR mark, but he saw most of his innings at first base, where he was a much better fielder (-1 DRS, 2.6 range runs, 3.2 UZR).
The Pittsburgh Pirates were also connected to two division rival outfielders in Cubs’ corner outfielders Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus. The longtime Giants outfielder, Nate Schierholtz would have been a good fix to the Pirates’ lack of power problem. The left handed batter was hitting for a strong .269/.328/.510 line, blasted 14 long balls, had a .241 ISO, and 129 wRC+. Although not a great fielder, he wasn’t a detriment either with 0 DRS, and 1.4 range runs, and -2.9 UZR in 2013.
While David DeJesus wasn’t as much of a slugger as the other three names I’ve brought up, he still had a productive batting line of .273/.333/.455, and 119 wRC+. Where he lacked in power, DeJesus made up in his fielding with -1 DRS, 1.6 range runs, and a 2.1 UZR. Most of his innings came from center field, and rated as a much better defender in left field, with experience in right field.
One last notable outfielder that the Bucs were connected to during this time was White Sox’ Alex Rios. The former two time Toronto Blue Jays All-Star was batting just .272/.323/.425, accumulating a 102 wRC+. However, the veteran was still a very good base runner, swiping 22 bags, and being worth 3 base running runs above average. At this point in Rios’ career, the outfielder was an average to below average fielder with -4 DRS, -2.1 range runs, and a 3.7 UZR. He was still very good at throwing runners out with 8 outfield assists, and 4.6 arm runs above average.
Regardless, the Pirates could have used any of these players. Both first base, and right field were positions where the Pirates struggled at. Pirates first basemen were batting .251/.327/.426 with 17 home runs and a 113 wRC+. Solid numbers, but the Pirates were lacking power as a team, ranking 19th in the MLB in slugging percentage. In right field, Pirates right fielders hit .248/.304/.389 with 18 home runs.
But RF/1B big time sluggers weren’t the only kind of players the Pittsburgh Pirates were involved in talks for. They also were talking to the Houston Astros about one of their starting pitchers; Bud Norris.
Norris was an effective pitcher for the Astros who were 35-70 coming into July 31. Norris had a 3.93 ERA, 3.87 FIP, and 1.41 WHIP in 126 innings of work. Although he had overall unimpressive strikeout (16.6%) and walk (8%) numbers, he allowed home runs at a solid 0.79 per 9 rate. Norris did give up a fair amount of hits, but the Astros’ defense was much worse than the Pirates, so it would be likely that he would improve with a better defense. Plus with more than just one year of control left, he would have made a solid back of the rotation arm.
While A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano had the first three spots of the rotation on lock down, the Pirates had lost Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald to injuries. Plus, they had just gotten Charlie Morton back from Tommy John surgery in mid-June. Jeff Locke also looked like a solid back end rotation arm, so getting that 5th spot on lock down could have really helped. Up until Morton returned, the Pirates had used multiple different arms like Jeanmar Gomez, Jonathan Sanchez, and Brandon Cumpton in the 5th spot with varying levels of success.
Ultimately, the Pirates did not make any moves at the July 31 trade deadline. In August, however, they added three players to bolster their run to the postseason. The team brought in former American League MVP Justin Morneau from the Twins to play first base, while right fielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck were acquired from the Mets.