It’s trade deadline week for the Pirates and the rest of Major League Baseball. It’s the time of year where buyers and sellers make themselves known. Some teams throw the towel in on the season and sell just about every hot commodity they have, and some teams sell the farm and go all in. Pirates GM has notoriously stated just about every trade deadline since the Pirates became buyers in the last few years, “The World Series isn’t won at the trade deadline.” And recent memory proves that to be true. Last season’s trade deadline winner, the Oakland A’s, were bounced out of the playoffs early in the one-game Wildcard Playoff by the eventual AL Champion Kansas City Royals. So, where do the Pirates stand at this year’s trade deadline? Currently, the Buccos are six games behind the division-leading Cardinals, and it seems like that gap will never be closed. They do hold the number one wildcard spot, which would lead to a third straight one-game wildcard playoff at PNC Park. The Pirates want to avoid that this year. Their goal set at the beginning of the season was to win the division. Winning the division not only guarantees avoiding the wildcard round, it will likely mean the Pirates would have home field in both the Division and Championship Series based on where the other two division-leading teams stand. If the season ended today, they would host the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants and playoff wizard Madison Bumgarner. The Pirates don’t want a deja-vu. The Cardinals are going to make a move; they always do. It’s never ground-breaking, but it’s significant enough to make them legit World Series contenders every year.
So, what can the Pirates do? What can make them a threat to the Cardinals and take the NL Central Crown? They have already filled their largest need in acquiring third baseman Aramis Ramirez from Milwaukee to fill a desperate need on the left side of the infield where they are missing Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer to significant injuries. The Pirates’ faithful for the most part have loved this acquisition, and I do too. It’s nice to see Aramis in a Bucco uniform again. It was awful to see him go in the first place, especially for what was on the receiving end of the trade that sent Ramirez away 12 years ago. He’s 37, so I’m not expecting the 2002 version of Aramis Ramirez, but his experience at the plate can provide stability in the middle of the lineup. But, what else do the Pirates need? I’ve broken it down to three priorities:
Priority One: First Base. As of right now, the Pirates have a platoon of Pedro Alvarez and Sean Rodriguez at first base. Pedro is a very streaky hitter, but hasn’t been able to sustain a hot streak longer than several at-bats, or at least it seems that way. He is also the worst defensive first baseman in baseball. Enter Sean Rodriguez; every seventh or eighth inning actually. Rodriguez is often put in late in games to provide actual defense at first base, but when he’s asked to bat, Rodriguez’s value plummets. He’s barely batting .200 and he’s usually only in the lineup against lefties, where he’s batting a horrid .186. The Pirates have announced today that they are not shopping Pedro, but they need an upgrade. They need another guy who can provide a good bat for the middle of the lineup and good defense. There’s really only one guy who I think the Pirates should go for: Mitch Moreland. He’s a solid left-handed bat who’s battled injuries for the majority of his career and is showing what he can do when healthy. He’s having a very solid year at the plate (.285/.329/.516 along with 16 HR and 51 RBI’s), provides good defense, and is very cheap at $2.95 million with another year of club control after this season. The Rangers are not shopping the 29 year-old, but they aren’t completely opposed to moving him if the price is right. According to Fox’s Ken Rosenthal, they want a young arm in return. It would be a highly sought-after arm too like Taillon, Glasnow, or Kingham. I think it’s worth the risk to give up a guy like Kingham for Moreland. I would even see if Texas would be interested in Pedro to be a part of the package since Moreland is an everyday first baseman. Pedro could then be on an AL team and be the DH he’s meant to be. Other attractive options for the Pirates could be Adam Lind or Mike Napoli. Lind is being targeted by the Cardinals to fill in for Matt Adams and Napoli could provide the proper righty-lefty platoon with Pedro, especially since Napoli hits left-handed pitching well with an OPS of .823.
Priority Two: Starting pitching. If baseball fans have learned anything in recent memory, it’s that starting pitching wins the World Series. Cole and Liriano are two great pitchers that can win games in the postseason. Burnett has been great this year, but his last two starts have been a concern. His age may be becoming a factor, but he’s battled back before and I think he still can. I’d love for him to be the fourth starter. The Pirates will more than likely not throw their hat into the Cole Hamels or possible David Price sweepstakes. Jeff Samardzija, J.A. Happ, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, and Yovani Gallardo are names the Pirates could go after. I would like to see them get Samardzija. He’s had success at PNC Park and knows the division. He shouldn’t cost too much in terms of prospects, but his sizable contract could get in the way.
Priority Three: The bullpen. Melancon, Watson, and Hughes are arguably the best trio at the back end of any bullpen in baseball. But, the other four spots are all in question. Worley isn’t a bad option as the long reliever, but Guerra, Bastardo, and Caminero have become liabilities in the bullpen. I’d like to see the Pirates add an arm or two to really stabilize an already strong bullpen. Of course, deep starting pitching makes the bullpen even stronger.
Follow me on twitter @chalicke for continued Pirates coverage of the trade deadline.
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