About a month ago, I had a look at what I thought the Pirates trade deadline priorities should be. Since writing the original, things have changed. Although Jeff Locke stepped up, the rotation went from looking like a lock down unit #1-5 back to one that may need to have some concerns addressed. The bullpen looked deep and deadly, but a couple breakout players have become less reliable. There are still needs for right-handed bats, but they look different. I suggested they go after Aramis Ramirez and the Pirates went out and got him. They still may not be done since they need his bat on the left side of the infield, thanks to injuries to shortstop Jordy Mercer and most-of-the-time third baseman Josh Harrison. Questions at first base have grown stronger as Pedro Alvarez looks less and less effective there.
We’ll start this second edition with starting pitching again. The Pirates had one of the best in baseball heading into the All-Star break, but they’ve struggled a bit since. AJ Burnett has allowed 11 earned runs in 11.2 innings pitched. Charlie Morton has allowed 9 in 12.2 innings and continues to drift further and further away from a solid number four. Jeff Locke, who has looked better since the original post, still doesn’t look like a guy you want pitching in a playoff series.
On top of that, the Pirates’ minor league depth has been almost completely depleted. Casey Sadler’s shut down and Jameson Taillon is on the shelf until at least September. Not only are the Pirates’ October options looking weaker, they’re an injury to their top three away from mediocrity.
Off the Table
Scott Kazmir, Johnny Cueto
Names to Consider
Mike Leake – Dave Cameron of Fangraphs projected where available trade deadline targets could end up and he liked the Reds’ Leake to end up as a Pirate. Leake doesn’t exactly get the heart pumping, but he makes a steady, reliable number four.
David Price – Rumor has it, Price is back in play again at the deadline and it’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates become a player again this year. Last season, the Rays preferred a package of major league ready players that saw their ace head to the Motor City, instead of what industry insiders termed a “better package but with prospects”. Price’s price tag will drop considerably this season, but any team acquiring him will need to at least beat the draft compensation the Tigers will likely receive. He would still command a solid package, but prospects should get it done this time around.
Jeff Samardijkdghszj#a – It sounds like he’s on the block and the Pirates might want to consider the Magician. He may be expensive, but like Price he would be a substantial upgrade to the rotation.
I’ve been reluctant to suggest that the Pirates should use resources to add to the bullpen, but with Rob Scahill still out, Arqimedes Caminero struggling, and Antonio Bastardo back to sucking, there is suddenly a need for the seventh inning. They could go one of three ways. They could be patient and wait for the one of those three to recover or rebound, then pursue a waiver deal should nothing materialize in August. They could add a situational guy to get ground balls and move Hughes to the seventh. They could also keep Hughes in his current position and acquire someone for the seventh.
Names to Consider
Brad Ziegler – The peripherals suggest Ziegler’s 1.24 ERA is complete smoke and mirrors, but his 70% groundball rate is exactly what the front office likes. He could be the situational guy or he could be the seventh inning guy. The choice is Hurdle’s.
John Axford – While the Pirates are bringing back former Bucs, Axford could be the best combination of value and upside. He’s not a clean inning guy thanks to his high walk rate, but he’d make a less hittable upgrade over Caminero in the 7th.
Jim Johnson – The Braves have moved Johnson to the ninth inning after the injury to Jason Grilli, which may inflate his value. However, if the Pirates have interest in making a splash, Johnson might be their guy.
Tyler Clippard – Clippard’s been connected to the Pirates too often not to mention him. His 5.30 xFIP and and 4+ BB / 9 make him less attractive to me than folks who remember his Nats days, but if the Pirates are willing to eat his salary he could come cheap and make an OK 7th inning guy.
First Base / Right Field
The Pirates likely need to upgrade one position or the other. For as much as I’d prefer to see him out there against righties with an upgraded platoon partner, Pedro Alvarez could get moved to a team willing to take a chance on his power. The problem is simple, there just aren’t enough clear first base options out there.
The right field choices might have a little more to offer, but with Gregory Polanco coming on, he might just need a platoon upgrade. Problem is, five bench spots would make it difficult to add a platoon partner for both, so a full upgrade to one or both might make more sense.
Names to Consider for Upgrade
Yoenis Cespedis – Talk out of Detroit suggests they’re ready to deal the master of the pig roast and while he’d cost nothing short of a butt load, he would be a marquee improvement that would completely change the Pirates lineup. This is probably crazy talk though.
Justin Upton – Upton has struggled for a couple of months, but he’s a dangerous bat and is more ready for prime time than Polanco.
Gerardo Parra – Parra’s straight mashing in Milwaukee and has been one of the few pleasant surprises for the Brewers. He’d be a solid upgrade to the top of the order and to the lineup in general. In the end, he might be the best fit.
Adam Lind – Lind is inconsistent from year to year, but he’s been an excellent run producer for the Brewers this season. Given how the Crew have collectively performed the last month, they may not hurry to trade their controllable assets with the hope of taking a run next year.
Chris Davis – This is another long shot and with the Orioles still solidly in the wild card hunt, it’s difficult to see them making a trade unless the Pirates send a major league piece back their way. That said, Davis could be a guy who sneaks through waivers if the O’s fall out before the end of the calendar turns again.
Names to Consider for Platoon
Logan Morrison – LoMo’s still OPS’ing .761 against lefties. Not great, but better than Sean Rodriguez.
Mike Napoli – Napoli’s probably toast after this season, but he’s still hitting lefties well and would likely come for a song if the Pirates just eat salary.
Shane Victorino – Like Napoli, Victorino’s not the player he used to be, but according to Rob Beer-temple, the Pirates have interest, the Pirates once again have interest in the Flyin’ Hawaiian. He might be the answer to giving both right and first upgraded platoons as he can back up all three outfield positions in a pinch. That and he’s posting nearly a .900 OPS against lefties.
Jose Tabata – Just saying….
The Pirates needs are similar but different than even a month ago. While they’re still performing OK, some issues have been exposed since the All-Star break. Some will be easier to fix than others.
The market has also evolved to where more teams might want to offload talent. While I think it’s still a seller’s market, buyers are probably in a better position than they’ve been since baseball added the second wild card. If there was a deadline where the Pirates could make a splash, this is it.