Over the course of a few posts I will attempt to provide an accurate and brief overview of the Pirates trade deadline situation. First in this post I will go over what the Pirates need and then I will do a series of posts detailing what they have to offer before finishing with a piece on who may be available.
What Do They Need?
I was going to start off with a dive into the statistical world to uncover the Pirates weaknesses but in the end I decided to just take a more practical look at each position and analyze with limited use of numbers.
The Pirates employ the catching tandem of Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry. So far throughout the season this tandem has done an excellent job handling the pitching staff and has even provided good solid offense from the bottom of the order. If there is one knock on them it is their controlling of the running game. Should a replacement be needed the Pirates have Jose Morales and Eric Fryer waiting in the wings. Overall this is a solid position that the Pirates have no reason to look to upgrade.
As of right now the 1st base position is manned by Casey McGehee but Garrett Jones remains a strong option as well once he no longer has to serve in RF. McGehee did suffer a mild groin injury during the game before the All Star break but will hopefully be fine going forward. The combination of McGehee and Jones has provided a good source of offense lately for the Pirates. Backing them up are Matt Hague and Jeff Clement. Overall the Pirates have a nice twosome here in Jones and McGehee but an upgrade could probably be found or a player could be acquired with the idea of helping future squads. This is a position I would keep my ears open to upgrading but not one I would be actively seeking.
After a shaky start Neil Walker appears to be settling in and doing a good job handling either the 2nd or 5th spot in the batting order. He is a good complimentary piece and players like him are needed on successful teams. It would be difficult for the Pirates to find an upgrade on the trade market so this is a position that should remain as is. Backing up Walker, just in case, are a slew of middle infield guys like Sutton, Harrison, Mercer and d’Arnaud.
The great question mark himself, Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez has been much more consistent lately at the plate and look to hopefully be finally arriving and while he may not be quite what was expected he still has tremendous value to this club. The Pirates could seek an upgrade here but really as I’ve said many times this season lives or dies with Pedro so they need to keep sending him out there. Backing him up is Casey McGehee
Arguably the biggest weakness on the team is at SS. Barmes has been dreadful this season but with him under contract next season and since he did show improvement in June it is tough for me to imagine the Pirates seeking an upgrade. However there have been a couple interesting names to hit the rumor mill lately and the Pirates should definitely keep an ear open and maybe even actively look into a few options. The Pirates do fortunately have some options behind him as there are currently 3 other players on the 25 man roster capable of playing SS in Mercer, Harrison and Sutton. This is a position of moderate need to upgrade meaning if one can be found great but if not the Pirates can manage with what they have.
The Pirates currently don’t have a real LF. With Presley on the DL and Tabata in AAA the job has fallen to Sutton and occasional Hernandez. Sutton doesn’t play the field well and Hernandez doesn’t hit well enough to justify being sent out there. Given all this though I would not be in a rush to upgrade here. Presley will soon be back and in the pipeline is Starling Marte. Marte has earned a chance to get a look in LF but considering he is a rookie I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending him out there without a safety net. Fortunately we have one in Alex Presley. There are some potential moving parts here though so if a good player is found this is still a position that can upgrade. I would put this as a low priority position.
Much like LF the Pirates are now without a true RF. Tabata was filling the role most of the season but was rightfully finally demoted to AAA. In his absence the position has been filled by Garrett Jones and Drew Sutton. Jones is a fine replacement but his bat is needed at 1B to go with McGehee. There have been some talk about putting Marte here but considering we play half of our games at PNC Park I want him patrolling the tougher LF and someone else in RF. Unless Tabata reemerges there is really no one to play out here. The priority to upgrade this position in my mind is high.
In my opinion this is currently the weakest part of the team. Going into the All Star break the bench consisted of McKenry, Hague, Harrison, Mercer and Hernandez. Now when Presley gets healthy and Marte is called up this will hopefully get a little stronger but it is still a position I feel needs an upgrade. I am hoping the Jones/McGehee platoon resumes putting one of them on it and that the Pirates find a way to get Sutton back on it. I also would like to see Presley ultimately end up here but with the uncertainty of Marte he remains a question. All this still leaves one more spot that could be upgraded. I’m not necessarily saying this has to be upgraded directly though a trade but the importance of improving the bench in some manner is high.
AJ Burnett and James McDonald have in some ways been more valuable to this team than Andrew McCutchen. They are the anchor of this pitching staff and have been pitching tremendously well. Behind those two though are some serious questions marks. Jeff Karstens looks to be rounding back into form and is a nice middle of the rotation piece but Erik Bedard and Kevin Correia do anything but make me feel confident. The Pirates do have some solid depth options in Lincoln, Owens, Locke and Wilson but most of them are unproven. Getting one more middle of the rotation arm to help solidify this rotation would be a big boost. Now this doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a trade as Bedard with a 10 day layoff could rebound and become that arm but looking to the outside is still something to consider. The importance to upgrade here is moderate.
Viewed as a strength of the Pirates the bullpen could be by some as the last place the Pirates should look to upgrade but the bullpen is usually a cheap area to upgrade at the deadline and every team could always use more help. At the back end the Pirates could not ask for much more than what Grilli and Hanrahan have provided. In the middle Lincoln appears to be turning into a solid high leverage option and Hughes himself has been outstanding in relief. The other 3 arms though in my opinion remain shaky for one reason or another. Watson has been great at stranding runners but hasn’t been the shut down lefty. Resop and Cruz are what they are solid middle relievers. Personally I would love to see the Pirates acquire a good left handed relief option and replace Cruz or Resop. Importance to upgrade low.
Importance to Upgrade
High: RF, bench
Moderate: SS, Starting Rotation
Low: 1B, LF, Bullpen
None: C, 2B, 3B
You’re Kidding Right: CF