I’m going to be blunt here. The Pirates are in a free fall mode but I will also say now is not the time to give up on the season. The Pirates still have a day or two to right this shape and stay in the hunt. The point of this post is to try and figure out just what happened? Bottom line the first issue is the Pirates just simply aren’t as good as most of the rest of the NL competitors. Now the gap isn’t that wide but even one step can make a huge difference. This can be overcome with some aggressive moves but that is where the Pirates failed. I’m not talking about the trades three of the four were fine. I’m talking about the roster moves after the trades were made. Let’s discuss some issues in more detail.
1.) First I will address the fact there was one trade the Pirates didn’t make that they should of and I’m not really talking about any specific player here. The Pirates bench was in desperate need of some help someone who play multiple positions and be able to hit a little off the bench. Sanchez over McGehee did improve it some but not nearly enough. Forgive me if I’m wrong here but near the end of July the Pirates bench consisted of something like backup catcher, Harrison, Mercer, Sanchez and Presley. You need to carry a backup catcher and one of Mercer and Harrison is necessary to back up SS. Sanchez was a decent pick up as it give you a better platoon option for Jones than McGehee. However Harrison and Presley didn’t need to stay on the bench. Seeking out another good bench bat maybe someone like Reed Johnson to upgrade here should have been done.
2) I had no problem with trading McGehee but it shouldn’t have been for Qualls. The Pirates needed to replace Lincoln but they had options within the organization. The correct path to go here would have been to trade him for marginal prospect like maybe an A ball reliever. McGehee didn’t have enough value to bring back anything that would upgrade the major league team and since he was now just an extra part should have been traded for minor league depth.
3) I have a big issue withe Pirates decision after acquiring Rodriguez to keep 6 starters around. One of Bedard or Correia should have been moved or released. If you can get a decent propsect for one great but if not just cut your losses and go with a traditional 5 man rotation, 7 man bullpen and 5 man bench.
4) The Pirates choice to go with Correia as the spot starter is another thing that seems just flat out wrong. I disagree with the premise of keeping all six but once you go that route the one you send to the bullpen needs to stay there. If the Pirates really felt the need for a 6th starter something I’m not so sure about there were better options available in AAA such as Locke and Wilson.
5) The Pirates consistently played with a short bench which forced the Pirates to do stupid things like send Snider out to pinch hit when he should have been resting his hamstring. Dipping below 5 bench players should have never happened.
6) I’ve addressed this some but attempting to fill Lincoln’s role with Qualls was misguided the Pirates had better more controllable options in AAA in Morris, Leroux and Wilson.
There are more issues I could address but lets just say the problem has been three fold: 1) Other teams are simply better, 2) Poor usage of the players at hand, 3) Poor roster management
With all that said there is still time to address the issues this club is facing. With Bedard now out of the picture now isn’t the time to put Correia back in the rotation now is the time to give Locke a look. Rosters are set to expand in a few days which will enable the Pirates to push Correia to the side and give Leroux a look as the long man in the pen and Morris a look as Lincoln’s replacement. It will enable them to call up a few better hitting options for the bench even though I must admit those are in short supply down in AAA. Barajas is clearly struggling and while him being on the roster is better than Fryer at this point him starting 60% of the games isn’t the answer. McKenry deserves a look there. With McDonald on the ropes it also may be getting close to time to shut him down and give McPherson or Wilson a look as a starter, let’s see how McDonald looks tonight though.
These moves should help refuel the pitching though I must admit I’m not sure what can be done for the hitting at this point. Barmes seems to be coming around a little bit lately and Jones, Alvarez and Snider have been the best hitters on the team lately. The big issue lately has been the slump of Walker and McCutchen but you can’t replace those two. With McKenry replacing Barajas all that really remains is LF. While Tabat isn’t the ideal player to have out there not much can really be done about it until Marte arrives. This is where the lack of bench depth starts to play a role. The Pirates season is in a downward spiral but it can still be saved but it is going to take an act of agression and I’m just not sure if this Pirates managament team has that in them.