After the Pirates took 2-of-3 from the Cleveland Indians and headed back to Pittsburgh, General Manager Neal Huntington and skipper Clint Hurdle both said their plan was to have a sit down conversation to discuss ways to improve the ball club both internally and externally as the trade deadline approaches.
“Clint and I talk multiple times everyday,” Huntington said. “There are times where it’s good to sit down and walk through what he’s seeing, what he’s thinking. What I’m seeing, what I’m thinking. We work as hard as we can to make sure we’re on the same page and have the same mindset as we go forward. We work through our challenges, we worked through our differences and put some things together…What might we be able to do at what cost? What can’t we do? And ultimately, what do we have internally for some options to fall back on.”
There have been several reports that the club has interest in infielders Chase Headley from San Diego and Kevin Youkilis from Boston. There has also been interest in pitcher Joe Saunders from Arizona as well, according to reports. Fans are starting to get impatient wanting the Pirates to make a trade to upgrade their offense. But making a deal isn’t as easy as picking up a loaf of bread at the Grocery Store.
“I saw a statistic the other day, 21 or 22 teams are within five or six or seven games of first place,” Huntington said. “Not a whole lot of sellers out there. It’s a pretty obvious trade market right now — it’s really non-existent.”
“It’s starting to become a little bit more [sellers] as teams are beginning to engage, but what’s out there publicly and what’s happening privately are two very different elements. Same thing for someone to speculate that someone’s ready to sell and it’s another thing for somebody be actually ready to sell. It’s a very different criteria.”
It’s not news that the Pirates need help on offense. Their .228 team average is ranked dead last in the National League, and trails only Oakland in all of baseball. All-Star Andrew McCutchen is carrying the team on offense, leading the club in average (.325), OBP (.382), SLG (.541), and OPS (.923). He’s ranked second only to Pedro Alvarez in home runs (12). The Bucs need players such as Alvarez (.722 OPS), Neil Walker (.702) and Jose Tabata (.642) to hit the way they are capable of as well.
“We’ve been engaged with the other clubs for the last six weeks now,” Hurdle said. “There is no traction anywhere. With each passing week I think we’re getting closer to a spot where teams are starting to evaluate their own roster and decide is it sooner, or is it later? But it’s challenging. It’s always going to be a challenge. The hard part is we’re not the only club looking for specific things. There’s a lot of people in the same situation as they prioritize needs.”
What’s making trades that much more tough this season is the extra wild card in each league. More teams are still in the hunt, and aren’t ready to sell their impact players and throw in their towel for 2012 just yet.
“The second wild card in each league has made that many more teams actually to remain engaged,” Huntington said. “What St. Louis and Tampa did a year ago has made that many more teams philologically remained engaged. We were one of the few early sellers a couple years ago and there was a price to be paid for that. We’ve been told by some clubs that they’re going to hold on as long as they can to try to sell tickets, to try to keep their fans engaged so that might take an obvious seller off the market or multiple sellers off the market. You can’t blame them. You can’t fault them for trying to stay in it, and who knows maybe they have a dramatic turn around, they hit a soft spot in their schedule, they win 10 in a row and they’re back in it. It’s an exciting time to be in baseball. There’s a lot of parity with no one really running away from the pack. A lot of divisions are up for grabs.”
Hurdle also mentioned how the new wild card has changed the dynamic at the trade deadline all together. Teams staying in the hunt pushes the trade talk back.
“It keeps a lot more clubs involved so I think it pushes things back because teams are getting a longer look to see if they’re buyers or sellers,” Hurdle said.
“Every team has different ways to statistically put an analysis program together and what their chances are, probability of playoffs, being in the hunt, where they’re going to finish just so they can make good sound baseball decisions moving forward…I think every team, once they get into to that 50 game mark, you’re a third of the season in almost, you start looking more realistically at who you are, what you are, what your needs might be and you look for matches.”