Do the Pirates Need to Trade For Pitching?

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had a note on the pitching situation in Pittsburgh, suggesting they “have to be interested” in trading for Bud Norris with the recent injury to Wandy Rodriguez.

1. Bud Norris, RHP, Astros — Quickly moving into the No. 1 spot of pitchers who might be moved now that the draft is over and GMs can concentrate on such things. Norris is 5-5 with a 3.43 ERA on a lousy team. He’s a competitive guy who hates playing for a loser. One concern among talent evaluators is coming out of a noncompetitive situation into a competitive one. The Pirates, who were scouting the periphery of the pitching market, would now have to be interested in a guy who pitched in their division. Another former Astro, Wandy Rodriguez, has gone to the disabled list for the Pirates.

Charlie Morton will be returning soon, which will provide a replacement if Wandy Rodriguez goes on the DL.

Charlie Morton will be returning soon, which will provide a replacement if Wandy Rodriguez goes on the DL.

I would disagree that the Pirates need to make a deal for pitching at the moment. They could make a deal for pitching, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “need” or something they “have” to do. The Pirates have certainly gone back and forth between “having too many starting pitchers” and “possibly not having enough starters”. They have had some outstanding depth this year, to the point where they’ve had eight starting pitchers injured at one point in time. Yet their starters have combined for the sixth best ERA in the majors this year.

Right now the rotation has A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Jeff Locke. Gerrit Cole is coming up tomorrow. Wandy Rodriguez might not need a trip to the DL, but if he does, he will be replaced by Charlie Morton. If Rodriguez doesn’t need a trip to the DL, Morton will be an extra starter (or Gerrit Cole will go back down).

Then you’ve got Jeanmar Gomez, who could be back soon, since his injury doesn’t seem to be serious. James McDonald is currently rehabbing, and threw 77 pitches in his last start. That should put him 2-3 rehab starts away from returning, and would give the Pirates eight starters.

It’s entirely possible that the Pirates could suffer an injury or two before McDonald comes back, or before the trade deadline. That has been the story at every turn this year. Each time it looks like the Pirates have an excess of starters coming back, they suffer an injury to a current member of the rotation. I guess depending on how you look at this, it’s either a good or a bad thing. It’s a good thing that they always seem to have a starter when they need it, but a bad thing that they keep seeing starters going down. At any rate, it doesn’t seem like trading for a starter is a need for the Pirates right now. I would say you’d find a bigger need on the offense, possibly trading for a platoon partner at third base or right field.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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John McDonald Traded to the Indians

  • James Santelli

    Cafardo doesn’t even have his facts straight. Wandy Rodriguez is not on the disabled list, unless Cafardo knows something we do not.

  • deacs

    Any word on Tabata’s injury?

  • MrAwesomeWVU

    Just because you think he’s not needed now doesn’t mean he won’t be needed next year. Norris would be a good pitcher to have for the next 2+ years. There’s no guarantee AJ nor Wandy will return next season. Liriano has been on the DL with his arm on more than a few occasions. Locke has been stellar while his FIP and walk totals say otherwise. Cole and Taillon, while talented, will have growning pains. Morton, McDonald, and Gomez are cannon fodder while McPherson and Irwin have arm troubles. Having a reliable starter like Norris couldn’t hurt the Pirates going forward. Even if it means having to give up Kingham and another solid prospect.

    • Kevin_Young


    • wkkortas

      There are some things that concern me about Norris. His line drive percentage is way up this year, and his HR/FB percentage looks unsustainably low. He’s gonna be in his second round of arbitration, so he’s not dirt cheap. His career numbers pretty much scream “just another pitcher” to me. I don’t think he’s worth a Kingham.

    • Tim Williams

      “Even if it means having to give up Kingham and another solid prospect.”

      You had me in your argument to this point. Next year’s rotation will include the following options:

      Liriano, Locke, Cole, Morton, McDonald, McPherson, Irwin, Gomez, and Taillon (mid-season).

      There’s the chance they could bring back one of Wandy or AJ (my money would be on Burnett). I wouldn’t be dealing top prospects to add pitching. I’d rather see them spend money to bring back one of AJ/Wandy. I think the rotation would be fine with one of those guys and the options they have.

      • Lee Young

        Tim….Wandy’s coming back…his option is a player option and the Astros are paying $5.5 mil of it, I believe.

        Unless Wandy opts out. Not sure why he would. Lots of money to leave on the table?


        • kelso

          It seems as though Wandy has pitched well enough to get a more money / multi year deal from a team if he opts out, though he did just go to the DL so we’ll see

    • smurph

      I agree with Tim’s answer. At this point they don’t “need” him. Maybe they might at the deadline, but I would not part with Kingham. The Pirates have several minor league starters who could break out in the next year or so and fill a spot similar to what Locke has done this year – Taillon, McPherson, Kingham, Irwin, Justin Wilson, etc.

      • smurph

        I would rather them look for a bat. The only two players really carrying their weight at the plate are McCutchen and Jones. Even Marte has not been very good the last 3 weeks. They have players on their roster that should not be in the majors like John McDonald and Brandon Inge.

        • BostonsCommon

          “Coming into Sunday’s game, Starling Marte had compiled a .194/.276/.247 line in his past 25 games after starting out .336/.399/.517 in his first 36 games. ”

          Which of unproven corner outfielders concerns you more, Snider or Marte?

          I think Marte will be fine over the long haul, and would probably benefit from some time in the 7 or 8 spot.

          The Bucs should be concerned about running Snider out in RF 6 days a week while the Reds and Cards send out Jay Bruce and Beltran.

          • joe g.

            Right field concerns me more. Marte has a history of going on streaks. He’ll pick it back up.

  • jaygray007

    I’d be ok with either Garza or Norris.

    However, Garza’s recent injury history and Norris’ lack of strikeouts are a little concerning. Other than something crazy like Cliff Lee, these are pretty much the only guys on the market worth trading for IMO.

  • Patrick21301806

    I still think a bat is needed more than another starter. RF needs to be a position that produces HRs and a decent avg. Snider is healthy and had a decent number of at bats this season and isn’t showing us much of anything. I prefer Tabata over Snider but Jose doesn’t give us any power either. Lambo MIGHT be the answer but I wouldn’t count on that given his struggles when he has played AAA ball. Certainly, you can never have too much starting pitching. But this offense needs to get it going. And Snider and Tabata aren’t going to help much with that.

  • tempman89

    I know Tim your not as optimistic in Wandy coming back, but can I ask why? His player option is 14 million. He won’t get that on the open market. So I definitely see him exercising that. Now he could get 2-20, but he can get that the year after. Also, the pirates will qualify him, so his value on the open market would liken him to Lohse.

    This is the name the pirates should try to get now. Ricky Nolasco. We have him for the rest of the year. And I’ll be honest, I don’t expect much from him. But he will pitch every 5th day for the remainder of the year. We need that arm. Way to many injuries happening to not grab an arm (contingent on fair price)

    I don’t think Norris would be that big of an upgrade over Morton or McDonald. And we would be paying a premium for him

    • Tim Williams

      I don’t think he’ll get $14 M a year on the open market, but I think he’ll get more guaranteed money in a multi-year deal. I could see him getting a three year deal on the open market.

      • Lee Young

        big risk to throw away $14 mil.


  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    Unless he came cheaply (no prospects in the Pirates top 20 for example), I would pass on Norris. I would rather they keep Cole in the rotation and learn and grow…..even if its a roller coaster ride for a few starts. They have Morton and McDonald as fall back options, although I hope we do not have to start either one. I have zero confidence in those two. I would rather they bring up Taillon and let him start, before putting Morton or McDonald back on the MLB staff.

    • BostonsCommon

      Agree, especially after watching Taillon drop 3-2 bangers on Ryan Braun in the WBC. I think he’s got the stones and the stuff to compete this year. He racked up 142 IP last year. Even having already pitched 66+ this year, hes in line to log at least another 100.

      I get it though, no need to rush, he’d only be a draft eligible junior. But Bud Norris? Pass…

    • buster09

      BFSIMd : I am not being negative,but Taillon is NOT ready for MLB yet. I have seen him on four different occasions so far this season in Altoona,and his first two starts were much better than the last two I saw. Also,last night he had to miss a turn here at home due to a stiff neck.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD

        You may be right, but are McDonald and Morton better? If they are, we really made a mistake drafting Taillon over Machado.

  • Thom Kay

    Bud Norris’ Home/Road splits are crazy. Since the start of 2011, he has a 2.75 ERA in 229 IP, at home. But in his 201 IP away, he has a 5.54 ERA.

    He’s solid, but I don’t want to give up much for him.

  • jaygray007

    Since Bud Norris is under team control through 2015, he’ll probably cost a few top 20 prospects. But he’s also never put up more than 1.6 WAR.

    Solid, but not spectacular player. The more I think about it, the more I’d just let someone else take Norris. But I wouldn’t burn down PNC if they did acquire him.

  • Scott Stauffer

    We need a consistent bat for the top or middle of the line up. Rather see that in a trade than an arm. I think we have internal pitching options

  • moose7195

    Bud Norris has never exactly impressed me, and I really don’t think they should break the bank to add pitching depth. The Pirates seem to have some decent internal options that could work out depending on the situation. Morton, Oliver, Mazzaro, and Justin Wilson have experience as starters, and Black, Welker, Jeanmar Gomez or Contreras could be valuable relievers down the stretch. Of course I’m assuming some successful rehabs and strong MLB debuts.

  • Matt Beam

    Assuming Wandy is back relatively quickly and Cole/Morton are not disasters, this team doesn’t need more SP. It needs some consistent offense. What about Kendrys Morales from SEA? He’d be a 2-3 month rental so he wouldn’t cost a ton. He’s a switch hitter with some power and a decent OBP that could play OF or 1B

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