Pirates Notebook: All Quiet with Trade Deadline Three Weeks Away

Austin Meadows and Neal Huntington

Pirates GM Neal Huntington can’t trade Austin Meadows (left), but he has other prospects available to move. (Courtesy: Pittsburgh Pirates)

Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is three weeks away, approaching quickly but not so fast that teams need to act hastily when making moves.

The Pirates could have acquired outfielders Shane Victorino or Carlos Quentin at last year’s deadline, but would have had to trade current left fielder Starling Marte in either deal, according to manager Clint Hurdle. He also said spending money on those players’ salaries “maybe” would have prevented the team from acquiring catcher Russell Martin last offseason.

GM Neal Huntington says this year he is looking at “a number of different fronts” to improve the team.

“There’s certainly areas we can upgrade,” Huntington said in his last availability. “We’ve got some time to determine what’s available, at what cost and what’s the biggest impact on this club.”

Just to refresh Huntington’s and your memory, here the Pirates’ WAR totals by position (from FanGraphs) and how they rank in the 15-team National League.

  • Catcher: 2.4 WAR (4th)
  • First Base: 0.3 WAR (10th)
  • Second Base: 1.8 WAR (5th)
  • Third Base: 1.8 WAR (6th)
  • Shortstop: 0.1 WAR (12th)
  • Left Field: 3.4 WAR (3rd)
  • Center Field: 3.9 WAR (3rd)
  • Right Field: 0.0 WAR (14th)
  • Starting Pitchers: 4.9 WAR (12th) 
  • Relief Pitchers: 1.9 WAR (4th)

Keep in mind the pitching WAR figures are defense independent and the Pirates appear to be a pitch-to-contact staff. Also the team’s .550 OPS from pinch-hitters is 13th in the NL.

Before Huntington heats up the stove, the front office and coaches have meetings. Hurdle says he receives feedback from front office personnel, coaches and players on many different facets of the team, including roster moves. He also conducts meetings every homestand with the leadership council of Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin, Clint Barmes, A.J. Burnett and Jason Grilli, asking for their honest feedback about what is in the team’s best interest.

“I have tremendous honor for what everyone feels here for the last 20 years… I can’t carry the angst. I’ve got two years of angst,” Hurdle said, adding that people outside the organization may not “understand some of the challenges that come with wanting to go grab a guy.”

Hurdle also said “we do believe we need to get better to get to that finish line” but any move would not occur overnight.

Sanchez: Pirates’ Clubhouse Different

Pirates Dugout

One of the newer Pirates says the chemistry of the team is unique to him. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

If the Pirates actually play Wednesday night against the Oakland Athletics, first baseman Gaby Sanchez is in the starting lineup against left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone. Sanchez had a stint of 13 starts in 20 games going earlier this month, but has not started in almost one week. When he comes off the bench, Sanchez takes more swings in the batting cage to stay loose.

“It’s definitely not an easy thing to do when you’ve got that one chance to come up and have a guy on the mound they’re bringing in just for you,” Sanchez said. “It’s easier when you’re starting and getting the three or four at-bats… making adjustments.”

The 29-year-old continues to produce against left-handed pitchers (.883 career OPS) even though he takes his lumps against righties (.705 career OPS). The Miami native is in his first full MLB season not with the Florida/Miami Marlins. Sanchez says he feels a unique clubhouse chemistry with the 2013 Pirates.

“We’re a big family here,” Sanchez said. “That’s the crazy part. I’ve been on teams where there are the groups of 7 or 8 guys who hang out. Here it seems like every time you come to the ballpark, everybody’s all together… It makes it fun.”

Bonus Notes from Clint Hurdle!

  • Pirates manager on the team’s offensive potential: “We’re not getting the results we want right now… We’ve got a number of individuals that probably haven’t met expectations.”
  • Some of the Pirates players will meet for a workout in Pittsburgh during the All-Star Break. A grand total of 21 guys will not be participating in the Midsummer Classic.
  • If Jeff Locke wants to pitch in the All-Star Game after a Sunday start, will Hurdle let him? “We’ll have those conversations,” the manager said.
  • Josh Harrison may get some chances to start while he replaces the injured Neil Walker on the roster.
James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

    That could be the understatement of the year stating that “We’ve got a number of individuals that probably haven’t met expectations”. I can only name 3 guys on the team that I would consider to be meeting offensive expectations, Marte, Alverez, and Martin. I know Cutch is batting .300+, but I definitely expected more out of him in the production/power department.

  • vanderbilt

    Was Pedro 2 for 2 against a lefthander?

  • moose7195

    Cmon Sanchez, you know the real reason Barmes is in Hurdle’s Circle of Trust. But seriously, chemistry might have to be a second priority when you look at the offensive production. The bench needs reorganized, and I don’t have faith in Tabata to continue this level of play in RF, but only time will tell

  • stickyweb

    So basically the entire reason our starters are even above average is the defense? I have a hard time buying that, though I certainly agree the defense has helped out. They’re saying if you put them in front of an average D, they become well below average rotation, almost bottom of the barrel? Color me skeptical.
    They must really be pissed Locke hasn’t regressed like they knew he would, but has actually PROgressed from when they were dissing him.
    And Jeanmar is at -0.1? What the hell does he have to do to actually be a positive force on the team, pitch 5 or 6 no hitters in a row?

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

      I think most of the low WAR rating for the starting pitchers is due to the low innings pitched. For the most part, Pirates starters haven’t beeing pitching deep into games (typically going only 5 or 6 innings). Add in bad performances this year ffrom Jon Sanchez, James McDonald and Phil Irwin and you get only the 12th best starting rotation. If the Pirates would have had A.J., Wandy, Liriano, Locke and Gomez/Morton/Cole the whole year (healthy) then I bet the Pirates starting pitching WAR would probably be in the top 5.

    • James Santelli

      “Keep in mind the pitching WAR figures are defense independent and the Pirates appear to be a pitch-to-contact staff”

      And pitch-to-contact pitchers can still be successful even if FIP undervalues them.