First Pitch: Taking the John Buck Approach to Adding a Relief Pitcher

Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates had a need for a starting right fielder. By the end of August, they made a deal for Marlon Byrd, sending Dilson Herrera and Vic Black to the New York Mets. In the same deal, they also got catcher John Buck, who they used as their backup the rest of the season.

Buck wasn’t a very good backup catcher. He was replacement level, and was horrible at pitch framing. You can’t really say that the entire return in this deal was for Byrd, but it’s safe to say that he was the reason for the bulk of the return, and Buck was a much cheaper part of the deal.

The Pirates have been looking for relief pitching this year. They were interested in Huston Street, who was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels for a group of prospects, including Taylor Lindsey, who entered the year as a top 100 guy. They were interested in Joakim Soria, who was dealt for two of the Tigers top six prospects entering the year. There are a lot of teams looking for relievers, and not many teams selling relievers, which means the price should continue to be high.

I don’t think the Pirates should pay a high price to add a relief pitcher. But if they’re looking to make another trade — such as adding a starting pitcher or a piece to the offense — then it wouldn’t hurt to take the John Buck approach in adding a reliever. That doesn’t mean adding someone who won’t really help out or make a difference, as was the case with Buck, but adding someone who would be the Part B in the trade, and wouldn’t drive the price up much.

You’re probably not getting a closer or eighth inning guy. But you could get a quality reliever, and might not have to pay much for that reliever if he’s being paired with a bigger return. For example, the Pirates were watching Jon Lester this week, and have also been looking at Red Sox relievers. If they did decide to trade for Lester, that would be a good opportunity to add a seventh inning guy to the mix. Of course the reason this would work is because the return for the first piece would be so big. The Pirates would have to decide whether the price for the main piece in the trade was worth the upgrade.

I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that they’re tied to teams for both relievers and a main piece. Aside from Lester and the Red Sox, there’s A.J. Burnett and Antonio Bastardo from the Phillies. I’m not sure who they could look at with Arizona, aside from the bullpen, although I’d certainly pursue Didi Gregorius as the primary piece. They have also been tied to Ian Kennedy and were tied to Huston Street before he was dealt. Maybe this is nothing more than the Pirates looking for all types of pitching, and most sellers having both starters and relievers available.

Personally I don’t think the Pirates need to make a splash in this seller’s market, as they don’t really have a big enough need that would warrant giving up so much in prospects. It seems like they’re looking hard at relievers, which goes against their approach in previous years of finding value relievers. I’m still going to be very surprised if they actually pay for a reliever this year, unless that reliever comes in a deal with a bigger piece that they’re paying for.

Links and Notes

**Prospect Watch: Kevin Krause Showing Power From the Catcher’s Position

**Pittsburgh Pirates Sign Shortstop Trace Tam Sing

**Minor League Schedule: Glasnow and Heredia Get Sunday Afternoon Starts

**Minor Moves: Pirates Going the Stetson Allie Route With Hayden Hurst

**What is A.J. Burnett’s Trade Value?

**Pirates and Phillies Continue to Discuss A.J. Burnett

**Prospect Highlights: A GCL Pitcher Showing Improvements After a Solid Rookie Season

 

Tim Williams

Author: 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 AccuScore.com, 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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  • marty34156

    Regardless of how they do it, they better do something and soon. They have holes in the rotation, bullpen, at SS, on the bench, and at 3B.

    • Dan

      This is typical doom and gloom. The rotation, for the most part, has been very reliable. In fact, it held this team together, along with an offensive show of force, while the bullpen faltered in the first half. SS is fine, with Mercer coming on; 3rd is a mess, but once we get past this stretch of LH starters, we should be OK there, as well; J-Hay is a more than competent fill-in. A bench bat would be nice, but you don’t trade for a bench bat. The only way to upgrade the bench, especially on a team with this budget and approach, is to upgrade the lineup. Snider has been hitting well of late, and Ike Davis or Gaby off the bench is a fine option, honestly.

      What this team *needs* is Cole healthy, and a consistent approach at the plate throughout the lineup. A bullpen arm is a want, and the rest of your points are pointless.

    • Lukas Sutton

      SS is not a problem to anyone who actually looks at stats and realizes Mercer is hitting well and plays at worst an average SS on defense.

  • Zisk

    Why not just bring up Andy Oliver

    • emjayinTN

      I think the Pirates are trying to get to September without losing something that may have future value. They have a lot of guys who have no options left. Therefore, sending anyone down except probably Jared Hughes, who does well at times, would surely mean that we would lose guys like Frieri, Pimental, Gomez, etc. because without options they would have to clear waivers, and any one of those three would be picked up immediately. Same with Oliver – if called up, he could not be sent down again or the team would risk losing him and he still has value. But, if you think the total solution is pitching, please read on.

      It is a conundrum, but instead of looking in that direction, how about figuring out how last year we hit LHP’s at a .262 clip, good for 9th in MLB, but this year we are hitting them at .240 and that is 26th or 27th? Or how we have yet to get to double figures in hits against 2 LHP’s in Colorado – 5 hits Friday and 4 hits last night? Our first five hitters were 1 for 18 last night? And, where we were a decent fielding team in 2013, this year we are 27th? And why we keep a SP in to pitch the 7th inning who is at the 100 pitch mark, and we are already down 4 – 0? On the road, it would be nice to give your SP at least a run or two in the first third of the game. I am sure Charlie Morton would have appreciated that. The Pirates are 12 – 9 so far in July, and 6 – 4 in the last 10 – not time to sell the Farm just yet, but they need to wake up fast.

      • bucsws2014

        You’re right. And that’s baseball.

      • Lee Young

        I doubt anyone would claim Frieri. Combo of ineffectiveness and high salary.

        • emjayinTN

          You could be right, but if he was on another team and went on waivers, would the Pirates sign him? 71 Saves over the past 3 years, 10.6 K/9 to 3.0 W/9, just turned 29, and an xFIP less than half of his ERA – it is too inviting an opportunity to pass up. He is not locating very well, but if that comes around a little, we have an excellent late inning reliever or a helluva trade chip.

  • leadoff

    IMO, the Pirates would not be looking for a throw-in if they spend as much time as they are looking at relievers, my guess is they will get one or two (My Choice Two) and give up a couple of prospects and pay to do it.

  • John Marshall

    The pirates do need a up grade at starting pitcher. Locke got hit pretty good due to the fact as last yr teams have figured him out and he will continue to get hit and hit hard. AJ would be a good fit but not in the $$$$ sense. They were once looking at the at Boston reliever Miller. He is 6’7″ 7th to 8th inning guy who might be the Buck this year?? @SS I think Mercer is doing a decent job, his bat has picked up as of late and his fielding is solid, not great but doable in the BIGS. Still think they need a 1b, but I think that will be addressed in the off season. Remember you may never get back here again in baseball, so make the trades now and let the future take care of itself????

    • leadoff

      I wrote yesterday that I thought both Locke and Worley were not going to be good stretch pitchers and that If they can work out the money with Philly that I would like to see Burnett in Pitt, he is really the type that they can afford without giving up the farm. If the Giants can look at Peavy as a piece to help them get to the pennant, surely Burnett can be a piece for the Pirates.
      Management can’t run a team with the mentality that they may never get back there again and the Pirates don’t think that way or they would not have built the pipeline they have. No matter what they do as far as bringing in talent, the talent they have now for the most part will have to perform only at the levels that they are capable of, something many of them have not done yet. As far as first base is concerned, after this 2nd half many will be begging the Pirates to sign Ike to an extension and running him out of town at the end of April next year. I don’t like Sanchez, but his numbers when season ends will probably keep him in Pitt.

  • pilbobuggins

    I still say kennedy is the best bet, considering the front offices penchant for thrift, he has control,nice salary and while not cheap he would not cost a ton and following tims guidlines you could add benoit. Second choice lester,either dubrount or miller. Third choice burnett bastardo.

    • csnumber23

      How about Kennedy and Benoit or even Kennedy and Thayer??

  • jaygray007

    lots of andrew miller talk on the Twitter these days. https://twitter.com/PeteAbe/status/493460087164657664

    some of the comments on that are hilarious.

    “Meadows? Bell? I assume Polanco is untouchable.”

    jeez…

    i meannn…. we can talk Meadows or Bell of they’re also talking Miller AND Lester.

    I’d consider Bell and a throw in for Miller and Lester….

    • csnumber23

      Hahahaha, I can’t stop laughing right now! They think they are going to get Meadows or Bell for Andrew Miller?? They must be in LALA land!

  • John Lease

    Frieri and Pimental can’t both never be used. At least one of them has to go, and bring up Vin.

  • csnumber23

    Mark Melancon lights out again for those that continue to hope he is replaced!!!