Pirates Approach to the Trade Deadline Probably Won’t Change From Previous Years

Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington spoke to the media on Sunday, and with a little over a week to go until the trade deadline, it’s no surprise that a lot of the discussion was about possible trades the Pirates could make.

“We feel good about this group,” Huntington said. “We feel good that we’re in the middle of the division race, that we’re in the middle of the Wild Card race and we’ve got some guys that still have room to grow. We don’t have a ton of guys having career years, we’ve got some guys that we think are on the rebound, that we think are ready to take some steps forward. But there are some players out there, whether it is starting pitching or relievers, position players, role players that can help us, that can be upgrades over what we have. And we wouldn’t be doing our jobs to take a look at that. The challenge becomes what cost are projected current wins versus projected future wins. And that’s always going to be a balance we’re going to walk, but overall we do like this club.”

So far, the Pirates have been connected to pitching more than any other position. They had some glaring needs last year at first base and right field. The right field spot doesn’t seem to be a need anymore. Gregory Polanco is struggling, but that’s to be expected from a rookie just making the jump to the majors. First base has seen some struggles, but it doesn’t seem like the Pirates will be making a deal at that position, based on Huntington’s comments on Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez.

“The positive sign is Ike probably has one of the better on base percentages of our group,” Huntington said. “It’s just the power hasn’t been there that we expected. You see it in batting practice, you see him drive balls. Just not doing it in a consistent basis in a game for the last six or so weeks. Gaby has shown some positive signs, he can still do damage against left-handers pitching, you don’t want to overexpose him against right handers. That is one of the areas where if those guys get going and doing what they are capable of, we’re going to get quality production from that spot. We’ve got a handful of other spots that if they can step up a little bit, we’ll have an even better offense.”

The interesting thing about Davis is that he has a career .698 OPS in the first half, and an .866 OPS in the second half. This year he had a .698 OPS in the first half. If he can repeat his second half success, then that would be a huge boost for the offense, and an upgrade wouldn’t be needed.

The pitching seems to be the focus, and specifically relief pitching. Relief pitching seems to be a focus for every contending team this year, as we can see by Ken Rosenthal’s update on teams looking for relievers.

I wrote last week about how the deadline should be moved back, and how the second Wild Card has created a situation where you have so many teams who still believe they’re in the hunt, and very few teams who are sellers. That has created an extreme seller’s market, which Huntington talked about.

“It’s the basic law of supply and demand,” Huntington said. “There are not a lot of teams looking to sell. There are a lot of teams that are looking to buy. There’s not a ton of players out there that are significant upgrades. There are some guys that you think can be. So, as a result the asking prices are higher than you’d like them to be…it’s that balance between what you give up for a projected current wins at the cost of the future.”

Even though the Pirates have been linked to a lot of relievers, I can’t seem them making a big splash for a reliever. That has never been their style, and the current market for relievers will only drive the prices up, making it more likely that a Huston Street return will be needed for any future deals. As for the starting pitching market, that’s also a market that has seen some high prices, especially with the Jeff Samardzija trade that sent Addison Russell to the Chicago Cubs. The Street and Samardzija trades are examples of big prices that will probably be used by other selling teams as the market for future trades.

“It’s like a free agent contract,” Huntington said on the impact of the Samardzija trade. “It seems to be the outlier. Then that becomes the standard that everyone asks for. Teams are aggressive. To make a move in the early part of July or the end part of July, you’ve got to preempt the market. You’ve got to be aggressive in order to do that. It’s not necessarily the wrong thing to do. In some situations it’s absolutely the right thing to do. We just haven’t found that right fit yet.”

Last year the Pirates didn’t make any trades in July, and then added Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau, and John Buck in late August. Based on the current market, and the situation with so many buyers and not enough sellers, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them do that again.

“It’d be disingenuous of me to say that we passed in July to wait for August,” Huntington said. “We worked hard in July. We just didn’t find what we thought was the right fit. We stayed with it in August. We’ll do the exact same thing this year. We’ll work hard in July to find the right fit and if we don’t, then we’ll continue to work hard in August. And, if we find the right fit in August, great. And, if we don’t than that means we didn’t find the right balance and we didn’t think it was the right fit for us.”

I have a hard time believing the Pirates won’t make a move. Whether it’s July or August when they make a trade, Huntington has been active in each of the last few deadlines. They added Byrd and Morneau last year. In 2012 it was Wandy Rodriguez, Travis Snider, and Gaby Sanchez. In 2011 they traded for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick. The common trend here is that the Pirates didn’t give up any impact guys. They gave up good prospects like Robbie Grossman and Dilson Herrera, but we didn’t see a top of the system guy traded. I don’t expect that to change this year.

The Pirates are in a good situation this year. Their pitching has been good, but they don’t have anyone looking like a top of the rotation guy. Their hitting has been good, and that’s with a few players under-performing. They don’t really have a glaring need like previous years. They also have depth options in the system, like Brandon Cumpton and Nick Kingham for the rotation in the second half. But based on Huntington’s comments on Sunday, I don’t expect them to be content with the current set up.

“As we sit here right now, we’ve got some internal options that if they step forward we’re going to get some quality production from them,” Huntington said. “But, we’ll still look for a way to get better if there is the right opportunity.”

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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  • derekbellstutu

    “Samardzija trade that sent Addison Russell to the Oakland Athletics”.

    Tim, that should read Chicago Cubs instead of Oakland Athletics.

  • derekbellstutu

    I would love to see Neal Huntington take an unconventional approach and trade for Chris Sale. I realize it is a bold move that would cost much in prospects, but Sale is the ace the Pirates don’t have right now. Sale is signed through the 2017 season with two team options for 2018 and 2019. His top annual salary will be $13.5 million for 2019, a pittance for a pitcher of his quality. Sale is a pitcher I’d be willing to deal any 3 of our top 10 prospects to acquire. My thinking might be a bit irrational and the Pirates might have bigger needs (1B, RP) but trading for Sale would let everyone know the Pirates mean business.

    • moose7195

      Your thinking is very irrational. Sale would cost probably all of the prospects, and maybe a Polanco or Cole. It’s a wonderful dream to hope for Sale in a Bucco uniform, but he is more than likely untouchable. Even teams in as dire straights as the White Sox need building blocks for their future. Think about it, would you be willing to trade McCutchen if the Pirates were in the White Sox situation? I know I wouldn’t. And on top of it all, the guys you are talking about trading could very well turn into Chris Sale type players in a year or two

  • Macchamp74

    Is the pitching really good as Tim writes? Seems to me that most stat sights I look at have them in the bottom half of the National League.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      Those include a lot of the struggles they had in April and May, with a lot of pitchers who are no longer on the team.

      • Macchamp74

        Wandy, Morris and Grilli….helped the stats a little by removal?
        I still say Tim they can use a solid starter down the stretch….really don’t know if Liriano can find 2013 form and Cole will find his groove.
        A lot of guestion marks.
        Worley big start tonight.

  • st1300b

    Tim any insight on the Seattle report they are seeking Marte and the return they are offering?

    • moose7195

      I think it’s really just wishful thinking, but I would seriously consider a deal if they offer something with Taijuan Walker

    • Dylan Bott

      Where did you see that at? Just curious

      • has5025

        Perotto posted something on the TimesOnline yesterday. This page has a link to the article.

        http://fansided.com/2014/07/22/mariners-trade-rumors-seattle-pursuing-pirates-starling-marte/#!bkoN6S

        That offer of Walker and Franklin for Marte would be a tough one to pass up, even if Walker hasnt quite been the same this year as in years past.

        • moose7195

          I would make that deal without hesitation

          • bucsws2014

            I would too, but while we’re at it, I’d also try to see if I could snooker them into taking Pedro in return for Seager :-)

            • cmat0829

              Walker’s stock is dropping due to his performance in AAA, not necessarily opposed to Marte deals but this isnt one I’d do without some serious analysis.

  • indybucfan

    I understand that the Pirates could use an upgrade in the rotation along with a bullpen arm. My question for those insisting on such moves. Who do you replace and what do you do with the spare parts?

  • st1300b

    And after years of discussion we could have had Headley for Hauge and one of a number of arms that are sprinkled throughout our low minors. Why does it appear that Neal Huntington is missing the boat? I would take Headley over Alvarez at 3b and move Alvarez to 1b – whether he has experience there or not to platoon with Gaby. Clemente wall would have played nicely for Headley.
    I also heard that while scouting the Phillies game the other day that one of the scouting targets was Ryan Howard. His slugging % is about 20 points higher than Headley but he’s hitting worse than Alvarez at .220. Ugh and I think he makes a whole lot more.

    • Leefoo Rug Bug

      Why would we want a guy with a .654 OPS? Headley is a one year wonder.

      Now if we could have him play defense and let Pedro bat….lol.

      • freddylang

        Lee, we all know Headley is gonna get to NY and just rip it. So many have before. What does getting Headley say about ARod for next year? Headley is so inconsistent but I still get the feeling they just robbed the Padres in that deal. An ok pitching prospect, their #15 in a weaker system and the Solarte kid…he’s already 27 and fading after a hot start. He’s a Util INF.

        • cmat0829

          Simply put… NOT getting Headley was a blessing. Yankees acquired him out of desparation, as strictly a rental. Hoping Yankees fans pay attention to the ‘name’ and not the actual performance. Same with McCarthy.

          • freddylang

            They don’t care about money so it doesn’t matter to them. He is cheap at less than 5 mil owed for the rest of this year and he has an OPS that is 100 points better away from PETCO. The difference between there and Yankee Stadium will be huge and he is a really good 3B. The Yankees made a really good deal getting him for not much.

    • StevePegues

      “And after years of discussion we could have had Headley for Hauge and one of a number of arms that are sprinkled throughout our low minors.”
      __________________________________________
      Not that I know or remember every trade rumor that’s ever been out there, but this is the first I’m hearin’ that Headley woulda cost Matt Hague plus a pitcher.

      • st1300b

        Solarte ( a 27 year old utility player) and a class A arm were the players the yankees sent for Headley. A comp of pretty much equal value and our system is much stronger.

        • StevePegues

          You wrote “after years of discussion we could have had Headley… .” I took that to mean Hague and a minor league pitcher was the asking price back in 2012 or 2013 when the Pirates were last interested in him, back when Headley was actually good. Back then, Headley woulda cost a pretty penny.

          But, you are correct: after 2 years of declining performance, Headley isn’t worth much more than Hague and a minor pitcher or two; there’s a very good reason for the low price, by the way.

    • leowalter

      It sounds to me like you are making stuff up.

  • freddylang

    I saw that Darwin Barney was designated by the Cubs. I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing him as a Barmes replacement. I know he has only played 19 games at SS but his metrics are good there in a small sample and he is such a great 2B I know he is at least an above average SS. His hitting is pretty terribly but his .625 OPS career is better than Barmes the last 3 years. Barney made 2.3 mil this year but I can’t see him being more than that next year. Barmes makes 2 mil so I think it is a lateral move but you get a much younger guy who could return to his .650 OPS numbers of a few years ago and you control through 2017. Bring the little scrapper to the Burgh!

    • freddylang

      Looks like a tactical move by Epstein. From John Heyman: “if ever there is a good time to be DFA’ed, maybe this is it for darwin barney. oak, sfg, tor, cin, nyy all have 2B issue.”

    • Leefoo Rug Bug

      Freddy…i think it is a good idea.

    • bucsws2014

      I would love to have Barney here for a couple of years for a pittance,

      • freddylang

        Cubs OF is bad. Trade Tabata straight up and dump his salary.

        • cmat0829

          Pay no attention to the Cubs current roster as any sort of projection moving forward. They want no part of Tabata, just as they will jettison the ridiculous crapload of infrerior left-hand hitting lightweight outfielders.

          • freddylang

            Their system is INF heavy though. Unless they plan on moving some of these Shortstops to the OF. It’s definitely possible. Tabata for Barney is a reach because I’m sure they would want to do a little better than that, especially on the money end but it is just a start. Tabata’s contract is nothing to the Cubs. They are shoveling in money the last few years with a terrible cheap team that still gets attendance. Tabata’s PNC warning track bat might play well in Wrigley. He has a career .777 OPS there for what it’s worth.

      • smurph

        Yeah, if the Cubs would eat part of his salary, I would love to have a guy who won a Gold Glove 2 years ago, and is a better hitter than he is showing this season.