Looking at the Pirates’ Needs as the Trade Deadline Approaches

The MLB trade deadline is a little over a week away, and we’re starting to enter the period where teams begin to make trades, and where rumors come out on a daily basis. This is the fifth year in a row that the Pirates have entered the deadline as buyers, and in four of those years they’ve added at least one player via trade, and usually more than one. The lone exception was last year, although that wasn’t for lack of trying, as they made a run at David Price, offering up prospects in a year where Tampa Bay and other teams were looking for MLB-ready talent.

They’ve taken different approaches in previous years. In 2011 they simply took on salary by adding Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick. In 2012 they went for lower upside on the short-term in exchange for more long-term help, adding Wandy Rodriguez, Travis Snider, and Gaby Sanchez. In 2013 they paid prospects just to get rentals, sending out Dilson Herrera and Vic Black for Marlon Byrd and John Buck, and then dealing Alex Presley and Duke Welker for Justin Morneau.

Their pursuit of Price last year would have been a blend of the 2012 and 2013 strategies — going for a bigger upgrade by paying prospects, but also adding help beyond the current season.

It’s hard to say what the Pirates will do, because they never really do the same thing year after year. We do know they’ve been active, and there are definitely some areas they need to upgrade. Here is a rundown of those areas of need.


A month ago this might not have been a need at all for the Pirates. Then they lost Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, and now they’ve got Sean Rodriguez getting starts at third base and Brent Morel on the roster. Alen Hanson has started taking ground balls at third base in Indianapolis, but he hasn’t gotten into a game yet at the position, and might not be ready right away. The loss of Harrison and Mercer probably puts infield as the top priority for the Pirates moving forward.

Yesterday’s rumors had them looking at multiple infielders, including Ben Zobrist, Cliff Pennington, and old friend Clint Barmes.  Zobrist is obviously the biggest name there, although he is having a bit of a down year this year. A lot of that is due to a decline with his defensive numbers, where he has been solid in the past. Offensively he’s down a bit, with more power, but fewer walks and a lower average with a lower BABIP.

In theory, a guy like Zobrist makes the most sense for the Pirates. He solves their need for a short-term infielder who can start until Mercer and/or Harrison return. And when one or both of those return, Zobrist can play enough positions that he could continue getting regular playing time. He would also be a good backup in the outfield at that point. In this particular case, the Pirates would have to hope that he bounced back to his pre-2015 numbers in order to make the addition worthwhile.

First Base/Right Field

I wrote an article on Sunday about how the Pirates need an upgrade over Pedro Alvarez. They don’t necessarily need that this year, but they can’t go with Alvarez as their first baseman next year, and Josh Bell won’t be ready until the middle of the season at the earliest. The best move would be adding someone who can help the rest of this year, and who is under team control next year. I suggested Adam Lind in my article, although the Pirates would most likely have to pay a big price to get him.

You could say the Pirates also have a need in right field. Gregory Polanco has struggled this year, posting a .241/.318/.344 line in 359 plate appearances. He’s been worth half a win so far, and the Pirates could definitely upgrade here. However, it’s far too soon to write Polanco off, especially since he’s been hitting well lately, with a .270/.387/.381 line in 75 plate appearances this month. That’s a small sample size, and there isn’t much power, but it’s an improvement.

Polanco is still the long-term option for the Pirates, so if they added someone, it would only be to guarantee better production in the short-term. The Pirates have been connected to rental outfielders, with Justin Upton being the big one. However, I think a utility guy like Zobrist would work best, since he gives an immediate replacement in the infield, and insurance for Polanco the rest of the year.

The reason I combined first base and right field is because I don’t think the Pirates can focus on both, especially with the far more pressing need in the infield. They might be able to upgrade one of those two spots, but I think it would be more of a luxury. This is a team that has posted one of the best records in baseball, even with offensive struggles from first base and right field. Filling the infield need is a more pressing matter, while upgrading first base or right field would be more fine tuning.


I simply listed pitching because I don’t think the Pirates need a starter, although there will definitely be calls for them to add a starter. It sounds great to suggest adding Cole Hamels or one of the other talented pitchers rumored to be available in the next week. However, the Pirates have one of the best pitching trios in the game in Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, and A.J. Burnett. Add in Charlie Morton as their fourth starter, and you’ve got a great playoff rotation. Adding a top starting pitcher would make that more dynamic, but isn’t necessary.

The Pirates could use bullpen help though. Their late inning guys are dominant once again. Mark Melancon has been one of the best relievers in baseball this year, and Tony Watson is joining him. Jared Hughes has stepped up as a key guy for high leverage situations in the middle innings. Beyond that, they need some help.

Arquimedes Caminero has nasty stuff, but has struggled with his consistency this year. Antonio Bastardo has been a disappointment this year, and while there have been flashes of him reverting to the pitcher he was in Philadelphia, he hasn’t been able to maintain that. Deolis Guerra has looked interesting, although it’s a small sample size. Vance Worley is in the mix as a long reliever, and has seen seldom use.

There are some options in Triple-A. Blake Wood has been fantastic as the closer in Indianapolis. John Holdzkom is nearing a return with the hope that he’s finally healthy. Radhames Liz looks amazing as a starter, although there would still be questions about whether he could have success as a reliever. And Guerra had solid numbers in Triple-A, and they could roll the dice that this is legit.

The Pirates could use another middle inning guy. Their rotation is one of the best. Their eighth and ninth inning guys are among the best. Hughes is solid, especially with men on base when they need a double play ball. But they could use someone else — either by trade, or an internal option stepping up — to really solidify that seventh inning, bridging the gap from the rotation to Watson and Melancon.


  • Pirates face a starting pitcher in Volquez tonight who should be in our rotation over the guy we are sending out against him.

  • Need smart players. The Pirates are the most fundamentally weak/frustrating team I have ever seen and they are underachieving. Always been a huge advocate for Hurdle. I’m starting to think he’s taken this team as far as he can. Hate to say it he’s been great helping turn things around but we need a skipper who’s going to field a fundamentally sound ball club and make better in game decisions.

  • Get Barmes and put him at SS . That basically puts you back to where you were when Mercer was healthy. Minimal drop off offensively probably a little better defensively. Go address the holes that were holes before the Mercer injury. Kang belongs at 3B . he’s not a ML SS. He’s one of the best 3Bmen. So much I think he takes Harrison’s spot. He gives you better AB’s better, defense, higher OBP, more power. Go get a guy like Lind and maybe Zobrist. The bench becomes very strong when everyone is healthy. I think this is the year you have to go for it. The only untouchables are Bell and Glasnow that is it. Deal Meadows and/or Taillon if we have to.

    • This is also the way I see it. Burnett is a leader who won’t be around next year. We are positioned to win. It takes assets to get what we need. I would add Byrd to the wish list. Hanson is expendable too.

  • I don’t see our rotation as “great” Locke and Morton are #5 starters. They can be great but neither are dependable. Yes our rotation is one of the best buy the numbers but there is probably some serious regression coming, Burnett’s not going to stay around a 2 ERA in the 2nd half. You match this rotation up against a team like the Nats or the Dodgers or Cardinals after they add a starter ( its what contenders do) The Pirates come up a little short. Cole vs Scherzer? With our offense and what he already did to us. We lose that game 9 times out of 10. Kershaw? He’d own us. Mad Bum he already has. We need to match pitching with more pitching and a bat or two

  • BJointBucs24
    July 22, 2015 6:48 pm

    CJ Cron makes a lot of sense. He has 400 at bats in the majors with a line of .265/.295/.440, Platoon with Pedro until Bell is ready. I don’t think they’ll land Lind just because of what it’ll take and Texas hasn’t expressed interest in trading Moreland.

    • BJointBucs24
      July 22, 2015 8:11 pm

      Or even Christian Walker 24 from the o’s, a career .284/.350/.450 line in the minors, only 22 at bats in majors sitting behind Chris Davis/Steve Pearce

  • I’m worried about morton quite frankly. Been horrible in July with 5.39 fip and that doesn’t include the abomination vs nationals. Scratching my head how he currently is considered a good number 4

  • I don’t agree that infield is automatically their highest priority. They were getting by with replacement level out of Jordy, they can continue to get by with replacement level there, especially if get a RF rental like Byrd or Upton, or a 1B like Lind. Then they can bring in an all glove SS, like Florimon who they already have,and let Kang and Florimon vacuum up everything on the left side until Jay Hay gets back.

    • But Florimon cant hit, we need some offense

      • And Mercer was doing such a great job with the bat ? Did you not read what Arik said ? Mercer was no better than replacement level.

      • Polanco has a great batting eye but is vulnerable right now to inside fastballs because of those arms and his swing. Why he doesn’t bunt once a game is beyond me. The awkwardness in the field catching and throwing is an area of concern. I wonder what his value is and whether we could net a first baseman for now and the future. Then you solve right with Byrd and Bell in 2017.

    • Yeah, well, they did nothing to upgrade offense and brought Florimon up anyway.

      Honestly, if Neal is insistent on bringing up a no-hit fielder, then give me Gift. At least I’ll be entertained occasionally.

  • The problems with all of these needs and all of those ‘perfect’ players out there to fill them is twofold:

    a) We don’t know the cost (probably overpriced)
    b) We don’t know how they’ll do. It’s not like it is guaranteed.

    For every Derrick Lee (before getting injured) there is a Ludlow (who sucked).

  • Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, in his chat, said it would take Josh Bell to get Zobrist.

    In that case, no thanks!

    • He also said that Zobrist was the perfect pairing for the Pirates. I agree though, if the price was Bell, I’d hang up. I’d don’t think I’d include Bell for Zobrist and Kazmir straight up.

    • “I think Napoli, Zobrist, and a reliever would be a very good deadline for them.”


      • My wish list is Barmes, Lind and Byrd. I keep Bell, Glasnow and Diaz. Anybody else can be in a package. Pedro included. Get something done to wake this team up and stop the collapse.

      • I wonder what it would take for Napoli and how much the Sox would cover on his remai i g 7.5m

        • Napoli is essentially worthless at anything less than the Red Sox covering his entire salary, which I’m sure they’d do anyways in return for an actual prospect. Still nothing above C grade, but more than what the Yankees got for Burnett, as an example.

          • That Napoli rental I could get behind. I’d rather the Sox don’t cover the salary if it means the prospect cost is less. But he’s awful this year except against LHP so they’d still need a strong side platoon-mate.

    • Why would it take specifically….Josh Bell?

      • Cameron’s full comment was that he believed the A’s would want something ready in 2016.

        In that case, Bell is really the only non-injured prospect that would get Zobrist.

      • Although I bet you Beane would at least entertain Zobrist AND Josh Reddick if Huntington offered Polanco in return.

        Pirates greatly improve two positions this year and still have Reddick in RF through next season. I’d do that.

  • Patrick Kelly
    July 22, 2015 3:42 pm

    Any word on the progression of Lambo’s foot? Has he started working out again? Him getting healthy and seeing his BABIP regress to a normal rate would be a boost to the bench I think.

    I think the team can get by with SRod and (gulp) Morel at 3B until guys get healthy. They aren’t going to hit much, but the defense is there. The bigger issue in my mind is Alvarez. He isn’t hitting enough and is a disaster on defense. Fixing that situation will help the team significantly IMO.

  • I wonder what they offered for Price. I wonder if they go after Price again this year. I think if the Bucs go after a pitcher, Price should be the guy. He’s a legit ace and won’t cost a ton in prospects. He also has plenty of playoff experience and would give the Pirates a formidable one two punch to team up with Gerrit Cole. I’d love to see them upgrade their offense too but Price would be awesome in my opinion. My dream deadline haul would be Price, Zobrist, and Upton. I know that won’t happen but a guy can dream right…

  • Any good 3rd-base coaches on the market?

  • Please explain how charlie morton with a 3.99 xfio and about 4.25 fip is part of a great rotation and why locke wouldn’t be ahead of him. Those numbers are not great even for a number 4. I’m a charlie fan but his peripherals are worse this year than 2013-14

    • there’s a big difference between “great” and “shaky” though, like someone else said. Noone said Morton is a great #4, but he is a pretty decent one.

      • Just within division Hendricks and lackey are better number 4s than morton this year, gio Gonzalez better too. A oust worst number 4 among probable playoff teams

        • that is not a useful comparison. 1. We aren’t talking about just “this year” 2. to determine a shaky #4, you need to focus on all teams, not just the best teams, this isn’t a league of 8 teams. There are 32 teams in the major leauges, what rank would you put Morton at on the current depth chart of #4 pitchers? Lets see a list. To me, shaky is bottom third, but even if its bottom half, morton is not in the bottom half of #4s not even close

  • For those pushing to dump Pedro, just look at the parallels between him and Aramis Ramirez! Amazing. Bad fielder and inconsistent hitter.

  • Call me crazy but two names come to mind that would solidify our current lineup and give us a great september and beyond bench. Uribe and Byrd Both can be had if reports are to be believed for a mid level prospect. If Supak and Hinsz get them both here id be happy with that.

    Also call me crazier but id love to get Moreland and Gallardo from Texas if possible and i read somewhere they both may be on the block. If so then i wonder if Texas would take something along the lines of Locke, Alvarez and Jacoby Jones for the pair. It give Texas a 1B inder the same length of control as Moreland and someone who Bannister is familar with as well as a Allstar SP on a rollercoaster year who will stay in Texas longer than the FA to be Gallardo as well as a Top 20 prospect from the Pirates strong farm.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      July 22, 2015 3:11 pm

      I’m not a big fan of rentals, and paying a high price for them. We already lost one B+ prospect the first time we acquired Byrd, although we needed Byrd down the stretch. That being said, I would give Cincy a guy like Garcia or Sampson for him.

      I would not be in favor of including Jacoby Jones in a trade – he has very high upside and could be something special….

      • I’d trade JJ in a heart beat for Byrd or Uribe.

        • Jones for Uribe? At least would send the paperwork over in 2 seconds…

          • Imo, Jones will top out at AA or AAA. Upper level pitchers will eat those holes alive.

            He could be another Bixler like “K” machine.

            • I’m not saying he couldn’t end up that way. But when you have assets…you can’t sell yourself short and get much less than someone else would be willing to give. You could up much less imo and still get Uribe I’d that’s the goal…and Byrd has not had a great yr…definitely think his market will not be huge.

        • Nobody wants a single A player thats strikes out 30% of the time and is old for the league.

      • We have no long term needs at this point, all we have is 2015 needs or at worst case 2015-2016 need at first base. WHy would you overpay for something you don’t need or can’t even use

        • So you don’t think we have a long term need at 1B? Your set with a guy at AA who has powdered almost 5HRs in two years and has played the position poorly for one year? I think we have a big need there. I also am kind of tired of watching us have the worst bench in baseball year in and year out. If its not Morel then its Nix , Dacker, Lambo or some other slug. If anyone does get a clutch hit, they are usually sent down.

          • IC Bob- We have a highly rated and top 100 prospect whom is on a defined schedule and will not be blocked by a long term sign, so no….we do not have a long term need at 1st base until he is given the job, and fails at it. Bench is NEVER a long term need as bench players are year to year.

      • A lot of these prospects are Rule 5 eligible after the season and there isn’t enough room to protect them all. Gotta trade a couple of them.

      • We could certainly use another 2nd baseman who can’t hit above 220 (Herrera). You have to give up something to get something. the key is making sure you get something.

    • BuccosFanStuckinMD
      July 22, 2015 3:14 pm

      Uribe doesn’t excite me – he is old, overweight, and where would he play once Harrison returns?

      Lind or Moreland are interesting, although Lind will likely come at a very high price….

      • Uribe would continue playing 3B, because he’s a better player than Josh Harrison.

        • NMR…I would like Uribe for 3b. Dave Cameron, in Fangraphs said that the Braves are asking a ‘lot’ for him.

        • Marginally better at best.

        • uh…..no. Maybe this year he has been, but no

          • And your argument is?

            • I really don’t feel that I need to provide one in this instance. It’s just a matter of how heavily you weight Harrison’s 2014 year, and how heavily you weight that Uribe is so old he could turn into dust, and has no value on the basepaths. They’d find a place for Harrison to play regardless so it doesn’t really matter, Kang would be the one who’d lose in that deal, you’d probably see Harrison a lot in Right field

              • But if you want to go the WAR route, we can. 2014-2015 (because looking at Harrison’s numbers before he was playing regularly is worthless……………. Uribe combined, 5.0- Harrison 5.7

                • So I’m supposed to fully weight the one year in Josh Harrison’s career that clearly is an outlier but not the others?

                  Flawless analysis.

                  Uribe is the better fielder and hitter, period.

                  • NMR- your analysis is extremely bogus here. The only way you can measure two players is from an equal point in time, and you can’t weigh a bench players WAR value against a starting players, it would be worthless. IF you want to compare an apple to a mushroom then go ahead, we all know it’s garbage. You have to judge them both on having the same role, it is noone’s fault that Harrison has only started 1.5 seasons. Whether or not YOU think last year is an outlier, it will take the next 3 years of his career to actually show that. Your OPINION is that Uribe is better, but there are no facts to back that up. My opinion is that Uribe is not better overall, not in WAR since they’ve both been starting, not based on position flexibility and certainly not based on baserunning value. Harrison is a better baseball player, period. You want to say better slugger? okay, Uribe. Better defensive 3rd baseman? sure, Uribe. Better baseball player, at best unclear.

                    • Haha, ok.


                    • considering you had none. Just unfounded opinion. I win this round, but you’ve won many many rounds before, we will play again soon

              • Uribe is better than most of what we have…and Harrison playing in RF some would not hurt this team at all.

                • I don’t disagree with that. I disagree with NMR’s statement that Uribe is a better baseball player than Harrison at this point in his career. He isn’t

      • Who cares what he does after Harrison returns. the goal is to not be out of contention when Harrison returns. who cares if he pinch hits after that?

    • You won’t be seeing Locke or Worley in any trades this season my friend….maybe 2 months ago…but injuries have all but erased those 2 names from the board. I know you were looking at basically a SP for SP swap then 2 fielder’s for Moreland…but I don’t see any team who would believe in Locke enough to basically be pencil in him in for their 2016 rotation…a #5 can be found in spring training.

  • piraterican21
    July 22, 2015 2:59 pm

    My favorite game, arm chair GM. The Angels have been looking for a power lefty bat to play 1b and DH and for some reason are willing to trade pitching for it, Pedro for CJ Wilson and try to expanded to get Cron who will play first v lefties. Adam Laroache should not take much to trade for as long as the team takes on the full remaining salary that would complete the 1b problem. The bullpen, stay internal, rf that’s complicated but I’m open to replacing Polanco

  • So far I have seen a lot of good ideas I did not think about. What is obvious though is something has to be done soon if the Bucs want to think about winning the division. Last year we goofed around for a month with Morel and that bum I can’t remember and lost to the Cards by a couple of games. Then we were gone in the one game playoff. Lets not make the same mistake twice in two years

    • I agree something has to be done…but to act as if they were standing pat on purpose last year is probably a bit of a stretch…they offered up legit A level prospects but teams wanted MLB players…and I believe that reasoning just because we saw it unfold that way in other trades.

  • Martin Prado if he’s not too steep. Experience at 1st, 2nd and 3rd plus corner of. Signed for next year.
    Brad Miller (hope I got the name right) Mariners IF. They need a C plus add something else.

    • Prado would be a good fit

    • Good fit except the guaranteed salary is outrageous.

      • Outrageous? He’s a league-average player making $11m, $3m of which is being covered by the Yankees.

        If anything he’s underpaid.

        • Yeah, exactly. They’d be on the hook for $11M (or $8 if the Yankees’ payment transfers over) for a league average middle infielder who would be a backup. He currently has an OPS of .690, which matches what he did in 2013. Last year he was at .877 in only 37 games. I wouldn’t mind having him, but given what we know the budget to be, why commit ~8% of it to a backup MI?

          • First off, what *do* we know the budget to be? If you don’t think they can fit $8m then you’re sorely mistaken.

  • All I know…we need improvements. Hurdle also needs to get this team to play more within itself…better focus…better defense and baserunning.

    • The Pirates do not play for a run – they are always looking big inning. Good example was the other night when Jeff Locke needed one run late in the game. We get the leadoff hitter on but do not bunt him into scoring position with SRod?

  • I mentioned this a couple of days ago, but why not bring back Adam LaRoche? Yes, it’s a big salary (owed $6 mill this year, $12.5 in 2016), but I wouldn’t be surprised if you could trade Pedro even up, or Pedro and a Rule 5 guy. In the small sample available, Pedro seems to be OK as a DH. LaRoche appears to be unsuited to DHing, but is still putting up respectable numbers when he plays 1b. He’d certainly be a competent MLB-level 1b until Bell arrives late next year or out of camp in 2017. Bucs can afford the difference in money between Pedro and LaRoche.

    Blake Wood certainly is an option, but I’d worry about the walks in high leverage situations. Caminero has reached Donnie Veal status. I just want him gone.

    • I like Adam, even when he was a Bucco. Greatly under appreciated.

      • Mr. Constipation – always had that look on his face, but he can hit when it is not Spring, and the White Sox would be unloading almost $20. Always a great glove. Are you guys thinking Samardzia also as a short term rental? Or Alexi Ramirez – one stop shopping!

        • actually, you need to look up his April stats. He wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be.

          • Laroche has gotten a lot of love in hindsight because his numbers look good relative to *now*, where the overall offensive environment is much lower. At the time, LaRoche simply wasn’t a very good hitter.

            • Prior to this season, he’s had one subpar year (and a partial year at that), going by wRC+. He’s at 111 wRC+ for hsi career, currently at 91 (which I blame on DHing), coming off a 127 season wiht Nats.

              Given the current predicament and the likelihood you jettison Pedro for him, seems like a decent deal to me if Lind is not in play.

              I’m not interested in guys who “might” bounce back and work out, like Napoli and others of that ilk. I’ll be happy to pay just to stop the bleeding.

              • Except he’s 36, showing all the classic signs of a true decline, and still can’t hit LHP.

                I think he’s toast.

                Napoli is certainly in the same boat, but at least fills the RH need and doesn’t come with an additional year of dead weight.

                • He may be. But it’s odd he still has that 127 wRC+ when he plays 1b vs the 71 when he’s a DH.

                  And do I conclude that you wanting a RH platoon bat implies you want to keep Pedro for next year? We part ways there.

                  • Not particularly, but I also don’t want a worse player making more money.

                    I’ll give you that LaRoche could very well turn out to be a Derrek Lee-type hitter who runs into a few down the stretch. Few remember that Derek Lee was a well-below average hitter before coming to the Pirates.

      • He was a notoriously slow starter, who happened to heat up after team was out of contention. That’s how I remember him.

    • Laroche has a lower OPS than Pedro.

    • Because we already hated Adam LaRoche once.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 22, 2015 2:18 pm

    Our bullpen is very shaky, beyond our 3 top guys. Holdzkum and Liz may be options to replace Worley and/or Caminero. Caminero throws a hard, straight fastball and little else.

    We HAVE to upgrade from Bastardo….he is completely undependable. I’m glad he is a free agent after this year…

    How about Will Smith, LH reliever from Milwaukee?

    • Morton, in no rotations in the ML, would be considered a shaky #4 starter.

      • Locke’s numbers- in no rotations in the ML, would be considered a shaky #5 starter

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 22, 2015 2:11 pm

    Lind would be awesome, but at what cost?

    How about Mitch Moreland? Would likely command less than Lind….

    • Adam Lind was literally just traded this year for a marginal starting pitcher (Marco Estrada), but who knows what the intra-division markup would be.

      • I’m estimating Lind has a surplus value of $18-$20 mill, assuming 2016 option is picked up. That’s not a top 100 prospect. But yeah, the intra-division premium might make that a bit more painful. Maybe a Sampson and Broxton/Garcia level package.

    • Darkstone42
      July 22, 2015 3:21 pm

      I would guess Moreland would cost more than Lind since his salary is so much lower, and his team control next year is arbitration. The Rangers are also reportedly not keen on selling him whereas the Brewers are probably looking to sell whatever they can.

      Although, thinking more about it, maybe all that balances out with the in-division bit…