I started the week writing about how the Pirates should be sellers, and should trade Mark Melancon in an attempt to get some value from the closer, rather than using him for a shot at the playoffs, and a possible playoff run that doesn’t seem like it will have a good chance of happening.
That article also included the disclaimer that I didn’t think the Pirates would take that approach. Trading Melancon sounds great on paper (or horrible on paper, if you believe the Pirates have a better chance at contending this year). The reality of that situation is that it would be difficult to pull off, as it would be a tough sell to the fans (although fan approval shouldn’t be a big factor in making moves) and more importantly, the players (many of whom are under control for years).
The trade deadline is approaching, and as we enter the weekend, we get to the point in the trade season when players start moving around. The Pirates are almost certain to make a move at the deadline. They’ve done that every year, with the exception of 2014, when they didn’t make a trade, but added a few guys on waiver claims and free agent deals, with the biggest addition that year being John Holdzkom.
Last year they didn’t make a big splash in terms of adding a big name, or “winning” the trade deadline. But their approach ended up looking brilliant, adding a lot of lower cost, high upside guys, and getting just what the team needed down the stretch, at a time when other teams were spending big for the same type of production.
This year, the Pirates find themselves in no-man’s land. They’re just good enough that they can’t pass for a seller, but they’re not good enough where it would make sense to go for a big splash. They’ve got an obvious need for pitching, but have plenty of prospects who could fill that need. However, the prospects are probably going to be better in future years, making it tempting to go for extra help this year. The problem with that extra help is the better pitcher you go for now, the more you have to give up in the future — especially with this extreme seller’s market.
The best approach for the Pirates at the deadline would be to go the same route they took last year, dealing from their Rule 5 eligible depth and getting lower cost guys who could surprise and fill a need at a value. If that’s not an option, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for them to avoid making a trade. The worst thing about the trade deadline is the assumption that teams need to make a trade. The winners and losers columns that come out after the deadline never factor in the rest of the team, or the creativity involved, which we saw last year when the Pirates were far from deadline winners on August 1st.
The Pirates could avoid making a trade and still address their needs via the farm system. That could get them to the playoffs, but probably isn’t going to get them far in the playoffs, unless they see Francisco Liriano turn things around, and make it where they’re not relying on the rookies to carry the rotation in an extended series. A smaller trade would just increase their odds of getting an extra rotation option, with the hope that they could work the same magic they did last year with Happ.
It should be an interesting weekend. The Pirates will have to find that perfect balance between trying to improve their odds of contending this year — a year when they’re not the strongest contenders — while not trying to take away too much from future years, when they’re projected to be much stronger contenders.
**Prospect Watch: Duncan Throws Five Shutout Innings in Return from Disabled List. I don’t see Duncan as a rotation option this year in the big leagues. He’s behind a lot of other starters. However, he could end up a reliever down the stretch with the way he’s pitching this year in Triple-A.
**Kevin Newman Made Some Small Adjustments to Improve His Hitting. Sean McCool talked with Kevin Newman about some changes to his swing that have led to strong numbers in Altoona.
**Six Pirates on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects List. A lot of good stuff for the Pirates in the latest top 100 rankings.
**David Todd Podcast: Extended Pirates Top 50 and Trade Deadline Talk. I had three segments with David Todd on Wednesday, discussing the top 50 prospects and the trade deadline.
**Morning Report: The Last Six Weeks of the Minor League Season Could Be Interesting. John Dreker breaks down what to expect in the final six weeks of the minor league season.