WASHINGTON — The Boston Red Sox made the first big pitching move of the 2016 trade deadline season, grabbing Drew Pomeranz from the San Diego Padres for Anderson Espinoza, who was rated by Baseball America as the 15th best prospect in baseball.
It was a steep price to pay for a player that didn’t even spend 2015 as a full-time starting pitcher, and it got the attention of the rest of the market, including Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.
“[Pomeranz] had a very good first half as a starter and San Diego did a terrific job of turning that into someone that some feel is a top-20 prospect in the game,” Huntington said. “It reminds us that it’s a seller’s market and that the acquisition costs are going to be steep. Years of control matter. That’s part of the reason they were able to secure such a quality prospect in our minds, was the multiple years of control that Pomeranz brings with him. It also reminds us that it’s really important to build with pitching.”
But just because the costs for quality starting pitching are expected to be high, that doesn’t mean the Pirates won’t be players in that market.
“We will continue to do our due diligence to see if there is something external that we can add,” Huntington said. “We may be in a situation where we add to the present, but we also subtract from the present by adding to the future because of the depth and because of the options that we have internally. We plan to add. You don’t want to plan to sell. You plan to add. We feel that this is a playoff-caliber club and we’re looking forward to proving that as accurate. We may have some situation where we do have some depth that we can move to add a little to future as well as adding to the present.”
Huntington did seem to think that if the Pirates do make a big-splash move, it would be to add pitching.
“We’re going to do our due diligence on all fronts, but the pitching group is the group that seems to me to need the most help at this point in time, unless we’re willing to go with what we have internally,” he said. “Again, we’re getting [Francisco] Cervelli healthy, getting [Gerrit] Cole healthy, if we get Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Liriano on the right track, we get Kang back swinging the bat the way he’s capable of, those are five pretty good additions to our group.”
Huntington went on to describe the team’s internal options for the rotation and how they affect his decision-making process about whether or not to make a move.
“You build the rotation around Gerrit Cole and if we can get Francisco Liriano back to what he’s been for us for three years, that’s a really good addition,” Huntington said.” You’ve seen signs of that. [There’s the] young arms that we have coming, with Taillon and what he’s shown and Glasnow, what he’s shown us the ability to do at the minor-league level. Jeff Locke, in two-third to three-quarters of his starts, it’s a sub-3.00 ERA.
“That’s not easy to acquire on the trade market. One of the other young arms, does Niese go back in, does Vogelsong get a shot? We’ve got some options as we go forward. So you continue to look externally, but your bar is set very high as far as what the acquisition needs to be.”
As the Pomeranz trade showed, any outside additions might come with a high cost.
“That acquisition comes with an extreme acquisition cost and so we will weigh if we’re better going with our own guys or if there is something that makes sense from the outside and that will play out of the next couple of weeks.”
CERVELLI ON THE MEND
Francisco Cervelli has been rehabbing from his hamate bone surgery with Triple-A Indianapolis, might also be ready to join the team as they return to Pittsburgh, but Huntington seems a bit more cautious with Cervelli’s prognosis.
“We’ll see. Obviously, [he’s had] two good offense games,” Huntington said. “He’s handled the staff well. He’s moved well. We want to have a conversation with him to see where he feels he is at the time offensively, defensively and where his legs are. … We’ll have a conversation with him. He’ll play in Indy [Sunday night] and then [go] back to Pittsburgh and we’ll see where he is in his own mind and where our staff feels he is.”
Huntington reiterated that a return to the majors won’t necessarily mean that Cervelli is ready to return to his usual full-time role.
“We’re fully aware that we’re going to have to protect him a little bit with the fatigue factor that will be present with the month down,” Huntington said. “He worked really hard. It’s very different catching nine innings as opposed to nine simulated innings.”
TO DL OR NOT TO DL
Gregory Polanco sat out on Sunday, missing the entire three-game series in Washington, D.C. while he continues to nurse a left hamstring injury.
Polanco hasn’t played in a game since July 8th. Still, general manager Neal Huntington defended keeping Polanco on the roster and giving him the chance to make a speedy recovery.
“It had been bothering him for a while,” Huntington said Sunday. “We wanted to see how he progressed coming out of the all-star break with the weekend off before the all-star break. We felt like he made great progress, but wasn’t quite ready to go out there. We still are within the window that we can back-date [him to the disabled list].”
Because the Pirates were carrying an extra position player at the end of the first half and through Friday’s game against the Nationals, Huntington said the team was able to give Polanco more time than they would usually have otherwise.
“We didn’t feel that playing short for Saturday and Sunday was incredibly hurtful to us,” he said. “It always handcuffs a manager when you’re a position player short, but we thought the upside of getting Gregory back on Tuesday as opposed to losing him for the rest of the DL period was worth that chance to take. We are optimistic that Gregory will be able to go on Tuesday.”
WALKING IT BACK
Huntington recently made a comment during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh that he wishes would have come out little bit differently.
While discussing the Neil Walker-for-Jon Niese trade, Huntington suggested that a pair of low-level prospects might have been a better return. After a bit of backlash, Huntington acknowledged that his words were a bit unfair towards Niese.
“It came across much more harsh than intended it,” Huntington said. “The intent was to answer a question that I was asked and the results haven’t been what I’m sure Jon expected and what we expected. It’s easy for those that write about or report about it to say that in hindsight, there might have been a better alternative. Again, sometimes candor gets you in trouble. Maybe I’ll learn a lesson and be a little bit more filtered from this point forward.”
There has been no update on the status of third baseman Jung Ho Kang or on that status of the ongoing Chicago Police investigation that first revealed there was an alleged sexual assault incident involving Kang on July 5.
Huntington said the Pirates won’t act on the matter until both the Chicago PD and Major League Baseball have done so.
“It’s a situation that the Chicago Police is working through their process, Major League Baseball will work through their progress, and we’ll take it from there,” he said.