The Pirates are 6-1 this week, in a week where Neal Huntington said that this week’s performance will help determine whether the team will be buyers or sellers at the deadline.
At best, they’ll go 7-1 this week with a win today, which is an outstanding result. Even 6-2 is a great result if you’re looking for a team to show that they’re a contender in a given week.
The problem here is that the Pirates definitely aren’t contenders. Even if they win today, they’ll be one game under .500. At the time of this writing, they’re 5.5 games out of the Wild Card, with five teams ahead of them before the second Wild Card spot.
Let’s ignore the fact that they got to this point — which isn’t a great position to be in — because of that 6-1 stretch. It took them an amazing stretch to climb up to a position that isn’t favorable, which should say enough. Instead of focusing on that, let’s focus on how this team has been a streaky team all season. They’ve had big highs and deep lows. Why would this week be a sign that they’re contenders? It’s more likely a sign that they’re riding another hot streak.
This is now the third year in a row that the Pirates enter the trade deadline without a set direction. They’ve done the same thing the last three offseasons, not really committing fully one way or another to going for it or rebuilding. A year ago at the deadline, I called this position that they’re in No-Man’s Land. And I summed up their situation as the following:
The Pirates need to make a decision to try and be one of these mega-teams, regardless of when it happens. They either need to spend money and trade some prospects to bridge the gap in the next year or two, or they need to go for a quick rebuild to improve their chances starting in 2019-2020. If they don’t do either one, they could very well be stuck in No Man’s Land again, finding themselves in the exact same situation at next year’s trade deadline for the third year in a row.
To add context, the Pirates needed to either go for it in 2018 and 2019 (which would have required keeping Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen and adding to the team), or follow the path of teams like the Astros and Royals and blow it all up, going for a total rebuild.
Unfortunately, they didn’t really do both. Not that they had much of a choice. They traded Cole and McCutchen, and shopped Josh Harrison around. The other veterans didn’t have much trade value. That might have changed for some by this point (Francisco Cervelli, Ivan Nova are two examples). However, the Pirates also added to their team, bringing in guys like George Kontos, Sean Rodriguez, and Corey Dickerson. The latter wasn’t a bad move, and could pay off if they can move Dickerson for some younger players in a rebuild. But adding the likes of Kontos and Rodriguez didn’t show that they were fully going for a rebuild, and trading Cole and McCutchen showed they weren’t going all-in.
And now they’re back in the exact same situation that I was concerned about last year, entering a deadline where they have no business being buyers, all while contemplating whether they should buy or sell.
If we see another deadline with trades of veterans paired with additions of cheap rentals giving them a fraction of a chance of competing, then it’s going to be a sign that they’re once again stuck in No-Man’s Land. And you will pretty much be able to pencil them in for the same middling result next year, desperately pinning their hopes on an outside shot at the Wild Card, and realizing that they’re never going to escape this cycle until they blow it all up, or go all-in.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won game one of a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers by a 2-1 score. In game two, the Pirates won 6-2. Joe Musgrove will be on the mound today for his ninth start, coming off of two runs over five innings against the Washington Nationals in his last start. The scheduled Brewers starter is right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who has a 3.78 ERA in 109.2 innings, with 86 strikeouts and a 1.31 WHIP. He faced the Pirates twice this year and allowed two runs over 12.1 innings in those starts.
The minor league schedule includes Casey Sadler starting for Indianapolis. He has allowed one run in his last 18.2 innings. West Virginia starter Domingo Robles hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a start since May. Altoona starter Pedro Vasquez allowed one run over six innings in his last start. Bradenton starter Mike Wallace follows his younger brother Gavin in the rotation, going on back-to-back days against Daytona. No starter is listed for Morgantown or Bristol. The DSL Pirates1/2 are on their All-Star break. They resume play on Monday. Angel Basabe and Yoyner Fajardo will represent the Pirates in the All-Star game today. The GCL Pirates have off today.
MLB: Pittsburgh (47-49) vs Brewers (55-42) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (3.77 ERA, 45:12 SO/BB, 45.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (50-40) vs Toledo (50-41) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Casey Sadler (3.41 ERA, 47:28 SO/BB, 60.2 IP)
AA: Altoona (48-40) @ Erie (42-49) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Pedro Vasquez (4.65 ERA, 45:17 SO/BB, 62.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (45-43) @ Daytona (50-39) 5:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mike Wallace (4.99 ERA, 47:11 SO/BB, 61.1 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (49-39) vs Delmarva (49-41) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (3.11 ERA, 74:21 SO/BB, 89.2 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (11-17) @ Staten Island (15-13) 4:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (11-13) @ Greeneville (8-14) 5:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)
GCL: Pirates (8-12) vs Tigers West 12:00 PM 7/16 (season preview)
DSL: Pirates1 (17-19) vs Rangers1 10:30 AM 7/16 (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (14-21) vs Royals2 10:30 AM 7/16 (season preview)
From Indianapolis, the full at-bat of Brandon Waddell’s ninth strikeout on Friday night.
7/14: Austin Coley activated from Altoona disabled list.
7/14: Bo Schultz placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Jackson Williams activated from DL.
7/14: Pirates place Francisco Cervelli on DL. Recall Jacob Stallings and Clay Holmes.
7/11: Ardent Pabst promoted to Altoona. John Bormann assigned to Bradenton.
7/11: Mitch Keller and Clay Holmes assigned to Indianapolis. Sean Rodriguez assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
7/10: Joe Musgrove activated from disabled list. Alex McRae optioned to Indianapolis.
7/10: Jackson Williams placed on disabled list.
7/10: Mitch Keller assigned to Bradenton.
7/9: Sean Rodriguez assigned to Bradenton on rehab.
7/8: Francisco Cervelli activated from disabled list. Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.
7/7: Pirates activate Michael Feliz, recall Alex McRae from Indianapolis. Dovydas Neverauskas and Josh Smoker optioned to Indianapolis.
7/7: Pirates released Felix Vinicio, Pablo Santana and Carlos Garcia.
7/6: Jake Brentz placed on Bradenton disabled list.
7/6: John O’Reilly assigned to Bristol. Sent back to GCL on 7/7, back to Bristol on 7/8 (really happened)
7/6: Rafelin Lorenzo assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab. Raul Hernandez assigned to West Virginia.
7/6: Jin-De Jhang activated from Altoona disabled list. John Bormann placed on disabled list.
7/6: Clay Holmes optioned to Bradenton. Pirates recall Jordan Luplow.
7/6: Raul Siri assigned to Morgantown.
7/6: Pirates sign Zack Kone
7/5: Royals claim Enny Romero
7/5: Francisco Cervelli assigned to Altoona on rehab.
7/5: Dylan Busby assigned to GCL on rehab.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including Donn Clendenon, who played first base for the Pirates from 1961 until 1968. After seeing limited September time his first year, he finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1962. Between the 1965-66 seasons, he drove in 194 runs. The Pirates lost him to the Montreal Expos in the 1968 expansion draft. In his time in Pittsburgh, he hit .280 with 106 homers. In 1969, he picked up a World Series ring with the New York Mets.
Other former players born on this date include Anthony Claggett, who pitched one game with the Pirates on October 3, 2009. Enrique Romo, who was a reliever for the Pirates from 1979 until 1982. During that 1979 season, he pitched 84 times and had a 2.99 ERA in 129.1 innings. The next year he made 74 appearances and threw a total of 123.2 innings.
We also have 1966 center fielder Don Bosch and 1925-26 pitcher Red Oldham, who pitched one of the more important innings in franchise history. After the Pirates took a 9-7 lead in the bottom of the eighth in game seven of the 1925 World Series, Oldham was called in to close out the game. The Pirates trailed 7-6 going into the eighth and scored three runs off Walter Johnson. Oldham picked up the final three outs, striking out two future Hall of Famers, Goose Goslin and Sam Rice.