Morning Report: Neal Huntington is Backed Into a Corner With His Trade Deadline Decision

Sometimes I feel like the Pirates have a curse on them.

How else do you explain all of the things that happen to them at the most inopportune times?

They don’t look like a contender at all, and Neal Huntington says they will need a big week in order to determine their path at the deadline. The team stepped up in a big way, winning seven of eight games this past week. They capped it off with an exciting walk off win on Sunday, sweeping the Brewers in five games, and providing a rare exciting moment this year for the fans to take into the All-Star break.

Obviously that part is not a curse. I think that’s just more poor communication, where Huntington either isn’t being fully honest about the team’s chances with the fans, or he’s not being fully honest with himself about those same chances. As I wrote yesterday before the win, the Pirates still aren’t a contender, even after the huge week.

But even if the Pirates decided to sell, who would they trade right now? Two of their top trade options — Francisco Cervelli and Josh Harrison — just went down with injuries at the worst possible time. Cervelli is dealing with concussion issues again, and Harrison left Sunday’s game with a hamstring issue.

Talk about the worst possible timing. Yeah, the Pirates can trade guys like Ivan Nova or Corey Dickerson, but it does them no good to hold onto Harrison or Cervelli throughout that process, and it hurts the trade value of both historically injury prone players to have recent injuries that they are dealing with.

Perhaps the Pirates won’t end up selling at the deadline. Maybe they will do like previous years, where they both buy and sell, but don’t go big on either avenue. Losing Cervelli and Harrison does make it difficult to sell players, and the fact that they’re not really a strong contender makes it difficult to buy impact help at the deadline.

Huntington has basically backed himself into a corner. He said that the previous week would help determine their path, and the team followed that up with a huge week. That led to the fans being excited heading into the break, and that’s just going to be another PR controversy if they end up selling. In fact, if that happens, I predict that people will still be talking about it a year from now.

But even if they sell, two of the best trade chips they have are now injured. So how does that impact Huntington’s approach?

It’s not a great situation for the Pirates. They really shouldn’t even be discussion a decision between buying and selling right now. Yes, the last week was exciting, but they needed several more exciting weeks like that earlier in the season in order for this one to mean something. But even if they do sell, it will be on a small scale due to the recent injuries, and will only further piss off the fan base.

There will still be about a week and a half after the break and before the deadline. Perhaps that will add some more clarity to the situation. But I don’t think that’s enough time for the Pirates to realistically look like a team that should be buying, unless they somehow find a way to never lose again.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 on Sunday to complete a five-game sweep. The Pirates are now on the All-Star break. They resume play on Friday in Cincinnati for a three-game series against the Reds. Jameson Taillon will get the start that night.

The minor league schedule includes Nick Burdi making his debut with the Pirates, starting for Bradenton. He will likely be limited to one inning in his first game back from Tommy John surgery. Taylor Hearn makes his first start for Altoona since getting the starting assignment in the Eastern League All-Star game. He ranks second in the league with a 1.09 WHIP, third in strikeouts and ninth in ERA. Tyler Eppler goes for Indianapolis. He ranks seventh in the International League in ERA, eight in innings pitched and 11th in strikeouts. West Virginia starter Max Kranick threw five shutout innings against Delmarva (today’s opponent) in their lone meeting. Bristol starter Steven Jennings had nine strikeouts in his last game, setting a career high. Morgantown has a morning start time.

MLB: Pittsburgh (48-49) @ Reds (43-53) 7:10 PM 7/20
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (3.91 ERA, 103:30 SO/BB, 106.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (50-41) @ Gwinnett (40-52) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (3.06 ERA, 81:23 SO/BB, 94.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (48-41) vs Bowie (40-51) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Taylor Hearn (3.35 ERA, 94:33 SO/BB, 86.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (46-43) vs Jupiter (48-44) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Burdi (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (49-40) vs Delmarva (50-41) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Max Kranick (4.14 ERA, 33:13 SO/BB, 41.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (11-18) @ Staten Island (16-13) 11:00 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (11-14) @ Greeneville (9-14) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Jennings (4.98 ERA, 20:11 SO/BB, 21.2 IP)

GCL: Pirates (8-12) vs Tigers West 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (17-19) vs Rangers1 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (14-21) vs Royals2 10:30 AM (season preview)


From Altoona, Will Craig hammers a home run to left field on Friday night.


7/15: Pirates sign Alexander Mojica

7/15: Austin Meadows optioned to Indianapolis. Pirates recall Tanner Anderson

7/15: Clay Holmes optioned to Indianapolis

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


One former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date, and one trade of note that is tied into that player. On this date in 1918, the Pirates traded third baseman Gus Getz to Indianapolis, which was a minor league team at the time not affiliated with the Pirates. In exchange, they picked up shortstop Roy Ellam. He had played ten games for the 1909 Reds, then spent the next nine seasons in the minor leagues before this trade. Ellam replaced Howdy Caton at shortstop, who happens to be the player born on this date. Caton played for the Pirates from 1917 until 1920 and lost his shortstop job a second time to someone a little bit better than Ellam. At the end of the 1920 season, Caton took the bench, as the Pirates tried out rookie Pie Traynor at shortstop and he seemed to work out well, though he’s obviously better know as a third baseman.

The first time they played the All-Star game on July 16th was 1985 and Tony Pena was the only representative of the Pirates. Pena came off the bench and replaced Ozzie Virgil in the bottom of the seventh inning on defense. In his only at-bat, he struck out against Dan Petry. The NL won the game by a 6-1 score. You can find the boxscore here. Pena played four All-Star games while with the Pirates, all as a reserve.