Morning Report: Which Approach Should the Pirates Take at the Deadline?

There should be no doubt that Neal Huntington will add to this team in some way over the next few days.

Since 2011, the Pirates have been buyers in some form. The last two years they played the middle ground, selling off pending free agents while also buying cheaper short-term rentals to help the team. In previous years they were strictly buyers, all while taking different approaches along the way.

There were years like 2011 and 2015 where they mostly focused in taking on salary for some under-the-radar type additions, sending very little out in terms of a prospect return.

The 2012 season saw them adding guys who were more aimed at helping beyond 2012, rather than focusing on their efforts during that season. Their additions in 2017 were mostly of this variety as well.

They didn’t acquire anyone via trade in 2014, but made some waiver claims and low-cost pickups to help the bullpen.

Then there was the 2013 season, where they traded a top ten prospect at the time in Dilson Herrera, getting back a rental in Marlon Byrd as a big boost for the team.

It’s pretty certain that they will add in some form over the next few days. The only question is wondering which approach they will take.

No one can answer that right now except Neal Huntington, and we’ll find out the result in a few days. But without knowing the approach, I can say that not all of the options above make sense, and one of them in particular makes zero sense.

As of Saturday, there were seven teams competing for the Wild Card with an average chance of 10% or better to make the playoffs. That comes from the average playoff projections from Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, Clay Davenport, and FiveThirtyEight.

Out of those teams, the Pirates rank seventh, with an average 12.1% chance of making the playoffs. The teams with the best chance right now, if the current projections were accurate, would be the Brewers (with a 71% chance of making it) and the Diamondbacks (53.4%).

The Pirates definitely should go for it, even with those lower odds. By the standings, they are only three games back from the second Wild Card spot, and with the way they’ve been playing lately, they could jump closer, especially if they keep that up over the next month, when they mostly play other Wild Card contenders.

But with those low odds, the amount they should spend going for it should be lowered, since you don’t want to bet too much on a low percentage outcome.

That means the additions they should make at the deadline should either be the cheap rental variety — someone who mostly costs money and not much else — or the player who can help this year, but is under team control for a few more seasons and has more value with the ability to help in future years.

As for the approach they shouldn’t take, that would be a repeat of a Marlon Byrd type situation, where they trade valuable prospects away for a rental. I also don’t think they should sell, as the players who have value can be traded this offseason. That also rules out the reason to sell and buy at the same time like they did the last two years.

It’s not a bad idea to get a rental, but the Pirates shouldn’t be trading their future for only a shot at winning this year with the odds they currently have. I think the best approach for them should be adding someone who can help this year and in future years, while focusing in the offseason on further improving the team’s chances for those future years, and letting this year play out how it plays out with those additions and the current team.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-0 over the New York Mets on Saturday night. Joe Musgrove will get the start today, coming off of his last outing on July 24th when he gave up two runs over seven innings against the Cleveland Indians. The Mets will counter with right-hander Zack Wheeler, who has a 4.33 ERA in 114.1 innings, with 109 strikeouts and a 1.30 WHIP. He gave up two runs over seven innings against the San Diego Padres in his last start.

The minor league schedule includes a doubleheader for Indianapolis. Brandon Waddell gets the start in game one. He’s given up five runs in 25.1 innings over his last four starts combined. No starter has been named yet for the second game. Altoona sends out Luis Escobar for his third start with Altoona. He’s gone six innings in each of the first two outings. Max Kranick goes for West Virginia on short rest, although he was purposely limited back on Wednesday so he could make this start. Bradenton needs to finish yesterday’s game first, which was suspended in the fourth inning, with the Marauders up 10-0. They will follow with a seven inning game, weather permitting. The DSL Pirates1/2 and GCL Pirates have off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (55-51) vs Mets (42-59) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (3.90 ERA, 52:17 SO/BB, 60.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (57-47) vs Buffalo (46-54) 12:35 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (4.50 ERA, 35:19 SO/BB, 46.0 IP) and TBD

AA: Altoona (55-47) vs Binghamton (49-56) 2:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (3.75 ERA, 6:5 SO/BB, 12.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (48-51) @ Florida (43-55) 11:00 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Blake Weiman (4.50 ERA, 52:13 SO/BB, 74.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (51-49) vs Asheville (43-59) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Max Kranick (4.44 ERA, 44:14 SO/BB, 48.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (16-25) vs Brooklyn (21-19) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (16-20) @ Elizabethton (22-12) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Oliver Garcia (9.00 ERA, 15:19 SO/BB, 22.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (13-17) vs Phillies East 12:00 PM 7/30 (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (23-25) vs Red Sox2 10:30 AM 7/30 (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (19-29) vs Giants 10:30 AM 7/30 (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Indianapolis, highlights from two different games. First is an RBI single from Kevin Kramer

Then a two-run homer from Wyatt Mathisen

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

7/28: Pirates sign Justin Morris.

7/28: Josh Smoker claimed off waivers by Detroit Tigers

7/28: Josh Bell placed on disabled list. Jose Osuna recalled from Indianapolis.

7/28: Corey Dickerson placed on disabled list. Austin Meadows recalled from Indianapolis.

7/27: Pirates option Michael Feliz to Indianapolis. Recall Alex McRae

7/27: Jin-De Jhang assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/26: Deon Stafford placed on disabled list. Rafelin Lorenzo activated from West Virginia DL.

7/26: Francisco Cervelli activated from DL. Jacob Stalling optioned to Indianapolis.

7/25: Pirates recall Adam Frazier. Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

7/24: Erich Weiss assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/23: Cody Bolton placed on disabled list. Oddy Nunez demoted to West Virginia.

7/23: Pirates select contract of Casey Sadler. Max Moroff optioned to Indianapolis. Josh Smoker designated for assignment.

7/23: Nick Burdi assigned to Altoona on rehab.

7/23: Jacob Webb promoted to Bristol. Juan Henriquez assigned to GCL Pirates from Morgantown.

7/23: Will Gardner promoted to Morgantown.

7/22: Bralin Jackson placed on Altoona disabled list.

7/21: Christopher Bostick activated from Indianapolis disabled list. Alfredo Reyes assigned to Altoona.

7/20: Sean Rodriguez activated from disabled list. Tanner Anderson optioned to Indianapolis.

7/19: Pirates release Johan De Jesus and Adonis Pichardo.

7/19: Chris Sharpe placed on West Virginia DL. Robbie Glendinning promoted from Morgantown.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus four trades of note and a special hit from the franchise’s all-time greatest player. The players born on this date are Mike Williams, closer for the Pirates from 1998 until 2003 and a two-time All-Star. Tommy Gregg, outfielder in 1987-88 and seventh round pick of the Pirates in 1985. Dave LaPoint, a lefty starter acquired by the Pirates late in the 1988 season. He made eight starts and won four games, with a 2.77 ERA. Erv Dusak, utility player for the 1951-52 Pirates, who saw time at six different positions and even started a game on the mound. George Cutshaw, second baseman from 1918 until 1921. He was part of the big trade in 1918 that involved Hall of Famers Casey Stengel and Burleigh Grimes.

The Pirates made two trades on this date in 2009, sending Jack Wilson and Ian Snell to the Mariners, and Freddy Sanchez to the Giants for six players total in return. Nine years earlier, they acquired Wilson from the Cardinals in exchange for Jason Christiansen. Wilson played 1,159 games for the Pirates, while the Cardinals got 29.1 innings out of Christiansen.

On this date in 1916, the Pirates and Cubs made a four-player deal that involved a catcher going each way and two well-known veterans changing teams. The Pirates sent second baseman Otto Knabe to Chicago and got outfielder Frank Schulte. Knabe was an All-Star caliber player, who was nearing the end of his career. At the time of the deal, the Pirates had actually sent him home because they said he was too out of shape. Schulte too was near the end, but during his prime, he became the first player to hit 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 homers and steal 20 bases in the same season. Only three players have accomplished that feat since, so it is extremely rare. Despite the big names in this deal and a veteran catcher name Art Wilson going to Chicago, the best player after the deal was young catcher William Fischer, who was hitting below .200 at the time of the trade. He played well for the Pirates through the end of the 1917 season.

Exactly one year before that 1916 trade, Honus Wagner hit an inside-the-park grand slam in an 8-2 win over Brooklyn. It was the 97th home run of his career and he hit just four more after this one. Wagner hit five grand slams in his career and all were inside-the-park homers. You can read more about the game in the link above.

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