Last season, Neal Huntington didn’t drop the ball as much as think a little too conservatively for the Pirates. Acquiring cheap veterans Derek Lee and Ryan Ludwig blew up in the GM’s face, leaving the Pirates in free fall until they landed at 90 losses. This season, the Pirates have continued to struggle post All Star Break, but Neal Huntington acted quickly and made some great moves to ensure that the Pirates upgraded their roster. What is even better, is that Huntington has also apparently upgraded with the future in mind as well.
The first move to come through the deadline was Wandy Rodriguez, a deal that sures up the back end of the rotation. With guaranteed control through next season and a good shot at controlling Wandy the season after, the Pirates ensured that the veteran will be able to contribute to the team for awhile. Secondly, the Pirates received Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln. This deal has left many experts divided as some see the cost of Lincoln too high for a player who hasn’t produced like Snider while others draw comparisons to Colon for Giles. I think the deal will lie somewhere in the middle. Trading a reliever for a position player is ALWAYS a smart move, especially when you are looking at a gaping hole that said player can fill right away. Huntington has had major success building a cheap bullpen from leftover parts, something I don’t see him magically forgetting at the trade deadline. This move led the way for the final Pirates deal, Gaby Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska for Gorkys Hernandez and the 33rd overall pick the Pirates won in the competitive balance lottery. This deal is about swapping around depth. The Marlins desperately need someone to fill the outfield and the Bucs wanted an extra body at first base in case Alvarez and Jones sit out of the lineup. Sanchez will probably stay in AAA for now but could contribute later in the season while Kaminska is a AA reliever with some work needed.
So let’s recap: The Pirates added a back end starter who’s an upgrade over Erik Bedard and Kevin Correia and is comparable to Jeff Karstens, their third starter. They upgraded their corner outfield with a player who has some power potential and now makes their outfield all 25 and under with tons of room for growth. They then traded an extra outfield piece for a project/platoon aid at first base. Oh and all of these players are controlled through at least next season. None of these guys broke the Pirates’ bank.
Some fans will moan that the Pirates didn’t get that one big piece to put them over the top. Well guess what: the Reds right now are the best team in baseball by a mile WITHOUT their MVP candidate in the lineup and just improved the best back end bullpen in baseball. The Cardinals have the best lineup in baseball and are under performing due to injuries that may heal very soon. The Pirates aren’t winning the NL Central. They can compete for the one game Wild Card game and anyone who thinks trading away the future for that is an idiot. Huntington made moves that can help the team this year and next while keeping all of the major parts necessary for long term Bucs’ success.
How is that not an A+ job?
UPDATE: Chad Quails (RHP) was swapped for Casey McGehee. The Yanks needed a third baseman and now Sanchez will platoon with Jones over at first. Quails will be used in the pen to replace Lincoln.
So today is the last day of the trade deadline. No more random rumors connecting the two Pennsylvania baseball clubs or wondering where James Tallion where end up. After the clock strikes midnight, the Bucs will have their roster as they pursue win 82 and try to snap 20 seasons of futility (and possibly a divisional crown/wild card berth, but more on that later.) Below is a quick recap of the trades the Bucs have made so far as well as some things to watch for as the deadline nears. As always, Lets Go Bucs!
- The Pirates acquired Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros. The move sent some bigger prospects to Houston, but no one who would help the Pirates right now or be significant into the future. Wandy fared alright in his first start with the Pirates and is under team control for next season as well. This solidified the back end of the Pirates rotation for this year and next.
- Kevin Correia wants out of Pittsburgh. The starter was demoted to the bullpen after the trade above. The Pirates would love to have him has a backup starter in case of emergency or injury.
- The Pirates swapped 2006 first round picks with the addition of Travis Snider in exchange for Brad Lincoln. The deal sent a 24 year old outfielder to the Bucs but cost Pittsburgh one of their best relievers. Lincoln and Snider both have not reached their projected ceilings so this was a risky trade for both teams. Snider needs to work on strikeout numbers and hitting MLB pitching (sound familiar?).
So with those three major developments, here is what I would be watching out for:
- What about Starling Marte? I don’t think anyone will ask about him given his inconsistencies but there’s a chance a team will inquire. After acquiring Snider to hit in the middle of the lineup and ensure Marte bats leadoff, I think the outfielder connected in every trade rumor stays put.
- Will the Pirates trade for Lincoln’s replacement? Even Meek is the most likely guy to be recalled from AAA to fill Lincoln’s void, but with Correia wanting out, the Bucs could try to flip him for a reliever or a mid level prospect who would be given an MLB shot with the Pirates. I don’t think it would be like the Doctel for McDonald deal, but it would have the same spirit.
- What will the Reds do? Hot off a 10 game winning streak snapped in their own humiliating loss to an inferior opponent, it is tough to justify a move that messes with this team’s chemistry. But Drew Stubbs is not hitting very well, even at home leading many Cincy fans to holler for a trade. I don’t think the Reds move anyone because of how well they’ve done as of late.
- Finally, watch the Cards. If St. Louis was healthy this season, they would be above the Pirates and maybe even the Reds. Injuries have crippled a team that quietly has one of the most effective lineups of all baseball. Almost everyone is hitting around .300 with and OBP around .350. If they keep chugging along, they could make another late season run. If they make the right deal for an arm, they should be looked at as dark horse contenders.
Brad Lincoln’s name had been thrown out there as a potential trading partner for Shane Victorino, but Neal Huntington found a more attractive option for the Pirates in acquiring the recently recalled Travis Snider from the Blue Jays. The 24 year old tore up the PCL this season with a .335 BA and over 30 XBH and 57 RBI. So far at the MLB level, Snider is batting .250 with 3 HR and 8RBI in just 10 games.
At face value, this is a deal where both teams see different potentials with their team. The Blue Jays were a team I though Kevin Correia could be dealt to if the right cards came up due to their lack of pitching. The Jays are snatching up Lincoln in hopes that he can continue to be a force in the bullpen, but also make spot starts for their shattered rotation. From what we Pirates’ fans have seen, Lincoln is not comfortable taking the ball as a starter…yet. Toronto may hope that they can change that.
Meanwhile, Snider is a former #1 pick who has tore up minor league baseball as of late. A left handed bat, the Pirates are hoping he can develop into a consistent bat with some pop. As of now, Snider still needs work against left handed pitchers and smart pitchers will jam him inside, but the ceiling is high for this guy. From what little information we know about Snider right now, he could potentially hit 3 or 5. I like the move because it keeps Marte at the top of the lineup, Walker can now hit second with the middle of the lineup looking like murder’s row for a right handed pitcher.
There’s not a whole lot not to like from the Pirates’ perspective. No, the Pirates didn’t get a proven bat with years of postseason experience, but they did not overpay for a player who is producing about the same as any available veteran outfielders. Further more, the Bucs are obviously banking that Snider has room to grow and will be a late bloomer, much like Garrett Jones, who by the way can move back to first. It was a deal where both teams desperately needed what the other had and both are banking just as much on potential as they are on current production.
So Kevin Correia wants out? The former starter was pushed to the bullpen when the Pirates obtained Wandy Rodriguez and is not happen. After letting up a bases clearing double that gave Houston their 7th, 8th, and 9th runs, it’s tough to imagine the veteran is going to succeed in the pen. The Pirates would love to keep Correia in case Erik Bedard wears out or anyone gets hurt but with Jeff Locke looking REALLY good in AAA as of late and Brad Lincoln with the big club, it’s not like the Bucs need Correia.
I may not be the biggest fan of Correia but he’s been very good as of late making him somewhat of an asset to a team in desperate of pitching. The team also needs a somewhat pitcher friendly park because Correia isn’t striking anybody out anymore. The only teams I can think of that would need pitching and are buyers are Toronto and Baltimore. Both need another starter due to injuries and both are acting like buyers even though a playoff run is not likely in their cards. For both of these GM’s, Correia would be a low investment upgrade/insurance policy but I’m not sure how Kevin does in the AL.
The Pirates aren’t going to get much for Correia if anything, so this would be more of a curtosy trade than anything else. The best bet for the the Bucs is that Huntington knew this would happen and has been scouring the league for a hidden gem to grab. I think a deal does get done with someone, though Huntington isn’t going to aggressively pursue any deal unless an MLB bat is included somehow.
The good news: this team looks much better than the first place Pirates that faded out to 90 losses last season after briefly holding first place and struggling on their late July road trip through the National League. The bad news: this team is dangerously sliding heading into their series against Cincinnati at the end of the this week.
The Pirates lost today 9-5 and I wil reiterate the worries voiced over at BucsDugout.com: this team has not played well. Dropping 2 of 3 against the Cubs at home was a warning that something was array. Now, the Pirates leave Houston victors of 3 out of four but the tides could have very easily been turned if Houston had not gift wrapped two Pittsburgh victories. From just today’s loss, fans have to be worried about James McDonald. J-Mac is taking a Jubaldo Jiminez type nose dive post All Star Game and it is affecting the Pirates in a huge way. McDonald is struggling to locate any pitch while also allowing mistakes to multiply much like he did last season in rough outings. It might not be a bad idea to rest J-Mac for a day or so and work on adjustments because one more poor start and the Pirates are in serious trouble.
Offense isn’t the problem that it used to be for the Bucs, but it is definitely not going as smoothly as in June. Andrew McCutchen doesn’t have the ability to “slump” but he has been much quieter as of late with the big swings and RBI’s. This is due in large part to the fact that pitchers realize that there is little room to pitch to him and lefties has pretty much stopped all together. The rest of the lineup is chipping in here and there, but there are no consistent bats in the lineup. This didn’t matter as much in Houston, but at home versus the Cubs, the Pirates got blanked by Paul Maholm. Enough said.
The good news for the Pirates is that the bullpen is the glue of this team and they are the best in the MLB. If the Pirates can just get a lead and throw it to the pen, I like their chances to win the game. Granted, that won’t work 100% (even though after 7 innings it has so far) and it won’t work all he way until September, it can do for now while issues are sorted out and tweaked moving forward. Another showdown with the Cubs at Wrigley will define whether or not this team is truly on a skid or just a mild hiccup along the long road that makes up a baseball season.
I know I’m late to the party but the Erie Seawolves game went into 15 innings with a nice rain delay in the 12th, so I completely missed all of the game. But all you really need to know is that the Pirates took care of business by defeating the Astros 5-3 behind the performances of Starling Marte and A.J. Burnett. The pitcher went 7 1/3 innings and had a two hitter going before Houston hit two homers to pull closer. Once again, the Pirates bullpen was stellar and Joel Hanrahan picked up another save. Burnett has already surpassed his win total from last year and is quietly having the best year of his career with the Pirates. Who would’ve guessed that.
But the story of the night was Starling Marte. I was having a fun Twitter conversation with a friend with school and we botha greed the Pirates needed anther bat since Presley wasn’t working out at the top of the order as much as we would’ve liked. However, I assumed that with the call up of Marte, the Pirates had made the decision that overpaying for Chase Headley, Shane Victorino, or Hunter Pence was not worth the price of long term Pirates’ prospects. Therefore, Huntington decided to add a bat from within, and call up the biggest one in the Pirates system in Marte. Marte’s MLB debut made Huntington look like a genius. Marte mashed the first pitch he saw into the left center power alley to put the Pirates up 1-0. The Bucs thrived off that energy and put up two more in the inning thanks to Garrett Jones and a two run homer which was followed up in the second by a two RBI hit from Clint Barmes (playing against his old team).
So Marte has impressed all in day one. Starling’s a streaky, free swinging hitter so let’s see how he does when pitchers start throwing him sliders that break away from him or curveballs in the dirt. If he can stay hot through September, then the Pirates may have just solidified their lineup for a playoff run. I’m liking where this is going.
People may wonder why Pirates fans are “celebrating” this holiday which actually doesn’t technically happen until tomorrow around 1:50am. I have a feeling that for Pirates fans of this generation, this day will be remembered and “celebrated” for years to come for two reasons. First off, it is eerily symbolic of the Pirates during their losing stretch. No luck even when on the cusp of something big while the biggest stage is reserved only for losing. Secondly, if this truly is the year when the Pirates break the .500 mark, this game has a lot to do with it. The Pirates were young and inexperienced last season and the biggest difference between the 2011 and 2012 teams is the clubhouse. This year’s team learned how long of a season baseball is and that even the worst games need to be forgotten.
Except for fans. That’s what the blogosphere and social media do to ya I guess.
I remember this night like it was yesterday because that’s how much it hurt at the time, let alone two months later once the Pirates hit the 90 loss mark. I was on the computer Tweeting and talking to my girlfriend in Arizona and when the throw home hit The Fort’s mitt, I thought the play was over and went back to typing. All of the sudden, I hear the frenzy and look up to see Clint Hurdle screaming in the face of Jerry Meals. I was in shock and couldn’t believe that was how this amazing late inning game went. I watched the game start to finish because it was on ESPN and didn’t want to miss the Pirates’ chance of glory. The fallout was insane. Every baseball man and woman in America jumped on the Pirates’ sympathy trained, but it wasn’t enough to stop the free fall that followed.
As a fan, it seems like Atlanta has our number. The moment I saw the schedule, I assumed the Pirates would need to split the series against the Braves to finish .500 and that somehow we would be eluded by a reincarnation of Sid Bream. It’s a game NO ONE will forget if you’re a Pirates fan in this era. It’s crazy to think one team and two similar plays will forever be symbolic of 20+ seasons of losing. Happy Anniversary everyone!