With the trade deadline rapidly approaching the Pittsburgh Pirates are faced with the decision of adding more depth or to riding their current roster.
Last season Pittsburgh saw a complete collapse for a second straight season after the trade deadline passed. Some people questioned whether messing up the team chemistry played a role in the collapse.
The 2013 Pirates are right in the thick of the hunt for October. They currently are one game behind the NL Central leading Cardinals. They also have a four game lead on the Reds and a nine game lead on the Nationals in the Wild Card race.
Now the Pirates GM Neal Huntington must decide what will be the best moves to make to improve the Pirates chances for a postseason run.
“Experience of last two Julys won’t affect what we do, or don’t do, this Trade Deadline,” Huntington said.
It even appears that Huntington is willing to part with some of his top prospects. Some names tossed around that Pittsburgh may be willing to part with are Tony Sanchez, Jamison Taillon, Gregory Polanco,Josh Bell, Allen Hanson and Nick Kingham to name a few.
The Pirates are apparently involved in a trade rumor with the Chicago Cubs for Matt Garza along with the Cardinals, Rays, Indians, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Rangers. A team can never have enough arms but the Pirates have a solid rotation.
The right-hander is 6-1 with an ERA of 3.17 and has struck out 62 batters on the season. Those are good statistics but the Cubs’ asking price is mighty expensive.
Trading the house for a player that is a two month rental may not be the brightest decision on Huntington’s behalf.
Pittsburgh desperately needs to add a bat or two at the deadline in order to make the postseason and have a successful run. The team is batting .230 with runners in scoring position.
Also the Pirates have one of the worst benches in the league. With the combination of an inconsistent starting lineup, that doesn’t add up to a championship caliber team.
There’s Michael McKenry behind the plate and his .182 AVG/.236 OBP/.313 SLG line. The Fort provided many key hits for the Pirates during previous seasons. His work ethic is one any coach would love but he may be hurting his team more than helping unless he drastically improves.
Then there is Brandon Inge and his .183/.206/.240 line. Inge and Barmes are virtually the same player. Barmes is paid $5.5 million to bat .221 with a .251 OBP.
Both are good clubhouse guys who provide leadership and a veteran presence, but they aren’t producing. Like last season, Barmes has came on strong in the second half and may be the better of the two to keep.
Finally there is Travis Snider, who despite his power potential, has produced a .224/.295/.333 line. Snider has had some key hits but he could be a problem for the long haul. Combined with a streaky group of starters, this could spell trouble for the Pirates down the stretch of the season.
Some potential upgrade options could be the White Sox’s Alex Rios, the Cubs’ Nate Schierholtz or the Mariners’ Kendrys Morales.
Schierholtz is having a career year and has produced a .269/.327/.498 line. He would be an upgrade to bring off the bench or to platoon with Tabata in right field but he cannot hit left handers, much like the current right fielders.
Rios is batting .270 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs but has been very inconsistent over the years.
The Gaby Sanchez/ Garrett Jones platoon is not working for the Pirates. Sanchez had a stellar spring and this looked like a great combination. Jones has struggled against right-handed pitchers recently, leading to the overall poor production from first base.
Morales would be a better fit for Pittsburgh versus Rios or Schierholtz. Morales is hitting for a .280/.337/.463 line in 350 at-bats. He doesn’t really have any platoon splits, since he’s a switch hitter. He actually has done a better job this year of hitting left-handers.
If Pittsburgh adds Morales that gives them the option of a Sanchez/ Pedro Alvarez platoon at third. Alvarez has dominated righties this year but has still struggled with lefties.
Sanchez could also be a bench option against lefties. He has a .961 OPS against left-handers.
Jones could be moved to right field or the bench. If Jones heats up again, he would provide more power than Snider and Tabata. He could also add legit power off the bench.
Morales would be a less costly move for the Pirates to make. Seattle needs pitching and the farm system has plenty. Losing a prospect or two wouldn’t break the bank for Pittsburgh.