You can use this storystream to follow trade talk and rumors about the Pittsburgh Pirates as we approach the 2011 MLB Trade Deadline, which comes July 31.
I already wrote about the Pirates' quandary at the trade deadline this year, and things aren't any more certain than they were a couple weeks ago. Usually, the Bucs simply trade off veterans for youngsters, which makes their general strategy pretty simple.
This year, though, they're hovering around .500. The Pirates haven't really tipped their hands regarding their trade deadline plans, but they've said repeatedly in the past that .500 is not, in itself, a goal, so I wouldn't expect them to make any major trades of prospects for veterans unless they also feel they have a legitimate shot at a playoff berth.
At the same time, though, they have a major 40-man roster crunch coming in the offseason due to their depth in lower-grade prospects in their system. They can afford to ship out a marginal prospect or two for a short-term fix at catcher or a corner position, while doing little damage to their long-term goals. So while I highly doubt they will trade important minor-leaguers, such as, say, Stetson Allie or Starling Marte, I think they probably will consider trading lesser lights.
The depth in the minors also makes it less likely than usual that they'll trade veterans like Joel Hanrahan or Paul Maholm. Not only can the Pirates keep both players around next year if they want to (and in Hanrahan's case, they certainly will if he's still in Pittsburgh at the end of the season), and not only are the Bucs currently still contending, but the kinds of prospects they typically get in exchange for veterans just aren't as valuable to them as they typically are. If the Pirates, for some reason, get offered, a legitimate, high-upside prospect for either of those two players, I think they'll consider it, but they aren't going to trade them for scraps.
I also wouldn't rule out the possibility that the Pirates trade a veteran like Hanrahan or Maholm for a younger, major-league-ready player who can help them now, such as a catcher or a shortstop. That is, they might move a veteran in a trade that qualifies as neither buying nor selling, but instead as something in between.
Of course, much remains to be seen from the Pirates' play. This outlook on their trading deadline could change radically if they have a fantastic month of July, or if they have a very poor one.
We'll start hearing more specific rumors soon. Check back here and at Bucs Dugout for more.