Pirates Trade Rumors: Bucs Acquire Derrek Lee, Ryan Ludwick

This storystream will follow trade rumors about the Pirates as the July 31 deadline approaches.

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Ryan Ludwick, Derrek Lee Trades Will Bolster Pirates' Struggling Offense

In case you haven't seen it, here's a recap of the Pirates' trades of the past weekend. They got first baseman Derrek Lee from the Baltimore Orioles for first base prospect Aaron Baker, who wasn't among the Pirates' top 30 prospects. They also got outfielder Ryan Ludwick for a player to be named later or cash. 

First, it's worth pointing out that the Pirates gave up practically nothing here, except money. Baker isn't worth worrying about, and the player to be named probably won't be either. That's a coup for the Pirates in a trading market in which other teams gave up top prospects for help. In addition, the Pirates may be able to get compensatory draft picks for Ludwick and/or Lee after the season is over.

Lee and Ludwick are both veterans on the downsides of their career, but they both can definitely help. Lee is a much better hitter than Lyle Overbay; that's obvious. While he has had a poor year by his standards, he's only two years removed from a brilliant 2009 campaign, and he's better than Overbay even as his current depressed level.

Ludwick's stats this year have likewise been unimpressive, but he's had to play in the very tough hitting environment in PETCO Park. He's a better hitter than Matt Diaz, whose role he'll essentially fill, and a much better defensive player. He's good enough to handle the big left field in PNC Park if need be. There's been some speculation about who will lose his job as a result of Ludwick's arrival. I suspect it will be Diaz. Ludwick is a righty, like Diaz is, and is better than Diaz in just about every phase of the game. Ludwick should play a bunch until Alex Presley or Jose Tabata come back, and then he'll take on a reduced role.

These additions won't put the world on notice, but general manager Neal Huntington upgraded the Pirates while paying very little.

For more on the Pirates' trades, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trades: Orioles' Adam Jones Talks About Derrek Lee

Since news of the Pirates' trade for Derrek Lee became official Saturday night, a lot of the focus on what the Pirates are getting out of the 35-year old has been on his numbers, good and bad. They're tangible and accessible for fans who don't get to see what players and media do in the clubhouse on a daily basis.

In a piece on the departures of Lee and relief pitcher Koji Uehara  (traded to the Rangers) from Baltimore, however, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun offers a glimpse into the kind of guy Lee is with his teammates, and specifically how he mentored Orioles' centerfielder Adam Jones.

Center fielder Adam Jones was particularly close to Lee and said he — and Uehara — would be missed.

"I tried to learn a lot from [Lee] about being a man in this game. And he helped me a lot," Jones said. "Both of them, it kind of [stinks] they are not here anymore. But it’s a business, and I wish the best for them. But they are late in their careers, they are not getting younger and they need to win. Everybody in this game wants to win, and I realize this is the best opportunity for them."

If the Pirates are lucky, players will be saying that about Lee when he leaves Pittsburgh, too. These youthful Bucs don't have a lot of veterans, and certainly not veterans with experience playing in pennant races. He could mentor any number of guys on the team now and have a positive effect not only in 2011, but in the years to come. That could make this trade a good one whether his production helps push the Pirates over the top in the National League Central or not.


Pirates Trades: Ryan Ludwick, Neal Huntington Comment On Deal With Padres

Ryan Ludwick is now headed to Pittsburgh, and if his initial comments about the deal involving him between the Pirates and Padres is any indication, he's looking forward to a new start back in the NL Central. MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch has the story.

"I'm going to another team that has a chance to make the playoffs," Ludwick said. "I'm going back to the NL Central, a division I'm familiar with and a ballpark where I've done pretty well."

Ludwick has, in fact, had success at PNC Park. For his career, he's hitting .267 with five home runs, 18 RBIs, and an .833 OPS in 27 games at the 10-year old stadium. He's also had success against the first place Brewers, the Pirates' primary competition for the National League Central crown.  In 50 games against Milwaukee, Ludwick is hitting .285 with eight home runs, 40 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

General manager Neal Huntington is counting on numbers like those to make this deal work for his team, as Ludwick's .238/11 home run/64 RBI/.674 OPS line leaves some to be desired in the hearts of many fans. He had this to say to Langosch.

"As we look at the numbers behind the numbers, there is every indication in the world that Ryan has a great chance to be very solid for us for these two months," Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said. "Sometimes the surface numbers can be a little misleading. In our minds, in Ryan Ludwick's case, they are very misleading."

Expect more from Ludwick tomorrow when he should make his arrival in Pittsburgh.


Pirates Trades: Early Reaction To Derrek Lee, Ryan Ludwick Deals

With the trade deadline now in the rearview mirror, reactions to the Pirates' moves for first baseman Derrek Lee and outfielder Ryan Ludwick are trickling in. Here are some of the early opinions from local and national personalities.

Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Bob Smizik thinks the moves makes the Pirates better, but wonders if they were too late.

Lee, who was acquired Saturday for a minor leaguer, is an upgrade over Lyle Overbay at first base. Ludwick becomes one of the Pirates three best outfielders.

The team is better today than it was Saturday. The question is: Does it matter any more?

The Pirates are staggering into August. They’ve lost five of six and eight of 11. The 6-5, 10-inning loss to Philadelphia today dropped them 4½ games behind first-place Milwaukee. They are closer to fourth-place Cincinnati (2 games) than they are to second-place St. Louis (2½ games). They've scored only 37 runs in the past 13 games.

ESPN's Buster Olney appears to like the deals.

Pirates added a couple of veteran hitters at modest cost, in Ludwick and Lee. Makes them better.

Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan had this to say about the Lee deal Saturday night...

Pittsburgh management said it would do everything it could to stay competitive in the NL Central, which means the Pirates better have a busy Sunday, because even if Lee is hitting .261/.306/.533 in July, it’s not nearly enough.

...and this to say about the Ludwick deal Sunday afternoon.

The Pirates get incrementally better, which, for a team that is playing as much for 2012, ’13 and beyond as this season, is the appropriate sort of measure. Ludwick will appreciate escaping the dungeon of Petco Park, though his career year of 2008 seems more like a decade ago. Pittsburgh beat out Cleveland, which is supposed to happen only in football.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Dejan Kovacevic has these brief thoughts. He'll probably have more later.

I can't think of good reason to look forward to Ryan Ludwick coming to -- aside from isolated 2008 season -- but I'm open-minded.

Pat Lackey of Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke offers this.

Ludwick is not an exciting acquisition. He's not the player he was when he played for the Cardinals. But he does give the Pirates a bit more depth and if he's used properly, I think he could strengthen the platoon lineup against lefties quite a bit. He plays good defense, he's getting out of Petco, and it doesn't seem like the Pirates gave up a whole lot to get him. Obviously I'd rather have someone like Jason Kubel, but it doesn't seem like that was an option for the Pirates. Ludwick should make the Pirates a little bit deeper, at least until Tabata and Presley come back, and by extenstion a little bit better for the stretch run. 

Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects adds:

Overall I like him as a short term solution over Garrett Jones.  His defense is much better, although his offense is a concern, especially since he’s 32, and only has one standout year (2008).  When Alex Presley and Jose Tabata return, I wouldn’t start Ludwick, even with his salary, as I don’t think he upgrades either of the young outfielders.  He’d be a nice option off the bench, mostly for his defense.  The big bonus here would be the Type B status, which could land the Pirates a compensation pick.

More will probably trickle out tonight, so stay tuned here to SB Nation Pittsburgh for all the latest.


Ryan Ludwick Trade Improves Pirates For Very Low Cost

Here’s my second attempt at this post, which the internet snafed the first time. The Pirates have acquired outfielder Ryan Ludwick from the San Diego Padres, reportedly for cash or a player to be named.

Basically, players to be named later rarely turn out to be good, so the Pirates are essentially getting Ludwick here in exchange for their willingness to pick up salary. They also might get a draft pick for him at the end of the year if he is named a Type B free agent, as expected.

This is a nice, cheap move for the Pirates, who wisely avoided the steep prices other teams paid for stars – the Bucs aren’t in any position to be giving up top prospects. Instead, they acquired a starting first baseman in Derrek Lee, along with a good defensive outfielder who might still be able to hit if he’s moved out of the terrible hitting environment in San Diego, for very little. Ludwick will likely play every day until Jose Tabata or Alex Presley return, then play against lefties and in the late innings after that.

Lee will replace Lyle Overbay, and Ludwick will cut into Matt Diaz’s playing time. It’s possible that both Overbay and Diaz could lose their jobs as a result of these deals.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Ryan Ludwick Trade Could Be Close To Fruition For Pirates, Padres

The Pirates are nearing a trade for Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick, Jon Paul Morosi writes. The Bucs have until 4:00 PM Sunday before the non-waiver trade deadline passes.

Ludwick had been connected to the Cleveland Indians earlier in the afternoon, but those rumors appear to have died down.

Ludwick’s statistics have been superficially depressing-looking this season, but he’s had to play half his games in San Diego, which has the worst park in the nation for hitters. He would likely be a platoon player with the Pirates – he plays good defense, and I think he can still hit a little, so the Pirates can find plenty of uses for him against lefty starters and late in games. (He has actually hit righties better over his career, but he's better against lefties this year.) If the Pirates were to complete the deal, it’s possible that Matt Diaz, who similarly is supposed to be a lefty-hitting outfielder, would be the odd man out.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Morosi: Bucs Interested In Omar Infante

Fox Sports' Jon Morosi is absolutely all over Pirates' trade rumors at the moment. His latest tidbit via Twitter suggests the Bucs are taking a look at the Marlins' Omar Infante as the MLB trade deadline approaches.

are interested in many bats right now, sources say. One of them: Omar Infante of the .

Infante, 29, is at the end of his deal with Florida and is having kind of a subpar season to this point. He's hitting just .266 with one home run and a .644 OPS in 107 games for the Fish. He has been very solid the last three seasons, though, posting OPS figures of .750 plus in each while with the Braves. He's also been pretty strong since the All-Star break with a .357 average and .902 OPS.

If the Pirates think his hot streak has some legs to it, there's a good chance he could be an upgrade on what the Pirates are playing at shortstop, especially if Ronny Cedeno is headed back to the disabled list. Given his poor overall stats and his expiring contract, he probably wouldn't cost much, either, so this deal makes some sense, if it goes down.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Chris Iannetta Not Starting For Rockies

Troy Renck tweets that Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta isn’t in the team’s starting lineup even though he was to be in the lineup on Sunday. Of course, that might be insignificant, but the Pirates were connected to Iannetta a couple weeks back, so this is worth keeping an eye on.

The Bucs are in search of a longer-term option at catcher – Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit have both been injured for much of this year and will be let go at the end of the year, and as fun a player as Michael McKenry is, he doesn’t really hit enough to be a full-time starter long term. (Although that might change, of course.)

The question is whether Iannetta would be the right guy. He has massive home-road splits, and it’s a big problem when a Rockies player is doing all his hitting in the thin air of Colorado. He’s similar to Snyder in that he posts very low batting averages but draws walks and has power. The question is whether that batting average would shrink to an impossibly low number at PNC.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Morosi: Twins Not Trading Kubel, Expects Pirates To Make Move For B.J. Upton

Though we heard earlier in the day Jason Kubel was the Pirates' top target here on trade deadline day, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets people shouldn't get their hopes up over the Twins' outfielder.

Source: "are not trading Kubel." That’s the strongest I’ve heard it this month.

Morosi adds that he doesn't think the Bucs are done trying to add an outfield bat, though, adding...

If Kubel is truly out of play, then I anticipate to make a serious bid for Upton.

B.J. Upton would probably be a costly add for the Bucs as he's arbitration eligible after this season. While he's probably at the zenith of his trade value at the moment, the Rays are in the driver's seat in these negotiations as it isn't an all-or-nothing situation for them yet. If Neal Huntington holds firm to his stance that the Pirates won't give up the farm to make a deadline addition, it'd be rather surprising if the Bucs end up with Upton by the end of all this.   


MLB Trade Rumors: Jason Kubel To Pirates?

Some flotsam regarding the upcoming MLB Trade Deadline: Rob Biertempfel writes that the Pirates want Twins outfielder Jason Kubel, while Jon Paul Morosi says that the two teams are not in serious discussions about him. So, you know, whatever! I’ll say this – 99.9 percent of what appears on Twitter is stuff you don’t really need to know, but at least you only have to go to one website to get it!

Anyway, Kubel is a poor defensive player, but unlike a lot of the players to whom the Pirates have been connected recently, he can really hit, and would immediately be a large upgrade to the Pirates’ offense. Unfortunately, I’m inclined to believe Morosi’s account – he would probably be pretty expensive in a trade, and I doubt the Pirates will want to give up good prospects, particularly after they’ve tailed off here in the past couple weeks.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Ryan Ludwick Reportedly A Possibility

The Pirates could still trade for Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick’s 2011 numbers look bad, but he has to play in the offensive death trap of San Diego’s PETCO Park, so there’s reason to expect better from him if he were to move elsewhere. Also, he’s a good defender who can play either left or right field, and he’s a righty, which means he can improve the Pirates against lefty pitching. Ludwick would be a nice addition as long as the Pirates didn’t give up too much, and I assume they won’t. He’d also be especially useful now, with Jose Tabata and Alex Presley out.

The Bucs are also evidently having a “closed-door team meeting,” so I wouldn’t assume they’re done after having traded for Derrek Lee Saturday night. The trading deadline is at 4:00 PM Eastern, and after that teams can only make trades through waivers.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade For Derrek Lee; Should They Do More?

If the Pirates' trade for Derrek Lee turns out to be their only major move before the MLB Trade Deadline Sunday afternoon, many fans will be disappointed. But should they be? Is it fair to expect the Pirates to make a major deal?

I say no. For whatever reason, teams are back to making win-now trades, dealing top prospects to take a shot at a World Series. The Phillies paid a stiff price for outfielder Hunter Pence, giving up a couple of very good prospects, including outfielder Jonathan Singleton, who has star potential. The Indians similarly paid quite a lot for Ubaldo Jimenez, dealing their 2009 and 2010 first-round picks.

The Pirates shouldn't do that. If those are the sorts of prices star players are fetching on the market, the Bucs should pass. They can't afford to trade a Singleton, frankly, because they cannot be successful as a lower-payroll team (and while they will need to raise their payroll in the coming years, it will always be low relative to teams like the Phillies) without players like Singleton who are cheap and very productive in the early years of their careers. The Pirates' surprising season so far, for example, has been built around the success of Andrew McCutchen, who is making near the league minimum salary.

That's why the Pirates' trade for Derrek Lee, though boring, made a fair amount of sense. Lee isn't a world-beater anymore, but he's still much better than Lyle Overbay, so the Pirates addressed a need. And in Aaron Baker, they really didn't mortgage their future or give up a whole lot. Fans might not like that now, but they're going to be thankful in 2014, when guys like Jameson Taillon and Starling Marte are helping the Pirates win.


After Derrek Lee Trade, What Might Pirates Do Before MLB Trade Deadline?

On Saturday night, the Pirates acquired first baseman Derrek Lee from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for first base prospect Aaron Baker. It was the first prospect-for-veteran trade for the organization in a long time, unless you count the nonsensical Matt Morris deal from 2007. Now that that's over, and the Pirates' most glaring need (first base help) has been met, what might we expect from them on Sunday?

Well, maybe nothing. But with Jose Tabata and Alex Presley still on the shelf, it wouldn't be surprising if they made some kind of move for an outfielder. A catcher is also a possibility, although the Bucs haven't been connected to Chris Iannetta or anyone else in the past week or so. Finally, they might make a deal for a reliever, particularly a lefty. Tony Watson and, to a lesser degree, Joe Beimel have performed well as the Bucs' bullpen lefties recently, though, and there really aren't any other glaring weaknesses in the bullpen.

In short, I think Neal Huntington and the Pirates will work hard to make deals happen on Sunday. But it wouldn't be a shock if they came up empty-handed.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Reaction To Derrek Lee Trade

The Pirates' trade for Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee was finalized fairly late on Saturday night, but reaction is already flowing in from local pundits and observers. Here's a quick look at what people are saying about there deal.

Former Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist Bob Smizik likes the trade, but wants to see more from the Pirates' front office.

But the Pirates need to do more. They need to sacrifice more of their farm system than a Class A position player. That’s nothing.

This has been stated before in this space but it needs to be stated again: Although the Pirates fell 3½ games out of first place with this latest loss, they remain in contention for the championship of the NL Central. Opportunities like this for teams like the Pirates don’t come along very often.

They need to act is an aggressive fashion to secure more offensive help than Lee. He is not enough.

Pat Lackey of Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke likes the trade, and wonders if general manager Neal Huntington has any other plans for deadline day.

Lee won't be the player that pushes this Pirate team into the playoffs in 2011, but he'll definitely make them better and the club managed to make the deal without giving up much from their farm system. That makes it a good trade. The question now is whether or not Neal Huntington's done dealing before tomorrow's 4 PM deadline.

Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects believes he's an upgrade on what the Bucs have been fielding at first base.

 If you look at his overall numbers this year, he doesn’t look like much of an upgrade from Overbay.  If you look closer, you’ll see that he’s on a hot streak, and had a big second half in 2010.  That makes him an upgrade from Overbay.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Dejan Kovacevic is a big fan of the trade, but also want to see more.

I like Lee for many more reasons than that he’s better than Overbay. (I wrote in my column the other day that a random Fed Leaguer from Pittsburgh would be better.) I like Lee’s history of OBP, I like the fact that he’s right-handed, I like that he’s had a .297 career average at PNC Park (which he’ll tell you is not his favorite place to hit), I like the fact that he’ll play outstanding defense, and I like more than anything this second-half trend.

All that said, the Pirates need more.

Watching Jose Tabata barely handle any activity here, he doesn’t look like he’ll be back soon. Another outfielder would be welcome, even if it means Tabata returns and either he or Alex Presley comes off the bench. More pitching would be nice, too, even though most of the players disagree with me on that.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Derrek Lee Comments On Being Dealt To Pittsburgh

Derrek Lee is now a Pittsburgh Pirate, and though you can probably expect more reaction from the first baseman in the morning, MLB.com Orioles beat reporter Britt Ghiroli has some initial words from the now ex-bird.

[on joining Pittsburgh]
Yeah they are playing good. They turned it around so good for them.  I’m still playing baseball, so that’s always a good thing.

Predictably, some fans on Twitter and other corners of the Internet are disappointed not to see more enthusiasm in Lee's words, but it's important to keep in mind he was probably sitting in the clubhouse of a team that had just been smacked 17-3 by the Yankees. It was probably the classy move to keep things low-key on his way out of town. It's probably wise to see what he has to say once he joins the team before jumping to conclusions about he level of excitement to be with the Bucs.


Derrek Lee Trade: Pirates Get Lee From Orioles For Aaron Baker; Could This Mean The End For Lyle Overbay?

The Pirates have evidently traded first base prospect Aaron Baker for Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee and cash.

From the Pirates’ perspective, this is a fine trade, if not an earth-shattering one. Given what has been required to trade for bigger-ticket items like Hunter Pence, the Pirates were probably wise not to make a huge deal – unlike teams like the Phillies, they need to keep their best prospects. Lee is in the decline phase of his career, but he’s still a big upgrade on Lyle Overbay, and he did hit 35 homers as recently as 2009. If he gets some of that old spark, the stretch run should be a lot of fun, and even if he doesn’t, it’s hard to imagine the Pirates’ play at first base being worse.

Aaron Baker played first base for the Class A+ Bradenton Marauders. He was a little old for the level. He has good power, but he doesn’t hit for outstanding averages, and strikeouts should hold him back as he moves up. Given that he has very little defensive value, it’s hard to imagine him becoming a major-league starter, although it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The Pirates haven’t given up here.

The Pirates will have to make a roster move to make space for Lee, and it’s possible they will release Overbay, who wouldn’t be much more useful as a bench player than he would be as a starter.


Pirates Close To Derrek Lee Trade, According To Report

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets that the Pirates look to be about to complete a trade for first baseman Derrek Lee.

1 source said it’s “very likely” Lee ends up with Bucs, tho Pitts will look at medicals closely. O’s likely to pay money and get A ball plyr

Unless the Class A player is someone decent, which I frankly doubt, I guess I can’t have much of a problem with this – Lee is a clear upgrade on Lyle Overbay, as just about anyone would be. But of all the names you see on this storystream – Jason Kubel, Casey Kotchman, Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Pena and so on – I like Derrek Lee the least. He’s 35 and doesn’t hit terribly well anymore. There’s certainly the possibility that he’ll catch fire down the stretch, since he’s only two years removed from a 35-homer season with the Cubs in 2009, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Until we find out what the Orioles would get, there’s little else to say about this.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Orioles, check out Camden Chat.


MLB Trade Rumors: Cubs' Carlos Pena Won't Be Dealt, Says Buster Olney

Buster Olney tweets that the Cubs won’t deal first baseman Carlos Pena. I have no idea why not, but hey, the Cubs didn’t get to the position they’re in by being smart. Also keep in mind that, while I don’t doubt that someone told Olney this, it might not be true. In the last five days, we’ve heard that Pena will definitely be traded, that he won’t be traded, that the Pirates are very interested in him, that the Pirates aren’t interested in him, that the Cubs are planning on converting him into a knuckleballing reliever, that he totally made out with your girlfriend in a bar on Clark Street, and that he’s running for prime minister of Madagascar. None of this means anything. This whole storystream makes me sad about writing about sports for a living. Don’t tell anyone.

Anyway, for more on the Cubs, check out Bleed Cubbie Blue and SB Nation Chicago. For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Kovacevic: 'Prospect Price High' For Derrek Lee

The Pirates' interest in Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee was first reported by Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto late Thursday night and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Dejan Kovacevic tweets the team is still interested in him.

have inquired on 1B Derrek Lee. I'm told money no issue, but prospect price high.

Lee isn't worth blue chip prospects. He strikes out a lot and his on-base percentage is pretty low at just .306. If Baltimore is looking for a Rudy Owens level prospect, let alone top-of-the-line guys like Jameson Tallion, Stetson Allie and Starling Marte, the Pirates are probably better off looking elsewhere.

That said, he might be worth a pair of fringe prospects, as he has a very solid track record of second half success. Between 2008-2010, Lee posted a robust .308 avg./.908 OPS after the All-Star break and he's keeping with that trend this season at .321/.972.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Latest Scattershot Carlos Pena Rumor Says Cubs Don't Want To Trade Him

Jon Heyman on the Pirates’ potential pursuit – or not of Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena:

#pirates inquired on carlos pena, but sense is #cubs werent motivated to move him. unsure d. lee is upgrade.

Um, okey-dokey. The Cubs are a million games out of first place and have no particular use for Pena anymore, but hey, whatever.

Good thing the deadline is on Sunday – I’m beginning to get a little rumor-phobic. A few days ago we heard that it was the Pirates who had lost interest in a Pena trade. But before that, they had been scouting him for a month, although nobody really liked him too much. Nonetheless, the Cubs were just about certain to move him. All of this has been reported in the past five days.

Clearly, we’ve reached a point where the signal-to-noise ratio has become microscopic. If this went on for another week, we’d probably be hearing reports that the Cubs were considering trading Pena to the Orix Buffaloes; that the Pirates were considering infiltrating Wrigley Field, kidnapping Pena and holding him for ransom; that Pena was considering quitting baseball to become an astronaut; and that the Oakland Athletics were considering retiring his number. The string of rumors that currently surround Pena collectively make about as much sense as all of that does.


Hunter Pence Trade Shows Pirates Were Right To Stay Out Of It

The Philadelphia Phillies have acquired Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence, meaning the Pirates have to look in other directions.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Phillies paid quite a lot to get Pence. They gave up 19-year-old outfield prospect Jonathan Singleton, who has hit very well at Class A+ this year. They also gave up Jarred Cosart, one of their better pitching prospects (although by no means a great one) and two other players.

That’s a bunch. There’s no easy comparison to a similar package might have been for the Pirates, but in terms of value, it’s probably something like Starling Marte and Stetson Allie, or maybe even a bit better than that. The Phillies can afford to give up prospects like Singleton in trades, since they have far less need than the Pirates for young, cheap players to fill spots at the major-league level. Personally, I would rather just leave Pence alone. Look for the Pirates to make a lower-profile move at the deadline on Sunday.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Carlos Lee In Bucs' Mix?

We're less than 48 hours away from the MLB trading deadline now, and Pirates trade rumors are beginning to get a little whacky. KDKA producer Mike Vukovcan has this one, right out of left field.

Here's a rumor I hadn't heard before.......Pirates having interest in Houston OF Carlos Lee......Stay Tuned!less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply


Lee, 35, was once among the most feared hitters in the National League but his numbers have gone south the last couple of years. In 2010, he posted just a .708 OPS in 157 games with the Astros, and though he's rebounded for a solid .777 number with 10 home runs this season, his $18.5 million salary due in 2012 would appear to be a non-starter for the typically frugal Pirates.

His numbers are good enough to be a solid upgrade on either Lyle Overbay at first base or the platoon in right field, but at that gigantic salary number, the Pirates would be silly to take him on over cheaper options with similar production numbers. The guess here is the Astros would have to pay a large chunk of that salary for the Pirates to even consider moving on Lee by the deadline.

The Pirates are desperate for bats, but $18.5 million in 2012 desperate? I find that kind of hard to believe.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Perrotto: Bucs' Top Tagets Casey Kotchman, Derrek Lee And Jason Kubel

Two days and change away from the MLB trading deadline, it's still not clear what direction the Pirates will go in their search for bats to bolster their anemic lineup. They've been connected to big names like Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence and Carlos Pena over the last month, but as the hours tick off, it appears the club has its sights set on more average targets. Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto is reporting three players in particular as top targets.


We touched on Kubel a bit here at SB Nation Pittsburgh yesterday when ESPN's Jayson Stark reported the Pirates have interest in him. While his numbers are good, Stark pointed out the Twins still consider themselves in the American League Central race, so he probably won't come cheap. You have to figure the Pirates understand that, however, if they're still interested in making a push for him. Perrotto says elsewhere in his Twitter feed that Kubel is the No. 1 target right now. We'll see soon if that leads to anything.

As far as Lee and Kotchman go, they're hardly the most desirable replacements for Lyle Overbay at first base, but if they can offer even a little more production on the cheap, the Pirates have to consider them.

Lee, once a star with the Cubs, has taken a bit of a nosedive since moving to the American League with the Orioles. He's hitting just .248 with 11 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .703 OPS in 82 games with Baltimore, but compare that to Overbay's .230/7/35/.644 line and Lee is a pretty clear upgrade as it stands. If, as Perrotto says in his Twitter feed, he'd benefit from a move back to the National League as the Pirates hope, he could offer an even more significant boost to the offense.

Kotchman, once a highly touted prospect in the Angels organization, is finally beginning to realize some of his potential as a 28-year old with the Rays. Though he's light on home run power with just four long balls in 2011, his .325 batting average and .834 OPS would be a real shot in arm for the Bucs at first base.

Overall, these names aren't flashy, but if the Pirates could nab Kubel and one of these first basemen, they'll have done fairly well for themselves in this sellers market. Make no mistake, they're no all-stars, but they're all above replacement level, which is about all the Bucs are getting from Overbay at first base and Xavier Paul and Garrett Jones in the outfield with Jose Tabata and Alex Presley injured.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Stark: Bucs Cooling On Carlos Pena, Josh Willingham, Eye Jason Kubel

It looked last night like the Pirates were hot on the trail of the Cubs' Carlos Pena as ESPN Chicago reported the team has been scouting him for over a month, but ESPN's Jayson Stark believes there's a lack of intense interest from Pittsburgh in that slugger and that the Bucs have turned their attention to another hitter.

An official of a club that has been speaking with the Pirates said their No. 1 focus is on finding a "professional hitter." They seem to have backed off on Carlos Pena. They are said to be lukewarm about Josh Willingham. And B.J. Upton doesn't fit that definition. So one name other clubs say Pittsburgh has its eyes on is the Twins' Jason Kubel. But Twins GM Bill Smith told Rumblings his team is "trying to make our club better, we still think we're very much in contention, and we're excited to see where we go in the next two months."

Kubel is 29 and is having a solid season. In 58 games with the Twins, he's hitting .314 with an .836 OPS, 18 home runs and 49 RBIs. He's valued as a 1.2 offensive WAR according to Baseball Reference. He'd be a nice addition, and could probably fit nicely in the outfield, but his contract is set to expire at the end of the season, so in all likelihood, he'd be a rental player.

It looks like Pena's slump of late has turned the Pirates off some. It's hard to blame Huntington and Co. for being hesitant to add another big contract with a slumping bat, but considering Smith's comments, Pena might be the best the Bucs can do. In an ideal world, the Pirates would be able to get Kubel ahead of Pena, but considering Pena would probably be easier to acquire simply by taking his contract and is signed through next year, it's reasonable to expect the front office will give him another look before the trade deadline on Sunday.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Bucs Scouting Carlos Pena

To the surprise of almost no one, the Pirates appear to have interest in Cubs' first baseman Carlos Pena. ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine reports the Pirates have been following Pena's big bat for a while now.

Scouts from the Pittsburgh Pirates have been following Chicago Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena for more than a month, according to multiple major league sources.

The Pirates, currently involved in a four-team race to win the NL Central, are looking to add a big bat before baseball's July 31st trade deadline. At least one Pittsburgh scout will be on hand when the Cubs take on the Brewers on Wednesday night.

Levine points out Pena is in a bit of a slump right now, so that might bring his asking price down a bit. With Lyle Overbay scuffling like he is, however, the Pirates really aren't in a position to wait for the perfect deal. As I write this, the Pirates haven't scored in 22 innings. With one more game against the Braves and three against the Phillies before the trading deadline at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, it would behoove them to get Pena's bat in their lineup as soon as possible if they're serious about acquiring him.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Kovacevic: Carlos Beltran Refused Trade To Pittsburgh

At this hour, it looks like Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran is heading to the Giants in a trade, but not before he blocked a deal to the Pirates with his no-trade clause according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Outfielder Carlos Beltran refused to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Pirates, according to a team source, when the Pirates were among several teams pursuing him from the New York Mets.

The Mets are close to a deal to send Beltran to the San Francisco Giants.

The Pirates made an aggressive push to get Beltran, who might have been their top trade target, even though Beltran would have cost $6.5 million the rest of the season. The Pirates and Cleveland Indians both were willing to pick up all of that money. In the deal with the Giants, the Mets will be picking up $4 million of that cost.

Beltran's lack of respect for the Pirates is well documented. After the Pirates swept the Mets in 2009, the 34-year old dealt a major dis to the Bucs.

"We have to find a way to play better, there's no doubt. Overall. I'm not pointing fingers at anybody. Offense, defense, pitching -- we have to find a way to play better. The reality of this is, coming here to Pittsburgh and being swept -- personally, I feel embarrassed"

It's little surprise that Beltran, who's said he wants to win wherever he goes, would block a deal to a team he thinks so little of. That doesn't change the fact that it's a flagrant slap in the Pirates' face, and certainly bulletin board material that you can bet the Pirates hope will come back to haunt him if the Bucs and Giants meet in the postseason.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Heyman: Pirates In On Heath Bell

It's hard to argue the Pirates need much relief help right now after the bullpen held the Braves at bay for 13 innings and change Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, but Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman reports the Pirates are one of the teams in on the San Diego Padres' Heath Bell.

Bell is said to have particular interest in going to the Cardinals, one of many teams not yet offering enough. The Rangers, Phillies, Angels, Reds, Pirates, White Sox and Yankees also have shown interest (though the Yankees and White Sox to a lesser degree).

Bell, 33, has been outstanding for San Diego this season with a 2-3 record, 2.40 ERA, 29 saves and 31 strikeouts against 16 walks in 41.1 innings. All that said, the Padres, understandably, are probably looking for a lot for him, and given the success the Pirates have had out of the 'pen this season, its hard to see GM Neal Huntington and Co. giving him more than a quick glance as they continue to search for a much needed bat.

Remember, the Pirates got James McDonald and Andrew Lambo from the Dodgers at the trading deadline last season for Octavio Dotel. The Padres accepting less than a package like that for their highly coveted reliever is probably unrealistic, and the Pirates can't afford to be giving up pieces like, say, a Brad Lincoln or a Starling Marte for a relief pitcher.  As nice as having Bell to shorten the game in front of Joel Hanrahan would be for the Bucs, it's a luxury, not a need. Upgrading at first base should be the priority four days from the deadline.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Stark: Interest In Carlos Pena 'Exaggerated'

With Lyle Overbay in a serious funk, the Pirates' need at first base probably couldn't be more dire at the moment as Sunday's trading deadline rapidly approaches. The Cubs' Carlos Pena has repeatedly been mentioned as a good fit for Pittsburgh, and today ESPN's Jayson Stark suggests the market for him may not be as strong as some perceive it to be.

Carlos Pena? One exec who spoke with the Cubs says the level of interest in him has been exaggerated -- and he's a guy they believe they can get through waivers and trade in August, when there's a lot less money left on his $10 million contract.

Reading between the lines, it looks like Pena's big contract is scaring a lot of teams off. Luckily for the Pirates, that big contract could play in their favor in their quest to add offense without giving up significant prospects. The more the Pirates have to take on in salary, the less they have to give up in terms of minor leaguers. Of course, the Pirates have yet to show they'll actually take on salary, but Pena would appear to fit the profile of a guy the Pirates should swoop in on.


MLB Trade Rumors: Pirates Checking In On B.J. Upton

The Reds, Indians, Giants, Braves and, somehow, the Pirates are in on Rays outfielder B.J. Upton, Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal report.

Upton is a good player, and I guess it would be sort of interesting if the player the Pirates passed on with the first overall pick in the 2002 draft (they took Bryan Bullington instead) ended up suiting up for them, but I’m not really sure what the Pirates are up to here. A lot of his value is tied up in his being a good defensive centerfielder, and the Pirates already have one of those. His hitting is unspectacular, especially in a corner. I wouldn’t mind if the Pirates acquired him, but I can’t imagine the Rays are going to give him up cheaply – that’s a smart organization.

I suppose the idea is that the Pirates could put Upton in the vast expanse in left field and take advantage of his defense that way. But I would think they could get a much better value out of a player who might come a bit more cheaply and hit a bit more.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors 2011: Bucs Reportedly Interested In Rockies' Jason Giambi, Ty Wigginton

The Pirates are reportedly interested in both Ty Wigginton and Jason Giambi of the Colorado Rockies.

As I wrote earlier today, Giambi would make some degree of sense for the Pirates if the price was low, purely as a bat off the bench.

As for Wigginton, it’s amazing that it’s been six years since he played for the Pirates. His stint with the Bucs didn’t go so well, but he had his moments with the Rays and Astros after that. The problem is that he hasn’t hit terribly well in the past several years, is now 33, and has never provided much defensive value. He does have some versatility, but it’s hard to see how the Pirates can make use of it. If the Bucs didn’t have a third baseman, he might make some sense, since he can at least stand at third, but they promoted Pedro Alvarez today and have (sensibly) anointed him their starter at third base. So it’s unclear where Wigginton would fit in, except as a pure bench bat. The Pirates shouldn’t be paying much for those, so we’ll see if their negotiations with the Rockies go anywhere.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


MLB Trade Rumors: Cubs Reportedly Will Deal Carlos Pena; Will Pirates Swoop In?

Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman tweets that Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena “will almost surely be moved,” and notes that the Arizona Diamondbacks could be a possible destination.

The Pirates surely would like to have Pena, too – he probably wouldn’t cost much more than the salary he’s owed for the rest of the season, and despite his issues (primarily a low batting average), he’d be a big upgrade over Lyle Overbay.

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors writes that Pittsburgh and Arizona are the only destinations that make much sense, so if the Cubs really do want to deal him, then I’m sure the Pirates will be all over this.

Some Pirates fans might not like that, given that they’d like the Bucs to pursue a higher-profile target like Hunter Pence or Carlos Beltran. But the Pirates would have to give up serious prospects for those guys. The prospect cost for Pena would be minimal. I’d honestly prefer someone like Pena to someone like Beltran, for that reason.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Jason Giambi Would Make Sense For Bucs, Buster Olney Says

Some out-of-the-blue trade speculation here from Buster Olney, who thinks Jason Giambi of the Rockies would make sense for the Bucs.

Total speculation: Jason Giambi would be perfect as bench addition for Pirates. Experienced, great clubhouse guy, power to win a game as PH.

I’m not sure when known steroid user Jason Giambi became a “great clubhouse guy,” but that’s fine – I’ll go with it. Giambi has no defensive value at all, but he would be a nice addition to the Bucs’ bench, in that he can still whack righties. It’s been pretty annoying to see the likes of Matt Diaz up at the plate in key situations late in the game. Giambi shouldn’t cost much, and he’d give the Bucs’ bench a bit of home-run oomph. Even independent of the clubhouse stuff, this is an idea worth keeping an eye on.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


MLB Trade Rumors: Pirates Struggling To Find Suitable Trades

Rob Biertempfel writes that the Pirates are working to make trades to upgrade their roster by the MLB Trade Deadline on Sunday, but they're having trouble finding good trades to make - it's a sellers' market right now.

"The acquisition cost is prohibitive at this time," Huntington said Sunday. "One, you've got to have a player who, if he has a no-trade (clause), wants to come to your city. Two, the other team has to be willing to trade the players you express interest in. Three, you've got to find a match in value. We've run into roadblocks at just about every step of the way."

The Pirates have looked into hitters like Hunter Pence, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Pena, Biertempfel reports, but have had no luck so far. They've also asked about relievers like Koji Uehara and Octavio Dotel, and catchers like Chris Iannetta.

I'd much prefer the Pirates concentrate on hitters. The Bucs' bullpen has performed admirably so far, to the point where, when the Bucs acquired Jason Grilli last week, they had to send down Chris Leroux, who had pitched very well. They could use an extra lefty, but I wouldn't worry too much about it if they can't find one.

Hitting, however! I think the Bucs are probably right to be trying to upgrade at catcher - as fun as Michael McKenry is to watch play, he isn't much of a hitter. I'm not sure Chris Iannetta is the answer, however; he'll post very low batting averages and has hit very poorly this year away from Coors Field.

The clearest path to an upgrade would be at first base, and Carlos Pena is probably the best match. Maybe the price on him will come down.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Bucs Reportedly Interested In Chris Iannetta

Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Pirates have asked about Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta. This suggests that they're still not completely happy with their catching options, despite Michael McKenry's solid defense and the impending return of Ryan Doumit. But who knows? The real attraction with Iannetta, in addition to him helping out in 2011, is that he's under control at reasonable rates in both 2012 and 2013, so he would immediately step in as the Pirates' main catcher, with the departures of Doumit and Chris Snyder likely at the end of the season.

Anyway, you can think of Iannetta as being a little like Snyder - he hits for low averages, but draws walks and has enough power that he can get away with batting .220. As with many Rockies, though, his home/road splits have been extreme at times, and he only has a .564 OPS on the road this year. That's something to watch out for.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Olney: Bucs Considering Trading For David DeJesus

Wednesday, there was talk of a Garrett Jones for Josh Willingham and Craig Breslow deal with Oakland. A day later it looks like the Bucs might be considering another A's outfielder as we approach the trading deadline, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

The Pirates have talked internally about pursuing David DeJesus, but it's unclear whether they will follow up aggressively with Oakland.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply


DeJesus has a solid track record, posting an OPS of .781 or better the past three seasons, all with Kansas City. He's not nearly playing up to that in 2011, however, as he's hitting .229 with a paltry .660 OPS, including an ugly .319 OBP. He's signed with Oakland for $6 million this season, the last year of his deal, meaning he'd likely be a rental if the Bucs added him.

It'd be surprising if the Pirates pushed too hard to get this guy. He's clearly missing his stroke this year and he'd make a fair amount of money the rest of the way, too. If Oakland is willing to take fringe prospects in exchange for the Pirates taking on the salary, then maybe he's worth it. With Alex Presley playing well, though, and Matt Diaz hitting well enough to do the job since the beginning of June, the Pirates would likely be better served using DeJesus as a fall back position rather than a first option.


MLB Trade Rumors: Astros Could Be Willing To Trade Hunter Pence

Jon Paul Morosi writes that the Houston Astros' new ownership is unlikely to get in the way of a deal that would ship star outfielder Hunter Pence out of town.

However, one source with knowledge of his thinking said Wednesday that Crane hasn’t instructed the current Astros general manager Ed Wade to keep any particular player – such as All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence.

While Wade is technically reporting to McLane, he has kept Crane informed of his trade conversations – including the talks that led to Jeff Keppinger being dealt to San Francisco earlier this week. And if Wade reaches agreement on a deal involving Pence that makes good baseball sense, the source said that Crane would likely permit it.

This is all predicated on Ed Wade, one of baseball's worst general managers, making "good baseball sense," so who knows. Ba-boom! But it doesn't sound like the Astros' new owner will be a stumbling block if the Pirates are able to strike a deal with the Astros for Pence.

The Pirates have been connected to Pence repeatedly, but it would take quite a bit to get him - he's a consistently good hitter, and he's under team control for a couple more years. They would probably have to start with Jose Tabata and add prospects from there. That might make some sense, but the Pirates need those prospects too - they aren't a big-market team, and thus they need prospects to fill holes when they arise in the big leagues. We'll see if any serious conversations between the Pirates and Astros develop, or whether the Pirates will look to do something a little less splashy.


Pirates To Sign Jason Grilli

The Pirates will sign righty reliever Jason Grilli, who had had 43 strikeouts in 32.2 innings with the Phillies’ Class AAA affiliate in Lehigh Valley, and he’ll replace Chris Leroux on the 25-man roster.

This move is about acquiring depth. Grilli isn’t obviously an immediate upgrade on Leroux, even if his Class AAA stats are really good. But Leroux can be optioned back to Indianapolis without the Pirates risking losing him, so next time there’s an injury, he’ll come back up. Grilli would therefore add quality depth to the organization without costing the Pirates anything.

After he signs, then, the Pirates’ bullpen would consist of Joel Hanrahan, Jose Veras, Chris Resop, Daniel McCutchen and Grilli from the right-handed side, and Joe Beimel and Tony Watson from the left-handed side. The Bucs will probably look to upgrade on their lefties in the trade market in the next two weeks.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Bucs Reportedly Considering Swapping Garrett Jones For Josh Willingham, Craig Breslow

Rob Biertempfel tweets that the Pirates are pondering a deal that could send outfielder Garrett Jones to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Josh Willingham and lefty reliever Craig Breslow.

This move makes a fair amount of sense in terms of the current construction of the team, because Willingham is a righty and the Pirates’ lineup against lefty pitching is awful, and because lefties are the only real weakness in the Pirates’ bullpen. Willingham is a poor defender who wouldn’t be a great defensive fit for PNC Park, but other than that, I can see why the Pirates would want to do something like this.

Whether this move makes sense in the long term depends on how valuable the Pirates consider Jones to be. He’s under control for many more years, while Willingham isn’t, but if the Pirates think that Jones isn’t going to be a long-term fixture in the outfield (and I don’t think he is), then they can make a trade like this and not worry about it. Willingham should bring back a draft pick or two when he hits free agency, as well.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


MLB Trade Rumors: Could Pirates Pursue A Starter?

Pirates GM Neal Huntington recently was on MLB Network Radio, describing the Pirates' priorities at the trade deadline. He said the Pirates want a position player, a bullpen arm, and a starting pitcher. Wait ... a starting pitcher?

Of course, there's the possibility we shouldn't read much into Huntington's comments. After all, there isn't a player alive who doesn't fit into one of Huntington's three categories. But it would be pretty strange to me if the Pirates picked up a starting pitcher. True, there's the possibility of a strange scenario like the Pirates dealing Paul Maholm and then turning around and picking up a starter, but independent of something like that, a trade for a starter doesn't make much sense. The Pirates have five starters performing well, plus another starter in Brad Lincoln performing well at Class AAA Indianapolis and another starter, Ross Ohlendorf, who's currently rehabbing. Picking up a starter for the stretch run would probably be a poor use of resources, unless the Pirates can find one they're also excited about beyond 2011.

What the Pirates really need is offense. Whether that's a first baseman or a third baseman, that's what they need.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Bucs Want Team To Add Someone Like Astros' Hunter Pence

Dejan Kovacevic writes that, "behind closed doors," the Pirates want general manager Neal Huntington to add more talent to help the team for the stretch run.

There is no unanimity, but the general consensus is threefold:

1. Someone like [Hunter] Pence would be great, though there are reservations about disrupting the current outfield.

2. Help for [Joel] Hanrahan would be huge. For some, a top priority.

3. Better do something. Some players are skeptical that anything more than minor moves will be made.

I continue to not understand the fascination many Pirates fans - and, apparently, also some Pirates' players - have with adding to the bullpen. The Pirates have the sixth-best bullpen ERA of any team in the majors, and they haven't gotten anything out of one of their top relievers, Evan Meek. It would be nice to have a more reliable lefty, but that's really the bullpen's only weakness. Joel Hanrahan has been a great closer, Jose Veras and Chris Resop have been very good setup men, and Dan McCutchen has been very capable as well. There also appears to be a good chance Chris Leroux can contribute for the rest of the year.

Hunter Pence would be a terrific addition, obviously, but the question is how much it would cost the Pirates to acquire him. They might also try a slugger such as Carlos Pena who might cost the Pirates less in terms of prospects.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Bucs Watch Oakland Athletics; Possibly Scouting Conor Jackson?

Jon Morosi writes that the Pirates were scouting Tuesday night's Oakland Athletics game Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are contenders, and Athletics outfielder Josh Willingham (to whom the Pirates had previously been connected) had been out for a few days with an injury.

So who were the Pirates looking at? First baseman Conor Jackson, to whom the Pirates have also been connected, is one possibility. Someone like lefty reliever Craig Breslow might also make some sense - the A's probably wouldn't mind unloading his salary, and the Pirates could use a lefty.

Let's just hope it isn't Jackson. He hasn't hit in years, and somehow isn't even an upgrade on Lyle Overbay. He does hit lefties a little bit, but only a little - he has a .743 OPS against them this year. Steve Pearce is a far better player at this stage. 

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Bucs Could Be Investigating Bullpen Upgrades

Pirates Prospects has a good compilation of rumors involving possible upgrades to the Pirates’ bullpen, ranging from the OriolesKoji Uehara to the PhilliesJason Grilli.

Personally, it’s hard to see why the Pirates would acquire a reliever for the major-league bullpen, unless he’s a lefty (and both Uehara and Grilli are righties). Uehara is good and useful, but I’m not sure why the Pirates would want to pay what I assume would be a considerable price to get him, since the righties in their bullpen have largely been very good.

I’ve heard a lot of fans complaining about setup guys Jose Veras and Chris Resop, but those complaints are really wrongheaded. Both those guys are striking out more than a batter an inning, and while they haven’t been Hanrahan-grade dominant, the Pirates have much more pressing needs than upgrades on Veras and Resop. The Bucs’ other bullpen righties, Dan McCutchen and Chris Leroux, have also been good enough that I’m not really sure where a journeyman like Grilli would fit.

The Pirates have serious holes in their offense. I’m not opposed to upgrading the bullpen if an upgrade comes cheaply, but I don’t think a cheap upgrade will be easy to find, and the Bucs have much more pressing problems.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Rosenthal: Aramis Ramirez 'Adamant' About No-Trade 10-5 Provision

With the Pirates in need of a bigger bat at third base, many have suggested the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez would be a good fit if the Bucs could snag him in a trade. That, however, looks increasingly like a long shot as Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets.

Sources: Cubs' A. Ramirez on Angels' wish list, but Ramirez still adamant that he will not waive his no-trade clause for any club

If Ramirez isn't interested in heading to Los Angeles, there's little reason to believe he'd be any more interested in joining the light hitting Pittsburgh lineup. The Bucs are closer in their National League Central race (0.5 games back) than the Angles are in their American League West race (4.0 games back) but the guess here is Ramirez is  worried about more than getting to the postseason. It looks like for now, at least, the Bucs are going to have to go in a different direction for a solution at third.

Given Ramirez's potential price tag, that's probably not such a bad thing, either.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Bucs Scouted Hunter Pence

Rob Biertempfel reports that the Pirates have had their eyes on Astros outfielder Hunter Pence:

That notion was endorsed yesterday by Houston Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, whom the Pirates have scouted with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in mind.

There’s no doubt that Pence would be a good addition to the Pirates’ current team, but at what cost? The Astros have little reason to give him up cheaply, and the Pirates have said they’re not interested in trading top prospects. I’m assuming they wouldn’t trade Jameson Taillon, so I’m guessing that to get Pence, the Pirates would probably have to start with Jose Tabata, who could replace Pence right away.

Tabata is only 22, though, and is likely to develop further, whereas the Pirates might be buying high on Pence, who has a .321 batting average this season that he’s unlikely to sustain. I’m not opposed to them trading for Pence, but I do think it’s something they should be very careful about.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Conor Jackson A Possibility?

Jerry Crasnick writes that, in addition to Josh Willingham, the Pirates are also kicking the tires on Athletics first baseman / outfielder Conor Jackson.

I wasn't a huge fan of the idea of acquiring Josh Willingham, but at least it does make sense on some level - he is a pretty good hitter. Jackson, though, I don't understand at all. He has a .629 OPS this year, and this isn't a shortstop, it's a corner player. Last year, he had a .663 OPS. It's not even totally clear to me what he's doing in the big leagues, much less as the subject of trade talks.

This isn't the first time the Pirates have been connected to a player who doesn't make any sense. Last week, there were reports that they considered the perfectly-functional Garrett Jones for Angels catcher Jeff Mathis, who arguably doesn't belong in the majors. Then they were connected to Kevin Slowey, who they have no particular use for. Until the Pirates actually try one of these deals, it might be wise to apply a laugh test to trade rumors like this. Pirates GM Neal Huntington isn't an idiot.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Josh Willingham On Bucs' Radar

The Pirates are considering acquiring Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Willingham, Buster Olney reports, and have touched base with the A’s about the possibility of acquiring him.

Willingham might at first appear to be a good buy-low candidate, since his hitting, while still decent, is down a bit from his last two seasons. (He has a 110 OPS+ in 2011, compared to 127 in 2009 and 129 in 2010.) He’s also right-handed and has hit lefties well in his career, which would make him a good match for a Pirates team that has lefties Garrett Jones and Alex Presley to handle open positions at first base and corner outfield, but little in the way of right-handed talent at those positions. (They’ve got Jose Tabata, of course, but I’m taking for granted that he’s a full-time starter.)

The only problem is that Willingham typically only plays one position, left field, and he’s really bad at it, canceling out some of his offensive value. Also, PNC Park’s left field is enormous, and the Bucs would really be giving up a lot by sticking a lead glove like Willingham out there.


Pirates Trade Rumors: PNC Park Performance

There have been a lot of names thrown out as potential Pirate trade targets in the last couple of weeks, but a few seem to continually rise to the top in fan/media discussion, among them the Astros' Hunter Pence and Jeff Keppinger, the Cubs' Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez, and the Royals' Wilson Betemit. How good a fit would any of these players be for PNC Park, though? Here's perhaps a snapshot.

Pence has played 30 games at PNC Park and is hitting for a .330 average and .877 OPS with four home runs. The Pirates have roughly that many home games remaining, so he wouldn't project to be a huge power threat if he were to come on board. Jeff Keppinger falls in the same boat with just two home runs in 28 games at PNC. He is, however, a .264/.745 hitter there, meaning he could still be a solid upgrade on Brandon Wood and Josh Harrison

Pena has played a very small sample size at PNC, just five games, so it's hard to take anything from his .238/.593 with no home run line. However, as a former Bucco and long time division rival, Ramirez has a long history in Pittsburgh, and it's not as sparkling as you might expect. In 248 career games at PNC, he's hitting just .264/.768 with 39 home runs, an average of one dinger every 6.3 games, which projects to 5-6 home runs the rest of the way. That's not bad, but it's a stark departure from his career line of .284/.838 with home run clip of one every 5.3 games.

Betemit owns a .333/.708 with no home run line at PNC Park in nine games. He can hit for average, but both Wood and Harrison could approach that OPS. To be fair, the sample size is pretty limited and he has a far better career track record than Wood or Harrison, but those are his numbers at PNC Park, nevertheless.

Overall, it would appear all five of these guys could help the Pirates if the front office tries to deal for them. Pence, Keppinger and Ramirez have seen their share of action at PNC and have played relatively well. Pena and Betemit, would require more wait-and-see, but their track records suggest they can hit in larger sample sizes, so their PNC Park numbers should not be a deterrent.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Michael Cuddyer Staying Put in Minneapolis

The Minnesota Twins will be hanging on to slugger Michael Cuddyer no matter what happens this season according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Twins have no plans to trade Michael Cuddyer this season even if they fall from contention, a team official said Friday, adding that an effort will be made to re-sign Cuddyer this fall.

Cuddyer, 32, will be eligible for free agency this fall after making $10.5 million this season. The Braves, Phillies and Giants are among the teams who’ve had scouts see Cuddyer in recent weeks, as he’s helped the Twins climb back into the race.

A lot of Pirates fans were hoping to acquire Cuddyer, who is hitting .292 with 13 HR and 43 RBI, to solve the team’s woes at first base. Now the team will have to turn its sights to other options at first base such as Carlos Pena and Derrek Lee to name a few.


Pirates Trade Rumors - Morosi: Pirates Interested In Kevin Slowey

Most of the talk about upgrading the Pirates' roster for the second half has been centered around the offense, which is close to the bottom of the National League in a number of major categories. It looks like the Bucs are also considering potential upgrades to the pitching staff, however, as John Paul Morosi of Fox Sports today reports the Pirates are among teams interested in the Twins' Kevin Slowey.

The Rockies and Pirates are among the teams showing continued interest in Slowey as he nears the conclusion of a minor-league rehabilitation assignment at Class AAA Rochester, major-league sources told FOXSports.com. Slowey has no record and a 2.45 ERA in two starts for Rochester, with his third outing set for Friday night in Buffalo.

Slowey, 27, is currently on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, but a source said he is healthy now. He also missed a month earlier this season because of bursitis in his throwing shoulder.

Slowey is an Upper St. Clair native, so adding another home town player to the roster would certainly be an intriguing story line. It's hard to see where Slowey fits in the Pirates plans right now, however. He has a 4.43 career ERA and posted a 4.91 mark with Minnesota last season. His strikeouts per nine innings are kind of low at 6.8 for the career, making him almost indistinguishable from the rest of the Pirates ground ball heavy starting staff and he failed to make the Twins rotation coming out of spring training.

With Ross Ohlendorf set to return in the near future, Brad Lincoln performing fairly well at AAA and all five guys in the Pirates rotation pitching well, there doesn't appear to be room for Slowey at the moment. Of course, there's the old saying "you can never have enough pitching," but adding a starting pitcher doesn't seem as urgent a need for the Bucs right now as adding bats, and you'd think trade resources would be better allocated toward obtaining them.

What we could be looking at here is an attempt by the Pirates front office to free up one or more of the team's current starters for a trade to go after a bat. Slowey probably couldn't crack the rotation at the moment, but he'd be an excellent insurance policy if, say, Paul Maholm were traded as part of a package for some offensive upgrades.

Stay tuned.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Fangraphs Talks Bucs' Offense

The Pirates open the second half Friday night in Houston with the next major milestone on the MLB calender being the trading deadline July 31. Pundits across baseball are breaking down the Bucs options offensively and today, David Golebiewski of Fangraphs offers his insight. 

Not surprisingly, he suggests Carlos Pena as a solution to the offensive black hole at first base. Pena is frequently connected to Pittsburgh, so nothing new here. Other names he drops are the A's Josh Wilingham, the Dodgers' Jamey Carrol and Rafael Furcal, and the Astros' Jeff Keppinger but perhaps the most interesting suggestion is at third base, where he suggests the Royals' Wilson Betemit would be a good replacement for the recently demoted Pedro Alvarez at third base. 

Maybe the Pirates see a major flaw in Alvarez’s swing right now that makes that projection unrealistic. In that case, the club could give the Royals a call and work out a deal for Wilson Betemit (.330 rest-of-season ZiPS). Betemit’s D is ghastly, which could be more of a concern with a low-strikeout rotation, but he’s certainly a better hitter than either Wood or Harrison and would be a nice stopgap until Alvarez is deemed ready. Betemit is owed less than $500K from here on out, and it would be difficult for K.C. to expect top talent considering that he has been plastered to the bench since Mike Moustakas‘ call-up. The difference between Betemit and Wood/Harrison from an offensive standpoint could be a half-win to a win.

Betemit is hitting .285 AVG /.345 OBP/.415 SLG/.760 OPS with Kansas City this season and is a .9 offensive WAR compared to the 0.0 figure of current third basement Brandon Wood and Josh Harrison. He'd also bring a little postseason experience to a young group that's really never played the type of baseball the Pirates are set to down the stretch.  It's not a huge upgrade, but it's something worth looking at if you're Neal Huntington and Co.


MLB Trade Rumors: Pirates Have 'Asked Around' About Outfielders

Buster Olney tweets that the Pirates are looking for outfielders as potential acquisitions at the upcoming 2011 MLB trade deadline.

The Pirates have asked around about veteran outfielders; looking for somebody who can be a stable presence in their offense.

By extension, I think we have to assume that the Pirates would be fine with a first baseman as well. When everyone’s healthy, the Pirates have four perfectly capable outfielders in Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones and now Alex Presley. A righty outfielder to replace Matt Diaz would be nice, but a first baseman would be too – Lyle Overbay has taken up many more at bats that Diaz has, and has been much more damaging.

The Bucs could therefore acquire a first baseman like the CubsCarlos Pena. Another possibility would be to move Jones to first base and have him take most of the at-bats there, then acquire a righty outfielder like Ryan Ludwick of the Padres and have him share time in an outfield corner with Presley.

In any case, while I think the idea of a “stable presence” is a little bit silly – as one commenter at Bucs Dugout pointed out, the need to have veterans to provide “stability” is how you wind up with has-beens like Overbay and Diaz in the first place. But I agree that the outfield (and first base) are areas where the Pirates could use an upgrade.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Would Geovany Soto Or Casey Blake Make Sense For Pirates?

Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers a list of players the Pirates might pursue if they become buyers, as expected, at the MLB Trade Deadline at the end of the month.

Astros All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence would make sense, though he probably would require a deal heavy with prospects in return. The Pirates could rent a player such as first baseman James Loney from the Dodgers for the rest of the season, or acquire Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake, and his $6 million club option for 2012, if Pedro Alvarez takes longer to come back from injury than expected. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto also would make sense.

I'm not sure I like the idea of trading for Pence, who would cost too much, or Loney, who's just awful.

Blake would make some sense, however. Blake is 37 and would help the Pirates get through the rest of the year at third base. He would also be useful off the bench if Alvarez were to snap out of his funk and hit well. He also probably would not be particularly expensive in terms of prospects.

Soto is an inconsistent performer at catcher, but he isn't far below average at his worst, and he's terrific at his best. The Pirates would probably have to pay a bit more to get him, though, since the Cubs control his rights for the next couple of years. He'd be a great fit for the team, but only at the right price.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Jeff Keppinger Could Offer Cheap Help

Names like the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena are dominanting Pirates trade rumors at the moment. However, considering the high price tag in both money and prospects those types of players would likely command, the Bucs are probably looking more in the journeyman bargain basement for a potential offensive upgrades.

One player who might fit that bill nicely is the Houston Astros' Jeff Keppinger. The former Pirate farmhand, signed to a $2.3 millon deal this season, isn't a power hitter (no more than seven home runs in any season of his career), but has posted a .700 OPS or better in each of the last three seasons, with a high water mark of .744 in 137 games 2010. His on-base numbers are down dramatically this season to .316, but he's played just 35 games after coming back from injury, so there's a good chance that stat will correct.

If the Bucs could snag him from last place Houston for little to nothing and get anything approaching his 2.0 offensive WAR in 2010, he'd likely be a big upgrade on Josh Harrison (.604 OPS, 0.0 WAR) and Brandon Wood (.607 OPS, 0.0 WAR). He also wouldn't block Pedro Alvarez if he were to return from AAA Indianapolis in the near future and could be useful in a utility role.

There's no hard reporting connecting Keppinger to the Pirates yet. However, he might be a very attractive fall-back position if the Pirates can't land a big fish to play first or third base down the stretch.  


2011 MLB Trade Rumors: Pirates Reportedly Considered Trading Garrett Jones For Jeff Mathis

Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal report that the Pirates and Angels were, at one point, seriously discussing a deal that would have sent Garrett Jones to Anaheim and catcher Jeff Mathis to Pittsburgh.

This report is so weird, it's almost impossible to take at face value. Mathis has a career .569 OPS, including .527 in 2011 and .497 last year. Jones isn't my idea of a great player, but I don't even know what Mathis is doing on a big-league roster, much less being the subject of trade talks that also involve someone useful. It's likely that these talks, if they happened, took place when the Pirates were playing Dusty Brown and Wyatt Toregas behind the plate, but even if that's the case, I hope the Pirates were seeking other players as well, not just Mathis.

What a bizarre rumor. Good thing the Pirates didn't pull the trigger on this one. 


Pirates Trade Rumors: MLB Trade Rumors Breaks Down Bucs' Options

The Pirates made it through the unofficial first half of the 2011 season still in the thick of the National League Central race, and a number of folks, including Tom Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors, are evaluting what options the club might have if it decides to buy at the July 31 trading deadline. Dierkes sees needs at catcher, first base, shortstop and third base, breaking down possible outside candidates to fill those needs like this.

•Catcher: Counting on Doumit or Snyder seems unwise.  The Pirates could look into the same names I mentioned in the Rays post: Chris Iannetta, Ronny Paulino, and Geovany Soto.  The Reds would have to fall out of contention and be willing to deal with a division rival for Ramon Hernandez to enter the picture, so that's a long shot, as is Soto.

•First base: Lyle Overbay has not gotten the job done, and I've explained why Carlos Pena would be a good match for Pittsburgh.  Derrek Lee, James Loney, and Brad Hawpe could be had, but they've been worse than Overbay.  Chris Davis would be a nice addition for the longer-term, but he'd be harder to obtain.

You can head over to MLBTR to read the rest.

Michael McKenry has been exceptional behind the plate and acceptable with the bat in place of Doumit and Snyder, so I don't imagine the Bucs feel much urgency to find an outside upgrade at catcher. Cedeno has been limited with the bat, but good enough with the glove that it's hard to see them moving to find someone at shortstop, either, unless it's an obvious upgrade on what they have out there now.

First and third base are a different matter. The Pirates could definitely use bigger guns at one or both positions, and some of Dierkes' suggestions are certainly interesting. Pena's .225 batting average kind of stinks, but his .801 OPS would be a huge upgarde on Overbay's .667. The same would be true of Reynolds and his .227/.839 split at third base. Ramirez might be the best option of them all, but he has a no-trade clause that must be taken into account.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Starling Marte Possible Trade Bait?

Pirates Class AA outfield prospect Starling Marte is off to an excellent start with the Altoona Curve this season. Heading into play Saturday night, he was hitting .314 with five home runs, 23 doubles, 28 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and an .806 OPS, certainly playing up to his billing as the Pirates second-best prospect, as rated by Pirates Prospects.com.

For that reason, Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror thinks Marte might be attractive trade bait for the Pirates to dangle in their pursuit of a Major League bat to help them in the National League Central race. After weighing the pros and cons of trading Marte, Giger arrives at this conclusion.

It's a good debate, but don't count on the Pirates trading Marte. They will do everything possible to avoid giving up elite prospects in any deal, and Marte is at the top of the organization's list when it comes to position players.

Whatever they decide about Marte or anyone else in the system, Pirates officials cannot be afraid to pull the trigger on a move that could make this a better team in the second half.

The long-suffering fans deserve at least that much. And if it means giving up a Double-A prospect, even one as good as Marte, then so be it.

As with most trade talks, moving Marte would be all about the return for the Pirates. If dealing him and perhaps a few lesser prospects could net the Bucs a decent bat with a year or two of control beyond 2011, it might be worth considering. If we're talking three-month rentals like the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez, however, it would represent a mortgaging of the future the front office has said repeatedly it will not entertain. If it's something in between, then the Pirates will have a very interesting decision to make.


MLB Trade Rumors: Pirates Owner Implies Bucs Will Be Buyers, Spend Money At Deadline

Dejan Kovacevic has a new interview with Bucs owner Bob Nutting that gives the clearest indication we've yet seen of what to expect from the Pirates at the 2011 MLB Trade Deadline. Basically, Nutting's stance, as least as it appears in this article, is twofold.  

First, don't trade top prospects. The Pirates won't be dealing guys like Starling Marte or Jameson Taillon. I don't think anyone actually thought they would, but hey, it's good to know for sure.

Second, Nutting is encouraging general manager Neal Huntington to be bold and spend money at the trading deadline.

"That's what we're talking about: How do you make that run?" Nutting said. "We're just a couple games out, close to the All-Star break. It's a great opportunity. And we aren't going to make decisions based on restrictions of financing. We're absolutely in that position where Neal can, right now, be out there aggressively looking at options. He needs to do that."

This obviously doesn't mean that the Pirates are going to spend tens of millions of dollars this month, but it certainly sounds like they see themselves as buyers, and their main tool for buying will be money, rather than top prospects.

This makes it sound like they could pursue someone who's overpaid, someone whose current team wants to dump salary. It sounds like the Cubs will be sellers, and they have a first baseman in Carlos Pena who could help the Pirates. He hits for a low average, but has excellent power, and would be a significant upgrade on Lyle Overbay (not a high bar to clear, admittedly). His salary for 2011 is $10 million, but that includes $5 million to be paid in 2012. If the Bucs are willing to pick up a fair amount of salary, they could probably get Pena without giving up much in the way of prospects. Plus, it would be great to get veteran talent from the Cubs at the deadline, rather than the opposite, wouldn't it?

Anyway, I don't have any specific information that the Pirates will pursue Carlos Pena. But he's the best fit for the Pirates I can think of in terms of cost, opportunity and fit for the Bucs' current roster.


MLB Trade Rumors: Returns Of Injured Players Could Help Pirates Avoid Dealing Prospects

Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, manager Clint Hurdle and others were in a meeting Wednesday that dealt with how to approach the MLB trade deadline which comes at the end of the month. One point they discussed was the potential impact of players who are returning from injury. 

Part of the time was devoted to identifying when various players should be ready to come off the disabled list and determining how those moves would affect the current roster. With as many as eight injured players potentially being ready to return over the next month, the Pirates might be able to fill particular areas of need internally.

The Pirates are right to note that some of their biggest improvements could come from within, as players like Pedro Alvarez get back from the disabled list. It's strange - it seems like all Pirates fans have talked about recently are winning, and injuries.

The fact that so many players will be returning fairly soon (Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Ronny Cedeno, perhaps Ryan Doumit and Joe Beimel) suggests that the Pirates are unlikely to make splashy moves at the deadline. They might not have done it anyway, despite the fact that they're surprise contenders this year, because they don't want to mortgage their future. But it seems particularly unlikely if they feel like they can improve from within.


Pirates Trade Rumors: Bucs Should Benefit From Returns Of Injured Players

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle says that the Bucs could benefit as some of their injured players return.

"If you want to look at third base, it'd be nice to have the Pedro Alvarez that you saw last year in August and September back at third base," he said. "That would make us a dramatically different ball club right away. Whether (Ross) Ohlendorf gets healthy, where he would fit. ... (Joe) Beimel would definitely help in the bullpen. We have a number of guys who, upon health, would help us."

For the Pirates, this will be one reason the trade deadline will be difficult to negotiate. At a couple of positions where they've had big problems recently, including catcher and third base, they'll soon be getting players back (Ryan Doumit and Pedro Alvarez) who should upgrade the team without having to make a trade.

So what should they do? They could certainly use a first baseman. And maybe they could acquire another catcher even if they're already planning on Doumit's return. But there might not be much else they can do with the offense without making a big splash. And the rotation and bullpen have both been very good, so there's little need to upgrade there. 

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.


MLB Trade Rumors: Should Pirates Should Be Buyers At Deadline?

I just noticed Adam Bittner already wrote about this, but his take is different enough from mine that I think it's worth going with twice. Apologies for the repetition.


Dave Cameron of FanGraphs argues that the Pirates should consider buying at the MLB Trade Deadline, because the potential rewards of doing so are great. Although the Bucs aren't quite as good as their record so far this year and aren't a great bet to make the playoffs, he argues, the rewards of a playoff spot in terms of attendance are so huge that the risk is worth taking.

Assuming the Pirates don't go on a 10-game losing streak in the next couple weeks, I think this argument as a lot of merit, but it's all a matter of degree. It wouldn't make sense for the Pirates to go trading someone like Jameson Taillon, as Cameron himself suggests, and they really shouldn't be trading top prospects of any stripe. They have a future to think about that, and while a 2011 playoff berth also could help pave the way to a brighter future (by giving the Pirates more revenue to work with), they shouldn't be sacrificing a prospect like Starling Marte or Stetson Allie, say, to pursue that goal, however noble.

As I've said here and elsewhere, though, the Pirates have a ton of lower-watt prospects who they really won't miss much, especially since they stand to lose a couple in the Rule 5 draft this winter anyway. Assuming things go well, they can consider trading those kinds of prospects for offensive help. They might also consider creative trades where they ship out prospects for young players who can help immediately and in the future. This trading deadline could be a very interesting one for the Pirates.


MLB Trade Rumors: Could Pirates Deal Paul Maholm?

For whatever it's worth, John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times guesses that Pirates starting pitcher Paul Maholm could be gone shortly:

Pirates club president Frank Coonelly, though, has made it clear that the Pirates want to avoid giving big-money contracts to pitchers. Thus, the semi-educated guess here is the Pirates will either trade Maholm this month or allow him to walk at the end of the season.

It's obviously possible that the Pirates will trade Maholm before the deadline, and I think they'll surely be open to offers, but I don't think it's likely they'll trade him. For one thing, they're still in contention, and they'd probably prefer to keep him for that reason, even if the Bucs' chances of winning the division are remote. And secondly, and more importantly, Maholm just isn't likely to bring back that much, and the sorts of non-elite prospects the Pirates are likely to get in return for him just don't have a lot of value to the organization right now – they have plenty of non-elite prospects, and few elite ones. The Bucs also have the option of keeping Maholm next year, although the expense ($9 million) will be such that at the very least, they won't be thrilled about it.


Pirates Trade Rumors: How Should Pirates Address Offense?

Dejan Kovacevic says that the Pirates need to do something to fix the team’s woeful offense, and fast.

Don’t mean to beat this drum to death, but I can’t, for the life of me, understand how competitive men can oversee these Pirates and not lift a finger to address the offense.

When you’re a couple games out of first place in July in a weak division, and you’re trotting out lineups in which five of the nine players were in the minors just a month ago … that’s not even trying.

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with most of the players who were in the minors fairly recently (Chase D’Arnaud, Alex Presley, and so on), but I tend to agree that the Bucs should somehow address the offense. The catcher position, for example – I was a fan of the idea of promoting Eric Fryer, and I like Mike McKenry’s defense, but the fact remains that McKenry is 10-for-45 with two doubles and one walk so far, and there isn’t much hope of him hitting that much better in the future. It shouldn’t cost much to find a better catcher than that. The Bucs asked around about a catcher a few weeks ago, before they acquired McKenry, and found that many teams were asking too much, hoping the Pirates’ losses of Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder would make them desperate enough to do something stupid. Maybe those prices will come down.


Pirates Trade Rumors: What Should Bucs Do At The MLB Trade Deadline?

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.

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.

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