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.