By John Franco
With less than 24 hours remaining until the July 31 trade deadline (4pm EST), the Pirates are still searching for another bat to bolster their lineup. This article by Jay Jaffe describes the current status of some of the hitters on the block.
The Pirates are probably out on Shane Victorino (whose price might have been Brad Lincoln) and may not be willing to risk trading for Hunter Pence and see him get $14 million in arbitration next year. Shin-Soo Choo is still an option for the Bucs, but could cost them Starling Marte. In principle, I’m not opposed to a Choo-for-Marte deal, but in reality, that still leaves the Pirates short a bat with Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee and Alex Presley responsible for two spots in the lineup.
Jaffe doesn’t mention Josh Willingham or Michael Cuddyer, and MLB Trade Rumors has been quiet about both players, so it’s possible that both players are no longer available (or they were never really available). Ken Rosenthal describes a scenario where the Pirates could get Justin Morneau without naming them as a suitor; the Pirates have Kevin Correia available, who might fit the Twins’ need for a major league ready starter, and they might be willing to take on some of Morneau’s contract. That deal is admittedly a longshot, but Correia does seem like a typical Twins pitcher, so you never know.
Similarly, the Twins are also listening to offers for Denard Span, but would require a major league starter back. A package of Correia and Marte could be enticing, and Span is signed through 2014 at reasonable salaries. If Neal Huntington wants to think outside the box, that could be an intriguing package that wouldn’t hurt the Pirates’ long-term future.
Another out-of-the-box idea comes from SBN author Grant Brisbee, who proposes that the Pirates substitute Joel Hanrahan in place of Marte in a deal for Choo or another outfielder. The deal would allow them to keep Marte and add another bat to the lineup, and Brad Lincoln and Jason Grilli could handle late-inning duties for the Pirates. This seems unlikely, but I like the idea, since Hanrahan is more expendable than Marte.
If the Pirates are unable to add an outfielder/first baseman, they could look to add a shortstop. Yunel Escobar, Stephen Drew, and Jimmy Rollins have been rumored to be on the block this month, but Drew and Rollins would be expensive gambles that might not return significant improvements. Escobar has been described as a problem in the clubhouse, something the Pirates might not want to risk. None of these shortstops have been seriously linked to the Pirates, but I’m sure Huntington has asked about them.
None of these names are a guarantee, and the Pirates might not make a big move at all. Last year’s acquisition of Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee provided a couple of incremental improvements, and Huntington might choose that path again. Or, to be fair, he could be forced into it by the shortage of impact bats on the market. Before Monday’s game, the Pirates’ playoff odds stood at 51.9%, and it seems like the Pirates will hang onto all of their Big Three pitching prospects beyond the trade deadline. No matter what happens at the deadline, that sounds pretty good.