Here we sit the day after America celebrates its independence from poor dental hygiene and thinking that Benny Hill is funny, with the Pirates in 1st place with a 45-36 record (2nd best in the National League). Whether you think the Pirates are “contenders” or not, the fact is that they are “contending” right now.
I’ve mentioned before about their schedule and how after tonight’s game against the Astros, they still have 32 games remaining against the 4 worst teams in the National League (including 23 against the woeful Cubs and Astros). The Pirates also have a series of games against the slumping Brewers and a sub .500 Marlins team after the All-Star Break. By the end of July, the Pirates could very easily be 13 to 15 games ABOVE .500.
To that end, it is time to devise a strategy for the Pirates to take at the deadline. Contrary to Tim, I do feel that it is imperative to bolster the lineup because there are some areas of the lineup that have not been carrying their weight, even during the offensive surge during June and early July.
1. Call up Starling Marte — This one looks like a matter of “when in July” not “if in July”. Marte has been moved to RF in Indy’s lineup and has been white-hot in recent weeks. He can be slotted in to the leadoff spot and use his cannon of an arm in RF for the time being.
2. Trade for a power-hitting corner OF — My personal choice for this item on the to-do list is Josh Willingham from the Twins. Not only does he fit the power hitter mold, but he also will help with the true area of weakness on this team — the ability to draw a walk and get on base. He can slot into the cleanup spot and lengthen the rest of the back half of the lineup. Alex Presley, when recovered from his concussion, becomes the 4th OF.
3. Trade for a veteran innings-eater pitcher — The Pirates were linked to Joe Saunders at one point, but his recent injury may have deflated his trade value. Someone like Ryan Dempster could also be a good choice, although his recent lat injury has held him back, as well. A dark horse candidate here (with a much riskier injury history) could be Brandon McCarthy from the Oakland A’s.
I think the Pirates need an additional arm to stave off the possibility, nigh-inevitability, that one of the starting 5 will either get injured or regress badly in the second half of the season. Although Kevin Correia has been winning, it hasn’t been in a sustainable fashion. Correia should still be kept on the team and not put out on the curb like this week’s recycling bin, but his role in the second half should be as the long man in the bullpen.
The corresponding roster moves for the 3 moves above would be to demote Gorkys Hernandez, Eric Fryer, and pass either Juan Cruz or Chris Resop through waivers with the intent to stash them in Indy until September call ups.
By creating this veteran presence, plus the injection of youth and energy with Marte, the Pirates would have the luxury of not having to depend on AAA players unless they wanted to bring them up. Examples of this would be not having to throw Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, or Bryan Morris into high leverage situations during the playoff race. If the Pirates would need to dip into AAA for either a starter or bullpen guy, the lineup would be deeper with the above-mentioned 3 moves and these guys could be eased into the playoff hunt.