Potential July/Deadline Strategy for the Pirates

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.

About Kevin Creagh

Kevin Creagh resides in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and has been a Pirate fan since the mid 1980′s. Kevin joined Pirates Prospects in July 2010 and enjoys writing about the economic side of baseball decisions. Many of Kevin’s articles focus on the long-term decisions that the Pirates and other organizations may need to make in the future, in order to balance escalating player salaries with built-in payroll limitations. Kevin also enjoys following prospects throughout the Pirates’ minor league system and forecasting their potential to help the major league team.
  • John DiVito

    I love the idea of getting Willingham. He seems to be the best fit of any name that I have heard because he can get on base and he hits for power. Chase Headley hypothetically will hit for power with a change of venue, but ultimately that is just speculation.

    I would disagree with the need to get another starter. I am OK with Locke coming up and taking over as a 5th starter if we have an injury. Also, despite his value in the bullpen, Lincoln could jump into the rotation as well.

    • Kevin_Creagh

      Lincoln could do a spot start, but right now he is the “fireman” of the bullpen. If things go well this season and the Pirates do special things, it will be Lincoln’s performance in an 8-7 shaky game against the Phillies that was a turning point for me.
      Ultimately the Pirates won 11-7, but that game looked dicey. Especially on the heels of a frustrating 5-4 loss and an awful mental performance in an 8-3 loss, both to the Phillies. Things could have gone sideways if they blew an 8-2 lead.

      • Lee Young

        good point….

    • Lee Young

      I’d love Josh, but the only thing that scares me is if he’ll revert to last year’s poor numbers.

  • http://twitter.com/StevefromYukuDU Yukudukes

    Francisco Liriano seems like a nice rental to eat some innings. He had a very good June and an ok May after a terrible April.

    • Kevin_Creagh

      Ultimate boom or bust guy. Could pay huge dividends. I wonder how the Twins would value him in a trade.

      • Lee Young

        KC….agree.

  • Lee Young

    Kevin……..no offense, but ‘in his time’, Benny Hill was hilarious!!! I watched his show religiously back in the 80s when I was, uhh, not as old. :) . I can still hear that ‘fast motion’ theme song….

    However, as a Welsh/Englishman, I do have about 50 crowns in my mouth AND I love tea, so I will give you that part. Coffee is for you ‘mainlanders’.

    lol

  • Greatone1210

    Kevin, great article with some great thoughts. Our needs will be dictated by the performance of numerous players but it really comes down to OBP. Marte is almost a definite call up after the break. If he can keep an average OBP that will be a huge help to the club. In the same vein, if time in Indy helps Tabata find his form, we can expect to have another OF getting on base at around league average. That is the crux of the matter. Power bats are a nice find and I think Willingham is our best bet. He is having a great year and could push us over the edge. He also would provide a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse. I would also be happy with Headley but that depends on cost along with where we can fit him in the lineup. With Pedro playing well and Mcghee and Jones doing well at 1B, the need is somewhat less. I really don’t want any of these guys riding the pine at the moment. As far as a SP goes, I think going after Garza is the answer. Giving up two prospects and some cash could probably get him in a Pirates uniform. However, if no SP is available we have the option of pulling one of our Indy guys to the majors. Like I mentioned, it comes down to getting on base and maintaining status quo on the pitching. Do this and we have a shot at competing for the division if not more. This is an exciting year. I think this weekend series against the Giants will help illuminate are needs and I expect NH will make some moves to better the team.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.vandergrift Kirk Lee

    I like the idea of having Juan Cruz be the guy we try to squeeze past waivers, but I doubt the Pirates would do that… His ERA just looks too good to DFA him, even if his peripherals are pretty mediocre.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.vandergrift Kirk Lee

    In other words, even if the FO knows it’s the right move, it would be too unpopular to actually do it. In my opinion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timpj5 Tim Fort

    My biggest question with those moves is who hits leadoff? I’m concerned about Marte leading off because he tends to strike out alot and doesn’t walk much either. That’s the last thing we need in a leadoff hitter. I like Willingham, doesn’t seem to be much talk about acquiring him though… more about Quentin and now Upton.

  • Kevin_Creagh

    Marte can do it. Keep in mind how low the bar has been set with Presley and Tabata leading off this year. Neither one has an OBP above .300. Marte is the kind of player who can hit .300 BAA with a .340 OBP. Not the ideal .350 OBP you want, but he’ll give a decent amount of XB power that neither Tabata nor Presley have.

  • Kevin_Creagh

    Guys like Resop and Cruz have had very fluctuating performances. Right now Resop is doing well again, for example. I’m not saying either one has to go right now, but they would be the ones to look at first. I can’t imagine the fanbase will kick up much of a fuss if Cruz was gone, in terms of popularity.