The Pirates Should Be Buyers

It’s July 5th and the PIttsburgh Pirates are just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central. Outside of the career rebirth of Ryan Vogelsong, this has to rank as the most surprising outcome of the first half of the season. While there are some good young players on the roster, this team was not expected to be a contender, especially not in a tough division with three other teams all chasing the brass ring this year.

But we are 85 games into the season and the Pirates are still hanging around. They’re not exactly blowing away the competition, but at 44-41 Pittsburgh has held their own to date and benefited from the fact that no other team in the division have yet to really establish themselves as the team to beat. So, now we’re a little less than four weeks from the trade deadline and the Pirates are the team that is going to have to make the toughest call on what they should do before July 31st. Do the Pirates believe in their team in order to make a move to try and chase down a playoff spot, or should they sell off some of their potentially interesting trade chips in order to keep building for the future?

From an empirical perspective, the Pirates probably shouldn’t expect their surprising success to continue. Yes, they have a positive run differential (barely, coming in at 328 RS and 326 RA), but that’s mostly due to some fortunate timing on when they have gotten their base hits. With the bases empty, the Pirates are posting just a .289 wOBA, third worst in baseball. With men on base, that climbs to a .315 wOBA, right in the middle of the pack. They’re maintaining that .315 wOBA with runners in scoring position, putting them 12th in baseball with RISP.

Realistically, that split is probably unsustainable. Most teams hit better with men on base than with the bases empty, but they don’t do it to nearly the same degree that the Pirates have so far this year. In the first half of the season, the Pirates have just gotten a lot more timely hits than what we would have expected them to get in those situations, and so their positive run differential and winning record is dependent on something that may not continue.

So, yes, the Pirates are great candidates to regress in the second half, and odds are pretty good that they will fall short of winning the NL Central. Because of that, you’ll probably hear a lot of people suggest that they take this information and use it to justify trading players like Paul Maholm. But I’d like to suggest that even if the most likely outcome is that the Pirates fall short of the playoffs, they should still be buyers instead of sellers at the deadline.

Making decisions based only on the most probable outcome might lead to being correct more often than not, but it can also lead to missing opportunities for huge payoffs. In poker, it’s well understood that there are times when it’s worth betting into a pot that you will probably lose because the potential payout on those few times that you do win is so large that it overrides the smaller amount of losses you’ll incur during the more likely hands when you’re on the losing end of things.

The same is true in baseball, where landing one of the eight playoff spots available in any given year represents a big payoff that can pay significant dividends for a franchise both in the present and for the future. Estimates done on revenue generated for hosting a home playoff game have come in at about $1 million per game for the home team based on ticket sales, parking, concessions, and all of the other benefits that come with packing the place out and having a highly rated playoff game to broadcast on television,.

Beyond just the current revenue boost, there’s also future attendance gains that go up significantly for a team that gets to play into October. The Rangers have added nearly 7,000 fans per game to their average attendance this year after a deep playoff run energized their fan base last year, putting them back into the top tier in revenue generating franchises. Even if we can’t expect the Pirates to get to the World Series, they’d still be able to expect a pretty decent jump in attendance next year if they were able to steal the NL Central title this year. For a team averaging just under 23,000 fans per game, a few extra thousand fans per game could make a significant difference in expected payroll going forward.

I’m not advocating that the Pirates should trade Jameson Taillon for Michael Cuddyer or anything, but they have enough spare parts and prospects with limited ceilings to make a couple of minor moves to upgrade the roster and give their fans a reason to come to the park in August and September. Even if we estimate that the Pirates only have a 5% chance of actually winning this division, the rewards for that one-in-twenty chance hitting are likely more valuable to the franchise than the payoff they’ll get from hanging onto a couple of grade-C prospects and punting a season where they’ve put themselves in position to make a run in the second half of the year.

The Pirates probably aren’t for real, but they’ve already banked 44 wins, and they probably only need another 46 or so over the remainder of the season to give themselves a strong chance of making the playoffs. Is it likely? Probably not, but it’s not impossible, and it could be a franchise-changing result if the Pirates were able to keep this up for the rest of the season. They shouldn’t let the opportunity slip by just because it’s not likely.

There’s an old cliche that reads “fortune favors the bold”. In that context, fortune is supposed to refer to luck rather than monetary value, but in baseball I’d argue that financial fortune really does follow teams that make bold moves and wind up playing playoff baseball. The Pirates have an opportunity to be bold, and they should take it.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

96 Responses to “The Pirates Should Be Buyers”

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  1. Heyward says:

    Buying would be a bad idea. They should sale high on some of their pitching like Charlie Morton.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      But if hanging in the division race for the rest of the season makes fans come to the ballpark, and revenues increase, and next year’s budget is larger…

      Arguably, that’s just as good a plan to build the team for the future.

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    • Schide says:

      Sale the Morton!

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    • Temo says:

      Why would want to sell a young cost controlled pitcher like Morton? I actually don’t think they have any pieces that make sense to move. Either stay pat or move up. Don’t sell.

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  2. Sensual Sharting says:

    Fuck yea

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  3. chrstn41 says:

    Who would you suggest trading for? And who would you suggest offering?

    I realize this is all purely hypothetical. But, the Bucs need serious help at SS and 1B. Catcher and third base stand to be improved by some return to health, but they could be upgraded as well. They have a dearth of OFers, but M. Diaz is probably untradeable, and G. Jones, I think, brings more value to the Pirates ON the team than on the trade market.

    So, which prospects do you think could bring a good return (and who would that return be)?

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    • SpokaneMsFan says:

      I heard Jack Wilson is available!!!

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    • PiratesBreak500 says:

      I think it’s arguable that the catching will be upped by some return to health. It’s looking like Snyder may be out for the year, and while Doumit is a nice bat at catcher, if comparative ERA’s for catchers matter, his is about 1 run higher than Snyder’s, or even Paulino’s when he was still with the Bucs. But that’s a bit moot, as there aren’t many catchers on the market.

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    • Jesse says:

      I really believe they need not be buyers. Alvarez and Doumit will return and be a boost. Diaz and Overbay are starting to turn things around recently. Matt Hague is on fire in Indy and is an option at 1B. d’Arnaud can play a competent SS if Cedeno falters and Chase offers more offensive upside.

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  4. Eric Dykstra says:

    When I saw “FanGraphs: The Pirates Should Be Buyers” in my Twitter feed, I knew it was a Dave Cameron article.

    Anyway, as a Mariners fan it’s kind of depressing that the Pirates are in a better position to make the playoffs than the M’s. They have a few good pieces around going forward, and a playoff berth could get them the kind of interest boost needed to bring themselves out of the situation they’ve been in for the past decade plus.

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  5. Jesse says:

    hmm, i seem to remember in 1990 when a RedSox team unexpectedly were competeing for a play off spot they made a deadline deal to bolster their Bullpen .. wish i could remember how that worked out.

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    • Nik says:

      Bagwell was a top prospect, where does Dave suggest trading a top prospect?

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      • baty says:

        Bagwell was a 4th rounder still creeping up the organizational list at that time.

        To acquire something significant (just as the Pirates need) they would certainly have to dip into the tier of prospects just below Taillon, which in my opinion is as pointless as that Red Sox deal of 20 years ago.

        The question is, how much would the Pirates have to part with to acquire the amount of help necessary to make a run worthy? A LOT

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    • voxpoptart says:

      How it worked out is that Larry Andersen pitched absolutely brilliantly – a 1.23 ERA with peripherals to match – and they won the division by two games, which they otherwise would likely not have. They didn’t have to trade Bagwell to get him, almost certainly, so trading him was stupid — but even given that, going for it won them the race. Which is Cameron’s point: that can happen.

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      • baty says:

        Larry also had a less than desirable showing in the playoffs… with the Red Sox being clearly overmatched. I’m not saying that any of this stuff can be foreseen, but the importance of reaching for a playoff appearance for the sake of getting into the playoffs, is completely overrated, especially for an organization as fragile as the Pirates right now.

        The Pirates have several roster commitments/holes to fill for 2012 and 2013, so it is very possible that the Pirates will take another large step backwards before regaining then sustaining competitiveness for an extended period of time. If you deal, you deal for what you see as “prospect upgrades” or players that you see filling a roles for a 3-5 year stretch.

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  6. Bluebirdz says:

    Yes, the Pirates should be buyers, but not right now, if I was them I would wait until closer to the deadline to see how things shape out. If they are still close to the top then buy, but if they are close to the top and so are the Brewers, Cards, and Reds, then I would sell, not buy, with those three teams there it will be extremely tough to overcome all of them.

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    • tynandaly says:


      I remember reading an article a little while back that looked at the number of wins teams had at certain points in the season, and how well you could predict the final number wins at the end of the season that each team would end up with. I’d link the article but I can’t seem to find it.

      Point is- the Pirates will have a much better idea of their playoff chances at the end of July than they do now, and they can wait until then to make better decisions on whether to buy/sell.

      Atlanta and Philly are battling it out in the East, and whoever doesn’t win that division will most likely take the Wild Card. That being said, the Pirates pretty much have to win the Central if they want to make the playoffs. It will be tough, but stranger things have happened.

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  7. Mr wOBAto says:

    I think the Bucs have to go for if only to break that 20 year losing streak up, sure an 87 win team likely doesn’t get to play any more playoff games than a 72 win team would, but there is value in being in the race down the stretch a value the Bucs haven’t been able to capitalize on since Jose Lind was getting ABs.

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  8. Neuter Your Dogma says:

    As the Pirates are the 29th best team in MLB according to FG PowerRankings, it makes perfect sense to buy.

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  9. ofMontreal says:

    Pedro Alvarez for Alfonso Soriano!!! You get fonzi for 4 years, we get Pedro for 4 years. Totally fair. Plus you get all that offense.

    Just say these words Mr. Hendry.

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    • Mr wOBAto says:

      I get the feeling the windy city won’t be getting any 3B from the steel city any time soon, considering how great it turned out last time.

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  10. Ryan says:

    All outcomes indicate they’re over performing, but I’d love to see them reach 81 wins this year. That’s a much more realistic goal (but it would still do a lot of good for the fan base, since the has had a losing record every year since I was in Kindergarten).

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  11. Infinite Jest says:

    I think they should be buyers as well. They have at the least the top 3 single game attendance figures in PNC history this year and if they stay within shouting distance of first place the fans will continue to respond this summer. It’ll do wonders for next year (even if they don’t make the playoffs this year). The Pirates need to work on holding onto the fans because another sell year, especially one coming in a year with as much interest as this one where there is an outside shot at contending, could alienate some of the fans they haven’t alienated already.

    Off-topic, but you didn’t happen to come across that proverb “fortune favors the bold” in the McGrath piece about Sam Fuld in the New Yorker? I’m sure it’s a well-known saying, but since the piece just came out last week I’m sensing some synergy

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    • Robbie G. says:

      I absolutely agree that this is the reason why Pittsburgh should be buyers. This team has been the worst team in MLB for a long, long time. The team has to give the fans some hope here. The most obvious need is a starting pitcher. If you can get Edwin Jackson back for a prospect or two who you deem expendable, that would be very helpful. Jackson would surely be this team’s #1 starter instantly. Matt Garza deserves a look. Minnesota has multiple starting pitchers (e.g., Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, Carl Pavano) who would surely be #3/#4 starters for Pittsburgh. Hell, Francisco Liriano is out there and was a big time Cy Young-caliber ace starter as recently as last season (and has shown flashes of last year’s brilliance in recent weeks).

      An upgrade at 1B over the horrible Lyle Overbay would also be helpful. Almost anyone represents an upgrade over Overbay. Possibilities: Carlos Pena, James Loney. Can Jim Thome play 1B at this stage in his career? He’s a future HOFer and would presumably give the fans even more incentive to come to the ballpark. Billy Butler would be the ideal target here and can presumably play some adequate 1B. Jamey Carroll is presumably an upgrade at SS over whoever Pittsburgh is starting at SS right now, as well. I would LOVE to see the Pirates make themselves more interesting right now. I used to love the Pirates back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. God, that was a long time ago…

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  12. Kirsh says:

    I do think this team will outperform its sabermetric profile. The reason for that is that their defense up the middle with McCutchen and Cedeno has been tremendous, and the whole team has done a good job turning batted balls into outs. The staff has also induced weak contact and pitched smart for the most part. These things don’t show up in WAR, but they’re obvious changes from recent Pirates teams to this one.

    I’d advocate looking for cheap upgrades that will cost little more than money and low-ceiling prospects. Specifically, I’d like Huntington to think about Carlos Pena, Juan Rivera, and maybe even Beltran.

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    • Phillie697 says:

      weak contact and pitching smart doesn’t show up in WAR? When did that happen? Last time I checked “weak contact” and “pitching smart” shows up on a pitcher’s ERA, which definitely is factored into WAR. They might not show up on real pitching stats like xFIP or SIERA, but that’s because there is no such thing as “weak contact” and “pitching smart.” They are what people use when they can’t accept the concept of luck and random chance.

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      • sean says:

        fangraphs fWAR uses FIP not ERA

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      • jim says:

        you really dont think there’s such a thing as weak contact? have you ever seen mariano rivera or roy halladay pitch? or is the SABR cock too far down your throat for you to look at anything that isnt on the pitching leaderboards?

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      • Phillie697 says:

        Yeah, it’s called the difference between a line drive, a groundball, and a flyball. There has been zero evidence that a pitcher can consistently induce “weak contact,” which I’m assuming you mean little dribblers in the infield.

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      • Pat says:

        FIP is a fake pitching stat last I checked, sorry I’m not happy with trading strikeouts for earned runs. I guess Karstens got lucky every single start all season… Keep runs off the board however you can, striking out batters is not the only way.

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  13. Repo Man says:

    The Pirates should be both buyers and sellers. Just pick the right players for each type of strategy.

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  14. Pierre says:

    Dave Cameron may be worse than Jayson Stark.

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  15. Pat says:

    I agree, the Pirates have to be buyers this year, it’s been so exciting watching this team as a young Pirates fan who’s never seen them win. The attendance is improving, the record is much better, and now it’s time for management to keep their promise and improve the major league product.

    I’m not sure right now who would be the best targets, but I’d really like to see them trade for Jeff Keppinger very soon. He could play third until Alvarez comes back and start some games vs tough lefties, and also split time at shortstop. Michael Cuddyer may be a good fit as the righty bat that Diaz was supposed to be, but Alex Presley may be able to handle an outfield position once Tabata returns.

    The weakest spot on the team is catcher but the duo of Snyder and Doumit was one of the most productive early on, so it’s probably best to wait until one of them get healthy.

    I would really like to see them go after a very good young starting pitcher, but those don’t grow on trees. Scott Baker or James Shields would be pipe dreams, and another relief pitcher may be needed as well if Meek is done.

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    • Trotter76 says:

      I agree, Pat, starting pitching has been overperforming, and if Maholm, Karstens, Morten and the like regress to their averages, it won’t be as sunny in Pittsburgh in the 2nd half. A fireballing starter of the Ogando type is just what the doctor ordered, but like you said, they are not exactly readily available.

      Another question worth asking is: With 20 years of selling under their belt, does ownership know how to buy?

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      • Ryan S says:

        Ugando is all but untouchable, or might as well be considering what would be given up to get him, and honestly he’s due for just as big a regression as any of the afformentioned pitchers.

        I agree with most people that the Dodgers might be the best trade partner. Kuroda and Lilly would make the most sense seeing as they are older players on a franchise in dissaray that could be heading for a rebuilding phase.

        I also suppose that you could at least kick the tires on Furcal, though I’d suspect it’s not even worth doing that much. Billingsley is the most intriguing, though seeing as he’s only turning 27 I doubt the Dodger brass would be inclined to listen to offers.

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    • Mr wOBAto says:

      Keppinger if the price is right, Bartlett, or O-Dog, maybe Hardy if a match could be made. Maybe Adam Laroche would enjoy a return to Pit, beyond that the Bucs ought to be looking to sell BP for prospects at the same time.

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    • matt w says:

      Snyder’s pretty much done for the season, and Doumit seems to play better when he gets some rest, so it’s worth going for a catcher anyway. When they were trying to get a catcher to replace the Dusty and Wyatt show, it was reported that teams were trying to fleece them, but now that they have an actual replacement-level guy they might be in a better position to negotiate the price down.

      Do not want Bartlett — he’s not obviously better than Cedeno even if we regress their fielding numbers.

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  16. j6takish says:

    I’m sure he will garner trade interest before he hits the wire, but if Juan Rivera hits the waiver wire they could plug him in at 1b. A team with a worse record will probably bid for him. Wow, that sounds really weird, the Pirates not being able to claim a player due to their record…

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  17. matt w says:

    Another consideration is that the Pirates’ 40-man roster looks to be clogged with C prospects next year (see this article at the ridiculously slow-loading Pirates Prospects), so there’s no point in trying to trade for more, and some point in trying to trade off some for help. There’s the question of who’s available for what they can offer, given that they won’t be trading any of their top prospects. I don’t think anyone much is available at shortstop (JJ Hardy?); it’s not obvious that Juan Rivera would be worth any more than Matt Hague, who is raking at AAA; and when they tried to get a catcher before, it was reported that teams were trying to rip them off (they wound up getting a serviceable replacement player for a PTBNL). Carlos Pena looks like the best bet to me, unless Cuddyer is cheaper than I think, or unless the price for catchers has come down.

    Huntington’s job is interesting, that’s for sure.

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  18. Blue says:

    Of course the Pirates should be buyers. They can take on salary and they can take on players who are controlled at least through 2012.

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  19. baty says:

    Depending on how you define “buyer”… There’s no reason for the Pirates to try to buy a playoff spot when they clearly aren’t World Series contenders. They need to continue getting smarter with player personnel. It’s too early…

    When the Pirates are winning, they won’t have issues drawing excitement from their fans. The way to secure fan loyalty will be with figuring out a way to lock down McCutchen’s services for something long term. I wouldn’t jump the gun until Taillon and Cole start getting closer, otherwise you risk stunting the team’s growth during the window of opportunity that gives them a more likely chance (maybe 1.5-2 years from now)

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    • PiratesBreak500 says:

      As a Pirates fan, that’s what they used to do…then they would trade the player in the next year or two. That kind of excitement only lasts a week after you do it, and when trying to sell tickets in the offseason. You go to a park to see great players, but the fanbase doesn’t really trust locked up players not to be shipped out anymore.

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      • baty says:

        It’s true, but those issues become much more prominent because of a draft history that was absolutely lousy. With newer management, the draft philosophy has certainly changed, so I wonder…

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  20. CircleChange11 says:

    I’m not sure I’d buy if it risks the next season and the one after. Particularly considering what they have to trade and what they might get in return.

    They’ll either need to acquire an expring contract for yound players, or acquire a salary dump which obligates them for a couple years.

    To this point StL has done about all it can to give the division away in regards to losing an ace pitcher for the year and having Pujols hurt. No team took advantage of that. Now Pujols is coming back sooner than expected.

    I’m not sure the Pirates chances are that good, especially if we expect regression. This isn’t a MIL and CC situation.

    Acquiring someone like Bedard might make sense, but it also might not. I’m generally in favor of teams going for it when they have a chance versus just playing for next year to be in the same situation, but I’m not sure PIT really has that good of a chance.

    They still have a few weeks to see how it goes and see what players might be available. With so many players having NTC, it’s reasonable to assume that they veto any trade to PIT.

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    • Ryan S says:

      When anyone talks about the Bucs being buyers, I think the assumption is that they wouldn’t mortgage anything other than the lower ceiling prospects or bench players. Or guys like Maholm and Doumit if the guys they get are a considerable upgrade.

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  21. Ja4ed says:

    Just admit it, Cameron. You think the Pirates are CLUTCH!

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  22. z says:

    Pirates should seriously trade for kuroda & furcal.
    Kuroda is extremely underrated and furcal is coming of injury but is probably worth the risk. I believe both are free agents at the end of the year. Dodgers are likely to be sellers anyways.

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  23. I agree the Pirates should be buyers, but very cautious buyers. I would not trade away any young talent that is already in the majors, but would be willing to give up a minor league prospect or two. Hanrahan is solid, but the team can really use help hitting and at SP. Remeber, Pedro Alverez should come back, so SP is probably the most beneficial trade. What they need is a veteran SP, not really anything special, to keep them in the race a little longer, and then who know’s, but the next couple of years look good.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      I’m not as knowledgeable as I probably should be, but last I checked they had the lowest runs against in the NL Central. Top 5 in the majors. A big bat would be ideal.

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  24. Ryan S says:

    More Pirates articles please. K thanks.

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  25. PiratesBreak500 says:

    This might sound odd, but I’m not sure the Pirates really need a starting pitching upgrade, or a SS upgrade. Yes, Cedeno’s offense has been rather terrible, but combined with his defensive metrics he’s still an above average shortstop, and there really aren’t any other shortstops on the trade market, other than Reyes or possibly Hanley, and the Pirates aren’t in a position to throw all their prospects for one player. Similarly, the Pirates’ pitchers are due to regress, but a.) Who will regress, and how much? It’s very difficult to time regressions, about as difficult as it is to time the stock market going up or down and b.) How much of an upgrade would they be able to get? There’s not a clear struggler over the season, and it’s hard to say if a few weeks of struggling mean the player will be ineffective in the second half (even if Maholm’s career stats say he can’t pitch past July.)

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  26. gonfalon says:

    The Pirates should be sellers this year: they should offer Lyle Fecking Overbay (he of the 6 dingers and 8 errors) to whichever team is stupid enough to take him… Primanti Bros. gift cards gladly accepted in trade.

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  27. Antonio Bananas says:

    I don’t think they should do anything. What can they really do? You don’t want to trade your prospects on the off chance you might win the division, and they don’t really have anyone who fits the “sell” mold. Being older, expensive, and valuable. They have a lot of good young cheap players.

    Morton is getting paid under 500K, he’ll reach arb next year but it won’t jump a whole lot, I’m guessing 3Mish. McCutchen is a franchise player. Maholm maybe you trade but I don’t think you’d get much. He’s having what’s likely a career year and has an option for almost 10M next year. I doubt they’d get anything more than a B level prospect. Unless some team gets super despirate and gets swindled.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      I can see them ending up over .500, which I’m sure would be good enough for them. The division isn’t a good division, it’s a balanced one. The Cards and Reds both have holes, the nuthouse they run in Chicago will never win a bunch of games in a row, the Stros are awful. Really the only team that would scare me in the playoffs would be the Crew. Even then their defense blows and most other playoff contenders have better pitching. If someone on the Crew gets injured, or if Greinke’s 5something ERA continues (it won’t) then they really do have an chance at sneaking in. Like a 10% chance at best but it’s something.

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    • Sox2727 says:

      The Pirates are used to trading good players to Chicago so how about Andrew McCutchen for Carlos Quentin…can a guy dream?

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  28. Mister X says:

    This guy should be writing for ESPN.

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  29. tomaso says:

    I would try to lure Brent Lillibridge from the white sox. He can play multiple positions and is outstanding defensive player with a respectable batting avg.

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  30. szielinski says:

    If a team wants to make a crazy trade which would benefit the Pirates in their 2011 stretch drive, the Pirates should make that trade so long as it does not require sending premium talent back to the trading team.

    Otherwise, the Pirates ought to stand pat this summer. I’d rather the team acquire position player prospects that can hit for power and who play first base or right field.

    This is not the year the Pirates were meant to climb the standings. The team still needs to build a rotation for 2012 and it needs players like Tabata, Alvarez and Walker to pick up their games. If these three hit better after the All Star break, the Pirates will have enough firepower to best the McClatchy Line (.500) and, perhaps, contend for a division title. The team still has a lot of player sorting and filtering to accomplish to worry enough about a gift division title that they would loose prospects for a rental player.

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  31. CircleChange11 says:

    Saying the Pirates should be “buying” is not enough.

    We need to look at who they can acquire, how that helps them, who they have to give up, and whether it’s worth the risk.

    My comment about waiting a bit is due to the situation that 1.5 game back could turn into first place or 5 games back in a manner of weeks.

    If you’re going to get something that’s going to make a big difference (~2 wins for the remainder), you’re going to have to give up something or take on salary. Both of those come with consequences. I’m just saying “you’d better be sure”. If I were PIT, making a play for Hanley at this point in time might be something that needs explored, particularly is they can move him to 3B, and move a 3B to 1B and improve 2 positions, while still being reasonable with finances.

    Acquiring pitching from LAD is another decent idea that was presented. We’d need to look at chaining to see how that would affect the rotation. Adding a 1 or 2 (relative to the Lirates) might be a major upgrade seeing that they’d push the current 5th starter out of the rotation.

    Who are some veteran players in the last 1-2 years of their reasonable contract that ate due some favorable regression in the second half?

    In their situation, PIT needs to find a “steal” and not necessarily give up prospects for a marginal known commodity. Hanley or some other impact name might be a pipe dream.

    PIT isn’t just trying to leap 1 team, they’re trying to outplay 3 other more talented teams (StL, CIN, and MIL). The division may look very different next year depending on what happens with Pujols, Fielder, etc. They may find themselves on the upswing in 2012 with some other teams on the downswing. Going for it “right now” might be the right move at the wrong time.

    Just showing some reasonable improvement in the competitive department is a big move for PIT. I don’t think they need to make the playoffs in 2011 to rejuvenate the fan base. Duplicating their first half likely does that. PIT could be playing meaningful games in August which is a rare treat.

    This is the “temptation moment” for Huntington. Do you go for it or stick to the plan. Be interesting to see how other struggling franchises have done in this situation. Cleveland turned around their franchise by stringing together a bunch of winning (sellout) seasons together. Florida goes for it once every 5 years or so and then goes back into rebuilding. The sad thing us that the margin for error for PIT is so small due to their circumstances.

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  32. Barry Bonds says:

    Bring me back.

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  33. adohaj says:

    The pirates need to buy. I just hope they don’t mess it up. The front office isn’t very experienced with this buying concept.

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  34. CircleChange11 says:

    Another aspect is that the Pirates play in a football town, and there might not be football in August or even September. This might be their chance to get 30K+ in the seats for home games in those months.

    Then again, if the lockout ends soon, and the Pirates do make some moves, there’s a chance no one is around to hear it. I’m not familiar enough with PIT to know if that’s a realistic scenario or not.

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    • Phillie697 says:

      There isn’t any football right now and they aren’t watching the Pirates, why on earth would you think they will watch the Pirates if the NFL lockout continues?

      “Hey, there is no football, so let’s watch some baseball!!!”
      “Ah… then why didn’t we watch baseball all summer when there was no football then either?”
      “Who said this has to make any sense? Come on let’s just go watch some baseball!!!”

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      • Clay says:

        I think the concept is “winning baseball in August/September with something close to a pennant race and no football equals more attendance/viewers than winning baseball in August/September with something close to a pennant race with the Stillers playing.” Not that much of a stretch, really.

        As much as Pittsburgh is a football town, it is also a WINNING town, in that the fans follow the winners regardless of the sport. If the Bucs are over .500 and still near contention when school starts, there will be a buzz that even casual (i.e., not attending PNC Park in May) sports fans will notice. My sense is that the city has gone so long without even the hint of a baseball winner that fans think “why bother?” If they are still winning later in the season, then fans will know about it and respond.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I was talking from the standpoint that the Pirates would be in a division race, and their wouldn’t be pro football … so the Pirates would be getting a lot of media attention, and perhaps even increased fan support. The sporting competition would be the start of the NHL season and college football.

        I wasn’t thinking that fans would just be sitting around saying “There’s no football, what are we going to do now?” “Hey, let’s go watch some Pirates baseball.”

        The whole idea was that casual fans turn out to watch (and be associated with) a winning team. Baseball fans continue to watch the team throughout the year.

        Basically Clay got it.

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  35. John says:

    Absolutely disagree. I think the record is for real but look at their DL, their best “buying” will be getting healthy and they’re not exactly deep in the prospect department, a rent would be silly for them.

    IMO, if they’re not signing Maholm they should bank on him and trade him. Also, try to trade some reliever not named Hanrahan for a haul similar to the James McDonald trade, I’m sure there are still some dumb GMs that would do that again.

    Otherwise they should ride this team IMO.

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  36. Troy L. Underbridge says:

    Baseball prospectus has the Pirates playoff odds at 2.3%, so while I appreciate the sentiment of the article, at this point they’re probably not competitive enough for this suggestion to become legitimate.

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    • matt w says:

      Coolstandings has the Pirates with 31.5% odds of making the playoffs. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but a lot closer to coolstandings; BPro projects the Pirates to win at a .429 clip for the rest of the season, and the Cubs to win at .477, which doesn’t seem like a plausible projection (I mean, it could happen, but I wouldn’t put money on it). I’m not actually positive that BPro updates its rest-of-season projections once the season is underway.

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  37. Mike says:

    The pirates should try to find a replacement for overbay. The d has been solid, and a replacement at 1b shouldn’t cost toouch given that it won’t take a world class player to upgrade that spot. And Phillie, people are watching the pirates now. Top 3 home attendance games in pnc history. Why are you trolling on this site?

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    • Phillie697 says:

      If there are people watching (and attendance is indeed up this year for the Pirates), then good. I was just refuting the claim that more people will watch because NFL is on lockout. They will watch because the Pirates are good, not because there is no football.

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  38. Mike says:

    A bat to replace overbay would be nice.

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  39. Mike says:

    Why is my pic this creepy witch thing?!

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  40. Matty Brown says:

    Truly great article Dave.

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  41. Ryan Waltman says:

    look, this isn’t a statistical thing. The Pirates should buy because it will show the team and the town that Pittsburgh is serious about baseball…finally. Being buyers instead of “wholesalers” would change the entire perception of this town around. We have to be able to attract 2nd tier FA’s and by paying and trading for some decent names, we might be able to start doing this. Lyle Overbay didn’t land in Pittsburgh, we sucked enough that we crashed into his rocky shores and .230 batting average. Nobody is coming to Pittsburgh to play baseball, we gotta change that!

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  42. FlimtotheFlam says:

    As a Cardinal fan the only team I would be all right with beating us in the Central would be the Pirates. Their fans really deserve it. But if they are anything like the Reds and the Brewers. Even a little taste of the playoffs will bring in so many bad fans it will eventually drive me crazy.

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  43. JMN says:

    I can see them buying under two scenarios. The first is to take on a veteran pitcher with a large salary, meaning they don’t have to give up much in the form of a prospect, this should keep them in contention and the sustained fan base revenue would help cover that. The second is to go small with trading “C” level prospects, again to stretch the competitiveness out. But in either case I doubt they go big on the oft chance they can actually win the division, there is just too much they have to give up of the future if everything has to go right for a win this year.

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  44. AlvarezRiverBall says:

    The Pirates post All Star Break schedule reads, Reds, Cardinals, Braves and Phillies. All 4 are potential playoff teams. When this section of the schedule is over the Pirates will know where they stack up in terms of competition and playoff race. Beating up on the Cubs and Astros right now is nice but it’s going to be a different ball game in a few weeks. They can either stay put and see how they’ll fare with their current roster then make a move to go for it all….or they can make the move now so they’ll be in a better position to face stronger competition towards the trade deadline. I say make a move now.

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  45. Spanky Lavalliere says:

    I can upgrade the catching position.

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  46. CircleChange11 says:

    Last year the answer to this question for every team was “David DeJesus”.

    Who is the answer for all contending teams this year?

    I’m still not seeing many examples for who PIT could/should buy and for how much?

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  47. Skink says:

    The idea is to get a bat without trading the future. The Bucs have a bunch of guys who will be Rule 5 eligible end of the year and not many roster spaces to protect them. It’s possible guys like Alderson and Colla will be left off. So you need to trade them.

    A month or so ago I would’ve targeted Josh Willingham. But with Presley’s call up, Paul doing well and Tabata expected back shortly, I’m not uncomfortable with the outfield, powerless as it may be.

    So who else could the Bucs get who would be somebody else’s salary dump but not cost much in prospects? Here’s one… Adam Dunn. He of the .171 BA and 8HRs. The guy hates DHing and the AL. Sure, he’ll strike out more than Pedro, but who really wants to pitch to him? Plus he destroys Cardinals pitching and has 1.000+ OPS vs. several of the West teams the Bucs will face in 2nd half.

    If I’m NH, I’m scouting the guy and looking to see if he’s truly washed up or whether a return to the NL might be just what the doc ordered. Reinsdorf doesn’t really want him although Kenny Williams thinks he’ll turn it around. The ChiSox can use Lyle as a DH. Throw in one or two of those Rule 5 guys, this could get done.

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  48. Dave S says:

    I like the Dunn thought… but he’s due $50 million through 2014. That’s a ton of money to tie up in a maybe finished player. I can’t see that. Would sure make a statement though!

    How about Brandon Allen? A relatively low cost upgrade, with some upside. Also not old or expensive, so he won’t derail the youth movement.

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