In the past 3 years, it was no secret that the Pittsburgh Pirates were ‘buyers’ at the MLB Trade Deadline, meaning that since they were in playoff contention that it was a no-brainer that they were going to add players (or ‘salary’ as GM Neil Huntington put it) to get them into the postseason. As for this season It’s hard to say what the Pirates are thinking as they made moves at this year’s trade deadline that left mixed reviews as the Pirates were both ‘buyers’ and ‘Sellers.’
On Saturday, Huntington traded away their All-Star closer in Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals for pitchers Pirates for relievers Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. Rivero is with the ball club now, but Hearn is a Class a Prospect. Such a deal does help a contending team, but not the Pirates, unless you realize that trading Melancon saves the Pirates $3 Million in salary.
And on Monday, Huntington made more moves as sent P Jonathon Niese back to the Mets for former Pirates reliever Antonio Bastardo. They also acquired P Ivan Nova from the NY Yankees for a player to be named later, and they traded P Francisco Liriano, C Reese McGuire & OF Harold Ramirez (both minor league prospects) to the Toronto Blue Jays for P Drew Hutchison.
For the Yankees, Nova is 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA and Hutchison went 1-0 with a 4.97 ERA for the Blue Jays.
Both Liriano and Niese were truly disappointments for the Pirates this season. Liriano struggled to a 6-11 record with a horrible 5.46 ERA and while Niese went a hard 8-6, his 4.91 (which leads the Pirates pitchers, by the way) was so hard to deal with that even Huntington actually admitted that trading Walker for him was a mistake.
Say what you want about the Pirates trading Melancon and Liriano. They were both salary dumps. Melancon was making $9.6 million and will be a free agent after the season while Liriano (who will also be a free agent after the season) while Liriano was making a whopping $11 million this season.
So now that the ‘smoke’ has cleared, what will the Pirates look like after all these trades? Well, it’s no secret that their pitching staff has gotten younger. You can expect Nova and Hutchison to join the starting rotation with ace Gerritt Cole, Rookie Jameson Tallion and a starter to be named later. Although they have Rivero (4.44 ERA, 1 SV) in the bullpen, he won’t be the closer. that job goes to former set-up man Tony Watson (2.64 ERA, 0 Saves)
Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage will once again trade his pitching skills for his MD license-and ‘fix’ or ‘adjust’ Rivero, Nova and Hutchison. The one who stands out in this crew is Nova, who clearly has talent. He could easily become another JA Happ for the Pirates-which would greatly benefit the pitching staff.
As much as the Pirates desperately need their pitchers to turn it around with 59 games to play, but their bats need a spark too as they were virtually invisible this weekend in Milwaukee. Maybe their spirits were crushed after the Melancon trade, maybe it’s just the fact that they can’t win at Miller Park, whatever the reason, the Pirates were swept in 3 games to the 47-56 Brewers, who’re currently 15.5 games out of first place in the NL Central.
All-Star LF Starling Marte leads the Pirates with a .322 batting average (4th in the NL), but having only 7 HRs is hurting the club. CF Andrew McCutchen continues to hurt the club with his .241 batting average and 107 strikeouts which are truly an albatross not only to the team-but to his career. He still does have 15 HRs, which is tied for the league lead. 3B Jung Ho Kang continues to struggle with a .236 batting average with 11 HRs and 36 RBI. 1B John Jaso was a pleasant surprise to the Pirates at the beginning of the season, but has now struggled to a .257 batting average. 2B John Harrison (.266, 3, 42) has also been a disappointment at the plate and his status is currently day-to-day as he left Sunday’s game vs. the Brewers with leg discomfort.
Kudos to RF Gregory Polanco, who has truly come into his own as he’s hitting .287 and is tied with McCutchen with 15 HRs and leads the team with 56 RBI, and he has gotten help from 1B David Freese (.279, 10, 42) and Super sub Matt Joyce (.286, 10, 43) but this team truly needs McCutchen and Kang to catch lightning in a bottle.
Yes, it’s true that the Pirates could be worse, but if they could also be better-provided the pitching staff had more talent and the bats did more. But since they’re still in range of the Wild Card, Huntington still thinks the Pirates have a shot at the postseason. Do you believe in miracles? Apparently Huntington does. Let’s hope the Pirates do-by showing it on the field.
Up next: Cole will try to build upon his first professional complete game when he starts against Atlanta on Tuesday as the Pirates take on the Braves.
In other MLB news: The Pirates weren’t the only team busy before the trade deadline. The Texas Rangers, who currently lead the AL West, were very aggressive as they acquired former NY Yankees OF Carlos Beltran and former Brewers C Jonathan Lucroy for prospects. The NL Wild Card-contending Mets acquired OF Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds for INF Dilson Herrera and LHP Max Wotell. The NL Wild Card leading LA Dodgers acquired OF Josh Reddick and LHP Rich Hill from the Oakland A’s for RHPs Jharel Cotton, Grant Holmes and Frankie Montas. The NL West-leading SF Giants acquired P Matt Moore from the Tampa Bay Rays, who also sent OF Brandon Guyer to Cleveland, who lead the AL Central. The AL Wild Card contending Blue Jays acquired RHP Scott Feldman from Houston.
In NFL News: The Buffalo Bills signed veteran RB Reggie Bush to a 1-year contract Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins ended his brief holdout with the Houston Texans and rejoined the team at training camp. The young WR is seeking a new contract with his team. SD Chargers WR Stevie Johnson has torn meniscus, out indefinitely.
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