CLEVELAND -- Has the Pirates' recent surge up the standings turned them into Trade Deadline buyers? Two recent reports would seem to indicate so.The Pirates are "exploring a variety of upgrades" leading up to Tuesday's non-waiver deadline, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday. They may be targeting high-end
CLEVELAND -- Has the Pirates' recent surge up the standings turned them into Trade Deadline buyers? Two recent reports would seem to indicate so.
The Pirates are "exploring a variety of upgrades" leading up to Tuesday's non-waiver deadline, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday. They may be targeting high-end relief help, as the Dallas Morning News reported on Tuesday that Pittsburgh has "legitimate interest" in Rangers closer Keone Kela.
General manager Neal Huntington said on Sunday that the Pirates "would love to add" after working their way back into the National League Wild Card race, though he didn't specify what areas they might seek to upgrade.
"If there is something out there that makes sense and makes us better, we are absolutely open to that," Huntington said on his weekly KDKA-FM radio show.
In recent years, the Pirates' level of aggressiveness at the non-waiver Trade Deadline has depended upon their place in the standings. With a legitimate chance to win the division in 2015, they dealt a handful of mid-level prospects in late July and brought in starter J.A. Happ, reliever Joakim Soria and third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
The Pirates are currently in a position similar to where they stood in late July 2016: within striking distance of a Wild Card spot while facing long odds to catch the NL Central-leading Cubs. Prior to that Trade Deadline, they both bought and sold. They dealt Mark Melancon to Washington for Felipe Vazquez and prospect Taylor Hearn, shipped out Francisco Liriano along with two prospects and acquired Ivan Nova as a rental before extending him during the offseason.
Kela would be a reasonable target for the Pirates, as he could bolster the current club's bullpen and help them in future years. But the same factors that make a player like Kela appealing -- his performance and contractual status -- will also likely drive up the cost to acquire him.
Kela owns a 3.28 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and 23 saves in 37 appearances for Texas this season. The 25-year-old right-hander is making $1.2 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility and won't reach free agency until after the 2020 season.
The Pirates like the back end of their bullpen as it's currently constructed, with right-handers Kyle Crick, Edgar Santana and Richard Rodriguez pitching in front of Vazquez, but they could make room for another proven arm to deepen their relief corps.
With a short bench and Dickerson's status day-to-day, the Pirates recalled super-utility man Adam Frazier and optioned right-hander Casey Sadler to Triple-A Indianapolis.
• Left fielder Corey Dickerson reported "slight improvement" after exiting Tuesday's game due to left hamstring discomfort, Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said, but he was not in the starting lineup on Wednesday at Progressive Field. In his last six games, Dickerson is hitting .481 (13-for-27) with five home runs and nine RBIs. In his place on Wednesday, Jordan Luplow started in left, batting leadoff.
• Right-hander Chad Kuhl (forearm/elbow injury) recently began gripping exercises, Tomczyk said. Kuhl will continue that stage of his rehab for seven to 10 days before the Bucs reassess his status and likely map out a throwing program.
• Catcher Francisco Cervelli (concussion) has been symptom-free since the All-Star break, Tomczyk said. Cervelli has resumed all baseball activities but still needs to complete a battery of tests in Pittsburgh this week before the Pirates submit the necessary paperwork to have him cleared by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association.
• Infielder Jungho Kang, on the Triple-A disabled list, is taking swings after being shut down due to a sprained left wrist, and reliever A.J. Schugel (shoulder) threw a simulated game on Tuesday and could begin a rehab assignment in the coming weeks, Tomczyk said.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.