PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates did not make any sweeping changes prior to Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. They effectively swapped one veteran setup reliever with an expiring contract, Tony Watson, for another, Joaquin Benoit. They acquired two Class A prospects while parting with one.Pittsburgh engaged in conversations to add more than
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates did not make any sweeping changes prior to Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. They effectively swapped one veteran setup reliever with an expiring contract, Tony Watson, for another, Joaquin Benoit. They acquired two Class A prospects while parting with one.
Pittsburgh engaged in conversations to add more than just Benoit, general manager Neal Huntington said, but only two deals came to fruition: Watson to the Dodgers for infielder Oneil Cruz and right-hander Angel German, and Benoit (plus cash considerations) from the Phillies in exchange for right-hander Seth McGarry.
"As we looked at other opportunities to add, we didn't find good matches there. We didn't find appropriate fits," Huntington said. "Same on the other side. We didn't find the appropriate, compelling moves to potentially take away from this club but add to future clubs."
Why not make bolder moves to bolster this year's club? Why not trade away more veterans nearing the end of their contracts, such as Juan Nicasio or John Jaso?
The Pirates took a realistic look at their team -- talented enough to make a run, but still three games under .500 and 5 1/2 games behind a surging Cubs team now atop the National League Central. But they did not tear it down, because they could vault back into the race with another hot streak (like their 12-2 stretch from July 4-21) and much of their core will return next season.
"If we can get back to clicking on all cylinders, then we can make this interesting," Huntington said. "We felt like this was the right set of decisions to make for this team, for this organization.
"If we wanted to, we could have moved other players," Huntington said. "The returns were not compelling. The Watson return was compelling.
Watson was a central figure in the Bucs' bullpen and one of the game's most reliable relievers since his debut in 2011, posting a 2.68 ERA in 450 appearances. The lefty was also a clubhouse leader and the third-longest-tenured player on Pittsburgh's roster, behind Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison.
"Tony has been the consummate professional," Huntington said. "We cannot express enough appreciation to Tony Watson as a man as well as the pitcher, everything he's done, the stable force he's been in the back end of our bullpen for a long time."
Benoit should slot in front of setup man Nicasio and closer Felipe Rivero. The 40-year-old right-hander is also eligible for free agency at the end of the season. He had two saves, a 4.07 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 42 innings for Philadelphia this season.
"It's always good to try to go and try to make it to the playoffs and hopefully be the guy that they need," Benoit said.
Cruz, 18, slots in as Pittsburgh No. 16 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. The 6-foot-6 shortstop/third baseman was hitting .240 with eight home runs in 89 games for Class A Great Lakes. German, 21, had a 1.91 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 33 innings in the Midwest League.
"In Cruz's case, it's a very long-levered athlete that has quality raw power, hits the ball about as hard as anybody we have in our system right now," Huntington said. "In German's case, it's a big man with a big arm. It's a fastball in the mid 90s complemented by a developing slider and changeup."
The Pirates entered this trade season with money to spend. Pittsburgh did not have to cover 80 games' worth of Starling Marte's $5 million salary, and it appears Jungho Kang's entire $2.75 million salary will go unpaid. They also saved about $2 million by releasing Jared Hughes at the end of Spring Training.
If the Bucs do make another run and establish themselves as contenders in August, Huntington said the front office would be open to supplementing the club during the waiver trade period as it did with Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd in 2013.
"As we've done every year, we'll take a look at each player that comes through the trade waivers and look to see if there's a potential match," Huntington said. "We're always looking for ways to add to the quality of the organization, whether it's the Major League club or our system as a whole. The standard answer is we're always looking for ways to get better."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.