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Inbox: Will Pirates be active at Deadline?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers fans' questions
July 27, 2017

The Pirates enjoyed an off-day on the West Coast on Thursday, but with the non-waiver Trade Deadline only days away, Pittsburgh's front office likely won't find rest anytime soon. Before the rumors and speculation end Monday at 4 p.m. ET, we'll answer your questions about the Bucs' plans in a

The Pirates enjoyed an off-day on the West Coast on Thursday, but with the non-waiver Trade Deadline only days away, Pittsburgh's front office likely won't find rest anytime soon. Before the rumors and speculation end Monday at 4 p.m. ET, we'll answer your questions about the Bucs' plans in a Trade Deadline-themed Inbox.
Could the Pirates make a big addition now that they're back in the race? A big bat or an ace pitcher?
-- Larry E., Pittsburgh

I wouldn't expect anything "big" by Trade Deadline standards, but I do think they'll add. A National League executive recently told my colleague Mark Feinsand that the Bucs likely will be "moderate buyers," which matches up with my sense of where they stand.
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I think they'll look to add depth with another hitter and a reliever, maybe another starter like J.A. Happ (2015) and Ivan Nova ('16) -- not front-line arms, but pitchers who clearly had untapped value.
Gregory Polanco's hamstring injury and Starling Marte's lack of postseason eligibility might lead you to believe they're locked in on getting another outfielder. But with Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier able to play the outfield, they're also considering infielders.

The benefit of an open-minded outlook is that the Pirates can approach the Deadline simply seeking the most value, not one specific type of player. If the best available deal is for an outfielder, they can make that work. If it's an infielder, they can shuffle their current pieces to find a fit.
They're comfortable with the high-ceiling arms atop their rotation -- Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Nova -- and they've seen good signs recently from Chad Kuhl and especially Trevor Williams. Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault and Andrew Hutchison have pitched well in Triple-A, too. The bullpen has rounded into form since Felipe Rivero took over the ninth inning, but there are a ton of intriguing relief options on the market that could add depth.
Even though they're contending, could they still trade somebody? I like where they're at, but I don't want them to pass up a good deal because I don't know if they can beat the Cubs.
-- Tony G., Pittsburgh

Since they're on the outside of the division race looking in, as general manager Neal Huntington likes to say, there's still a chance they could buy and sell, as they did last year. I don't want to completely rule out anything, but I'd be surprised if they moved Andrew McCutchen, Cole or Harrison, all subjects of early season trade rumors.
This front office is typically willing to move players with expiring contracts, and their pending free agents include Tony Watson, Juan Nicasio and John Jaso.

Of that group, Watson might be the most likely to go. He has been linked to a number of teams, including the Rays and the Dodgers -- with the latter having had interest since the offseason. Nicasio might bring back the biggest return -- he's having a strong season -- but he's also critical to their current bullpen as Rivero's primary setup man.
Would the Pirates consider selling top prospects like [Austin] Meadows or Glasnow?
-- Logan T., Adena, Ohio

I wouldn't bet on it. The Pirates have dealt mid-level prospects in the recent past -- Adrian Sampson for Happ, Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley for Nova, JaCoby Jones for Joakim Soria, etc. -- and I suspect they'll be willing to do the same this year. But they have been reluctant to part with their best Minor League talent, and there's no reason to believe that will change given their current standing.
The trickiest aspect of potentially moving Meadows or Glasnow is their proximity to the Majors, where they may have important parts to play. Meadows remains the most likely long-term replacement for McCutchen, and Glasnow has top-of-the-rotation potential even after a rocky debut.
Don't the Pirates have money to spend this year since Jungho Kang hasn't played all year?
-- Jason R., Philadelphia

They do. Huntington has said the Pirates spent to their budget in the offseason, but three circumstances after that provided a little more flexibility.
They have not paid Kang's $2.75 million salary, since he's been on the restricted list all season. They didn't have to pay roughly half of Marte's $5 million salary during his 80-game suspension. They also saved about $2 million by releasing Jared Hughes at the end of Spring Training.

I get what kind of players they might be looking for, but which specific players do you think would fit?
-- Ray B., Morgantown, W. Va.

This is the time of year that rumors fly, yet the Bucs have barely been connected to anybody in particular. I thought third baseman Eduardo Nunez (traded to the Red Sox), right-hander Trevor Cahill (now with the Royals) and reliever Pat Neshek (acquired Wednesday by the Rockies) made sense for them, realistically considering what they're looking for.
With that in mind, I think the Phillies' Howie Kendrick and the A's Jed Lowrie might best fit their mold as veteran, versatile infielders having good seasons. If they want an outfielder, Jay Bruce -- a two-month rental -- is probably the biggest power bat who could be had for a reasonable return. Old friends Steve Pearce and Matt Joyce, both under contract through 2018, are interesting bounce-back candidates.
Speaking of old friends, how about lefty reliever Justin Wilson? He would come at a high price, but he's also under club control for next season -- not a bad way to replace Watson, if he doesn't return. Blue Jays right-hander Joe Smith and lefty Aaron Loup are big ground-ball relievers, which fits their preferred profile.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.