Mailbag: What will Pirates do at the Deadline?

June 19th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Alex Stumpf’s Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PITTSBURGH -- This week, I asked X users to either message or e-mail me questions for a midseason mailbag. Thank you to all who responded. If this goes well, hopefully we’ll do it again soon.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Trade Deadline, pitching prospects, a McDonald’s legend and more. Please note that some questions may have been slightly edited for clarity.

@RenegadeTyler: What is a likely trade scenario before the deadline? Do the Pirates feel comfortable moving off of prospects like [Bubba] Chandler or [Anthony] Solometo?

I got a lot of Trade Deadline questions, so I’ll go with Tyler’s, since I can touch on several subjects here.

The best answer I can give right now is it’s too soon to say what the Pirates will do. Yes, they’re only a game out of an NL Wild Card spot, but everyone in the National League -- besides the Marlins and the Rockies -- is in the mix right now. At some point the field will thin, and if the Pirates are still in the mix as they approach the July 30 Deadline, I expect they’ll look to add. If they aren’t, I expect they’ll sell some of their veterans on expiring contracts (Aroldis Chapman, Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales could be in demand if healthy).

But let’s assume they play good ball over the next six weeks and they’re buyers. I still don’t see them trading top prospects this year. Getting a couple of seventh-inning-type relievers may not be the flashiest move, but it could make an impact and wouldn’t cost top-tier prospects. Another outfielder -- even a platoon -- should be a boost if Jack Suwinski and Michael A. Taylor can’t get going offensively.

I don’t see a Chris Archer-type trade happening this year. This team’s core of players is here for at least two more seasons, so the Pirates don’t have to go all-in yet. But if they have a chance to seriously improve the club at the right price, they really should consider doing it.

@Tom_72454: In your view, is Derek Shelton managing like he has a team that can compete for the postseason or is he still managing like a team in a rebuild?

Definitely the former. I covered many a game where Shelton had to make do with waiver claims and just hope for the best while gathering intel on if certain players could one day perform in leverage spots. He tried to win, but development was paramount. I haven’t really seen that this year. It sure helps that the majority of the roster now consists of players who either came through the farm system or are more established veterans.

I get that managerial decisions are not always popular, but I look at how Shelton managed the series against the Twins during the last homestand and how aggressive he was with his bullpen. He didn’t manage like that in 2021 and '22. It paid off with a series win.

@StanHumphries16: Will we see any of the Big 3 (Braxton Ashcraft, Chandler, Solometo) in the big leagues this year?

All three rank among the Pirates’ top six prospects, according to MLB Pipeline (Chandler is No. 3, while Solometo ranks as No. 4 and Ashcraft as No. 6), and are in the upper half of the system. Ashcraft is my bet for most likely to get a callup, not just because he is already on the 40-man roster and was recently promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis, but because he’s really impressed this year -- so much that his promotion to Indianapolis came a bit sooner than expected.

My only concern is that Ashcraft has already set a new personal record for professional innings in a season. How high do the Pirates want to go given his injury history, which includes Tommy John surgery in 2021? If they want to limit his innings a bit, his stuff (upper-90s fastball, high spin slider) would play well out of the bullpen in September, so the club could go that route for the short term.

@__thegrayarea: If the Pirates were to go on a Grimace run such as the Mets are, what mascot is serving as the sparkplug to that run? Gotta be Smiley, right?

Now we’re cooking. If you aren’t familiar with the Grimace Mets memes, do yourself a favor and search for some now.

Smiley is a great choice, but the Eat’n Park mascot threw the first pitch on June 9 and the Pirates didn’t immediately embark on a meme-fueled win streak. I went through some nautical-themed mascots looking for a match (Cap’n Crunch, the Captain Morgan pirate, the Gorton’s fisherman), but I was overthinking it. The Big Mac was born in nearby Uniontown, Pa., and the Hamburglar has been known to pillage and steal those burgers. How very piratey.