Deal or No Deal is a Complex Question for Surprising Pirates

There’s no reason to be sellers now that the season has taken a turn toward the competitive, but nor should the Pirates be desperate to buy and in the process over-spend.



In at least one respect it’s already been a season of achievement for the Pirates.

The Steelers are reporting to St. Vincent College and we’re still talking about the Bucs.

The Pirates matched their season-low plummet to nine games under .500 when they fell to  37-46 following a 4-0 loss on July 3 at woeful Philadelphia, a dispiriting setback that had been directly preceded by the Pirates having been swept at home by even-worse San Francisco.

But Monday night’s win over those same, still-struggling Giants upped the Bucs’ record to 13-4 since, a streak of consistent, quality baseball that has not only changed the landscape but also appears sustainable.

And despite Tuesday night’s 11-3 loss to the Giants, the Pirates awoke Wednesday in possession of the best record on the National League Central Division since May 13 at 36-29.

As Clint Hurdle likes to observe amid such circumstances, who had that?

Hurdle and General Manager Neal Huntington had at least publicly maintained all along that such a run was possible.

Now, after apparently getting the bullpen sorted out and at least stabilized, after getting Andrew McCutchen back to playing at a level representative of his 2013 MVP season, and after getting Starling Marte back from suspension, the argument can be made that the Pirates’ first-half struggles were the aberration, not their recent success.

When they’re not blowing games late, this is a team capable of potentially staying in the race and in the conversation even leading up to the Steelers’ regular-season opener on Sept. 10 at Cleveland and beyond.

Of course, the Cubs might also render the Buccos’ resurrection moot in terms of their division title aspirations. Chicago can do so by simply putting the pedal down in the season’s second half and reminding everyone why Chicago is the defending-World Series champion. Winning nine of their first 11 games after the All-Star break suggested the Cubs were at least clearing their throats if not already in the process of making such a statement.

Huntington is presumably wrestling with such a conundrum in advance of Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

The Cubs have already muscled up via the acquisition of Jose Quintana.

But for the Pirates, there might not be such a high-profile option available that makes sense, one that would be perceived as enough of a difference-maker to justify the cost in prospects of acquiring such a player.

There’s no reason to be sellers now that the season has taken a turn toward the competitive, but nor should the Pirates be desperate to buy and in the process over-spend.

The Bucs could use another arm for the bullpen, another outfielder and even another option at third base or off the bench for the stretch.

But such additions would be complementary pieces and not worth risking the farm to obtain.

If all else fails, better to dance with what’s gotten the Pirates this far until the music stops.

“Everyone’s showing up,” McCutchen told reporters after the series-opening win in San Francisco on Monday night. “This offense is good, we’ve shown that. We can be a real good team if we do that more consistently.”

Francisco Cervelli can continue to help the Pirates become that, as can Josh Bell, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, a resurgent Gregory Polanco (assuming his current stint on the disabled list is relatively brief), Marte and McCutchen.

Gerrit Cole, Jamison Taillon and Ivan Nova can do that from the front of the rotation, and Felipe Rivero can as the back-end hammer.

But if it isn’t those guys leading the charge, whatever Huntington manages to get his hands on at the trade deadline still won’t be enough.
 

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