The Big Picture
The Pirates are in first place at the All-Star Break. Oops - hold on. I didn’t say that with the right emphasis. Let me try again. The PIRATES are in FIRST F*$%ING PLACE at the ALL-STAR BREAK.
That’s a fair question, considering their offense has scored 345 runs this year, 21st
in the majors. The answer is that their pitching and defense has been outstanding, resulting in the 5th
best team ERA in the league.
Why They Will Trade With The Twins
For starters, they’re “in a buying mode” according to their manager
. And they’re looking for offense.
You can almost throw a dart and find a spot in the lineup that needs improving. That said, the Pirates leadoff spot has been terrible
this year, with a combined .228 batting average and .272 on-base percentage. That OBP ranks 29th
in the major leagues. Recently they turned leadoff duties to a guy they just picked up off of waivers. It’s that bad.
Denard Span probably wouldn’t play center field in Pittsburgh because their center fielder, Andrew McCutcheon, is having an enormous year. However, left fielder Jose Tabata was just sent down to AAA. He’ll be back because he signed a six-year deal with the Pirates, but there is also right field, where Twins castoff Garret Jones is platooning with …well, its not clear day-to-day that there is a good option for the other half of that platoon. Or that Jones wouldn’t just be better served off the bench.
So Span fills a desperate need, improves the Pirates corner outfield defense and does so long-term at a reasonable salary, which is always a factor for the financially strapped Steel City.
Why They Won’t Trade With the Twins
Lately, they’ve been tied to two much bigger names: Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks and Carlos Quentin of the Padres. But the Pirates don’t seem to match up well with the Diamondbacks, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic
As for Quentin, the Pirates would probably love to have him bat behind McCutcheon to protect the budding superstar, but Quentin is also a free agent at the end of the year. And there are several other teams in on Quentin, including the Reds who the Pirates are trying to fend off.
So it might come down to which the Pirates prefer – big and gone or steady and staying. Or Span could be a defensive move if the Reds get Quentin. Or the Pirates could decide one doesn’t preclude the other. It shouldn’t. This lineup needs plenty of help.
The trade market may sort itself out very late this year as teams take as much time as they can to see if they are “in it” or not. Of the possible fits for the Pirates, Denard Span is near the top of the list. And as you can see below, the Pirates have plenty of pitching. There are reasons for optimism here.
Jameson Taillon – RHP
He’s a 20-year-old blue chip starting pitching prospect whose numbers (High A - 4.05 ERA and 73K in 86.2 IP) don’t reflect his stuff. Pittsburgh have instructed him to command his fastball rather than striking out hitters with his breaking ball. I’m sure the Twins will ask about him. I doubt they’ll get him, unless the bidding turns fierce.
Jeff Locke – LHP
Locke had a similar year to Liam Hendriks in 2011. He showed a lot of promise in AA, made just five starts in AAA and then was promoted as a September callup. Not too surprisingly, he was disappointing. This year the Pirates are stashing the 24-year-old left-hander in AAA to be used as major league filler and he’s having a very good year: 2.92 ERA, 84K and 23 BB in 95.2 IP. The looks to me like a middle-of-the-rotation arm that could be ready as soon as the fall, which is a nice fit for the Twins. (But then I still feel the same way about Hendriks.)
Thanks to Jeremy Nygaard for this next name...
Kyle McPherson – RHP
He’s 24, and started the year late in AA because of a shoulder problem, but there is no reason to think he’ll stay there long. He dominated AA the second half of last year en route to being the Bucs minor league pitcher of the year. He’s got a good strikeout rate and excellent control – exactly the kind of guy the Twins would target. Baseball America
ranked him as the 6th
best prospect in the Pirates system this year.
Luis Heredia – RHP
A 6’ 6”, 18-year-old, high-upside (his fastball is already in the low 90s) pitcher who is still several years away from the majors and will be limited to rookie ball this year.
Stetson Allie – RHP
Here’s a wild card – emphasis on “wild.” The 21-year-old right-hander was the Bucs second round pick just a year ago. Unfortunately, his 100 mph fastball doesn’t do anyone any good if it can’t find the plate. Recently, it got bad enough that they demoted him to rookie ball - and had him switch to third base. If the Twins think they can “fix” him, like they did Alex Wimmers, maybe he could be an interesting secondary piece to fill out a trade package.