MLB Trade Deadline 2012: Pittsburgh Pirates Must Send Message by Adding Bat
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the thick of the National League's pennant race for the first time in 20 years. Yes, it's been that long for the sporting world's most maligned franchise.
Their approach at baseball's trade deadline normally includes selling any player who has played any substantial playing time, receiving multiple mid-level prospects and hoping for the best. Now it's different.
The Pirates' front office is in uncharted territory. They have a chance to be "buyers." This is a foreign concept to them, the Pirate team and the fanbase. This only increases the pressure facing Neil Huntingdon and the Pittsburgh brass.
Turn on a Pirates' game sometime. For years PNC Park, arguably the most beautiful park in the game, was virtually empty, but that's all changed now. That's what comes with a winning team. This year's Bucco squad has inspired hope in a hopeless contingent of fans.
Hope is a positive thing, but it comes with baggage in this situation. Huntingdon can't stand pat. He has to invest in this team's winning, and that doesn't mean sitting back and hoping his team stays in contention.
That takes care of one concern, but what about the other? Pittsburgh needs a bat. Their offense has made tremendous strides, but they still rank near the bottom in important offensive categories. They are 29th in on-base percentage, 21st in runs and 23rd in batting average. Their ability to hit home runs overshadows some of their shortcomings, but some are still extremely obvious.
Pittsburgh needs a table-setter. Touted prospect Starling Marte will suffice for now, but his free-swinging mentality doesn't scream "leadoff hitter." He has considerable potential, but he doesn't fill that role.
The Pirates remain involved with Shane Victorino according to ESPN's Jayson Stark. He's not having a great year at the plate, but his .320 OBP would be beneficial at the top of the order. On top of that, the Pirates would benefit from Victorino's playoff experience.
Heyman also mentions others in his report:
It sounds weird, but for the right price it doesn't matter who the Pirates pick up. They just need to add someone, at the right price. Obviously that's easier said than done, but Huntingdon must push the envelope.
This is the bottom line. Pirate fans are hungry for success, and they finally know what it feels like to win games for a long stretch. They won't take kindly to watching that slip away, and they shouldn't.
Who would be the best fit in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh could ride their pitching and Andrew McCutchen to an unlikely playoff berth. Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones could keep popping home runs, and Neil Walker could keep stroking base hits. But does Huntingdon want to risk it?
No player is a guarantee, but he has to try. He owes it to Pittsburgh's current players, and he owes it to their fanbase. This is the most important deadline that Pirate followers have seen in a very long time, and Huntingdon cannot drop the ball.
If he does, and Pittsburgh falters, people will have a hard time forgiving him. The team is so close. It's his job to push them in the right direction.
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