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MLB Trade Deadline 2012: Trades Will Keep Pittsburgh Pirates in Playoff Hunt

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 22:  Travis Snider #45 of the Toronto Blue Jays at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 22, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2012

The Pittsburgh Pirates didn't land any of this year's most coveted trade chips, but they approached the July 31 deadline with a level head and the necessary poise.

Pittsburgh added four players either at, or prior, to this year's trade deadline. Check out NBC Sports' Matthew Pouliot's overview of the Pirates new acquisitions:

They certainly got more interesting with Travis Snider in right field and Sanchez replacing Casey McGehee in the first base platoon. Snider hasn’t been quite as much of a disappointment as everyone thinks—he has a .248/.306/.429 line and 31 homers in 835 at-bats—and he’s just 24 years old. Sanchez is a career .298/.390/.488 hitter against lefties. He’s been way off this year, but if the Pirates can get him straightened out, he’ll be a nice part-timer. Again, I’m not sold on the moves—Brad Lincoln was looking pretty good since a switch to the pen—but factor in the Wandy Rodriguez pickup last week and they belong in the winners category.

The only move he doesn't touch on involves the Pirates flipping McGehee to the Yankees for Chad Qualls. Qualls has been designated for assignment once this year, and he probably would have fallen victim to the same fate in New York. He is carrying a 4.89 ERA into PNC Park, but his career ERA (3.84) suggests a possible turnaround. 

None of these moves jump off of the page and shake you. None of these players are "star" players, and the Pirates didn't improve exponentially, but each player provides stability to the Pirate roster.

Adding Snider allows Pittsburgh to move Alex Presley to a permanent bench role. This makes the Pirates' lineup more versatile and adds more power to their home run-happy batting order.

Snider hasn't proven himself this year. He's hitting .250 with three home runs and eight RBI in 10 major-league games this season, but the potential is definitely there. His Triple-A numbers are excellent (.335, 13 home runs and 57 RBI in 61 games), and he gives the Pirates another piece for their future nucleus (under team control until 2016).

Sanchez doesn't provide the same potential, but he is coming off two very solid seasons. He has the potential to hit 20 home runs, and he could flourish in a platoon role with Garrett Jones at first base. They only had to give up speed merchant and defensive outfielder Gorkys Hernandez who was no longer a valuable piece on the bench.

Qualls and Rodriguez both add stability to the stable of Pittsburgh's overachieving arms. I mentioned Qualls' struggles this season, but he's a solid middle-innings option on a young squad. Rodriguez is an above-average lefty, and those don't grow on trees.

Some Pittsburgh fans may groan at the thought of these moves. The Pirates didn't make the big splash that everyone was hoping for, but they got the job done without sacrificing anything important for the future.

For this particular organization, that's what's important. They've worked too hard to get their farm system back to respectable status, and they've spent too much time developing their current nucleus, to blow it up in one year.

Small market clubs can't throw dollars and prospects around like it's nothing. Each move has to be calculated, and the future always has to be considered. 

Pittsburgh did an excellent job of making the moves necessary to continue their playoff run this year without diminishing their future plans. In Snider's case, they actually added a potentially valuable piece.

Expect Pittsburgh's new players to keep them in the thick of this year's pennant race. They got stronger in important areas, and the added energy will give them the momentum they need down the stretch.

Neil Huntingdon was in unprecedented territory for any Pirate general manager in recent memory, but he showed an acuity that comes with experience.

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