MLB Trade Deadline: Post-Deadline Expectations for Pittsburgh Pirates

Kyle StanzelCorrespondent IIIAugust 1, 2012

The Pittsburgh Pirates arrived at the MLB trade deadline on Tuesday with a 58-44 record and an all-in attitude that had become foreign to fans in recent memory.

GM Neal Huntington was busy right up until the deadline, making deals to bring in former All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez and reliever Chad Qualls.

The Pirates acquired Sanchez and minor league pitcher Kyle Kaminska for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and their 2013 competitive balance draft pick.

Sanchez gives Pittsburgh a cheap right-handed bat who can split time at first base with Garrett Jones. The Pirates are hoping a change of scenery can help the 28-year-old regain his old success that eluded him in 2012.

The Sanchez deal made Casey McGehee expendable and the Pirates traded him to the Yankees for Qualls, who is expected to come in and provide depth in the bullpen. 

These two trades come on the heels of Huntington dealing 2006 first-round pick Brad Lincoln for former Toronto Blue Jays top prospect Travis Snider.

Snider is just 24 years old and has incredible power potential, despite struggling in short stints in the Toronto. He will be given every chance to start in right field alongside Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte.

Lincoln had put together a dominant season in the back-end of the Pirates bullpen, but Huntington pounced at the opportunity to bring in a hitter who can shore up the outfield while providing power in the middle of the lineup.

The Pirates have had a tremendous first four months of the season, but we saw them drop off in August and September in 2011 after enjoying similar success to start the year.

So what can we expect from the current wild card-leading Pittsburgh Pirates for the last two months of the 2012 season?

Well the team got off to a phenomenal start Tuesday night, as A.J. Burnett pitched the game of the year for the Pirates, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning in a 5-0 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Burnett has been by far the most consistent starter in Pittsburgh's rotation to this point and he will be counted on to lead the staff down the stretch.

What Burnett has provided for the Pirates is exactly what they should be striving for over the course of the next 59 games: consistency.

Clint Hurdle has stressed to his team the importance of taking it one game, one series at a time and the Pirates have done a great job of sticking to that philosophy.

This is a Pirates ballclub that has never seen this kind of success and it is important for the team to not get caught up in the pressure of a playoff race.

Key veterans like Burnett, Erik Bedard, and Rod Barajas will be counted on to reel in the youngsters on the team and keep them focused on the task at hand.

While 82 wins should be a reasonable goal for a team that hasn't seen a winning season in two decades, it is becoming increasingly clear that the 2012 Pirates are striving for much more than that.

At 59-44, Pittsburgh is tied with the Atlanta Braves for both wild-card spots and they are three games behind an unbelievably hot Cincinnati Reds team.

Their remaining schedule contains mostly NL Central teams and the Pirates have 22 games left against playoff contenders in the Reds, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Braves.

However Pittsburgh will also play a total of 19 games against the bottom-dwelling Cubs, Houston Astros, and San Diego Padres.

A reasonable projection for the Pirates remaining 59 games is that the team will continue to play well and win one series at a time, going 31-18 in August and September.

That would put Pittsburgh 90-72 for the season, exactly the same record that the St. Louis Cardinals had in 2011 when the won the World Series. With the extra playoff spot implemented this season, 90 wins will surely put the Pirates into the postseason and the Curse of Barry Bonds will have effectively been broken.

The 2012 MLB trade deadline gave Pittsburgh fans an exciting view from the buyer's side of baseball, something the team has rarely provided over the past two decades.

The 2012 playoff race will provide the same excitement for the city of Pittsburgh and it will be a sight to see when they raise the Jolly Roger for the 82nd time.