The Pittsburgh Pirates are sitting pretty with the best record in MLB (64-42), but securing potential trade deadline deals for right fielder Nate Schierholtz and starting pitcher Bud Norris would help them keep their position a lot safer for the stretch run.
Pirates fans haven't had much to cheer about in a while. Their last winning season came in 1992, according to the Pittsburgh Pirates' official website.
The past two seasons have been particularly agonizing. In 2011, the Bucs led the NL Central after 100 games, but ended the season in a 16-40 slump, according to Yahoo! Sports. 2012 was bad, too. The Pirates were 63-47 in early August before ending the season 79-83, according to ESPN's DJ Gallo.
2013 looks very familiar to Pirates fans, but will it end in disaster again? If they acquire Nate Schierholtz and Bud Norris, a collapse looks less likely.
Schierholtz, a Chicago Cub, would shore up one of the biggest weaknesses in the Pirates' batting lineup—the right field slot.
According to MLB.com, the Pirates' right field platoon has combined to hit just .231, which ranks second-lowest in the majors. There hasn't been much power from the position, either—only nine home runs and 37 RBI.
Despite playing in 17 fewer games than the Pirates' right fielders, the 29-year-old Schierholtz has batted .272 with 14 home runs and 43 RBI.
The Pirates have also looked at acquiring Alex Rios as a potential right fielder, but Inside Pittsburgh Sports has indicated that those talks have come to a halt, as of earlier this morning. The same article also brought up Schierholtz as a viable trade option, and based on his production, he looks like a great option for the Pirates.
MLB Trade Rumors brought up Schierholtz's one-year deal and eligibility for arbitration in 2014 as a major advantage to acquiring him. He wouldn't require a lot in return, as his somewhat advanced age puts a limit on his potential.
Overall, Schierholtz looks like a great fit for Pittsburgh's hitting-starved right field position.
Pittsburgh has one of the better starting pitching trios in the majors, with A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke heading up the rotation. All three pitchers possess an ERA under 3.00, with Locke way down at 2.15 and Liriano at 2.16.
The back end, however, could use a little bit of help. Only Wandy Rodriguez has at least 10 starts outside of the top three pitchers (he has 12), and he hasn't pitched in almost two months.
Enter Bud Norris, the unimpressive, but steady, No. 1 starter for the Houston Astros.
The Astros are surely a team building for the future, considering their 35-70 record and overall lack of star talent on the roster. It might make sense for them to give Norris to a contending team, like the Pirates, in exchange for some future prospects.
Bucs Dugout has indicated that there is a strong chance Norris will be traded to the Pirates, despite the mediocre year he is having.
Although a down year for Norris, he has been a consistent starter. He has gone at least five innings in 17 consecutive starts, and his ERA is a respectable 3.93.
Another selling point on Norris is his year-to-year durability—he has started at least 27 games every year for three years running. And with 21 already this year, he should continue the streak.
The 28-year-old Norris won't dazzle, but he will be reliable for the Pirates. With Norris helping hold down the No. 4 or No. 5 spot in the rotation, the Pirates can win a couple of games that they might have otherwise lost.
Will the Pirates make the playoffs this year?
Schierholtz and Norris are not stars, but they will provide stability at uncertain positions for the Pirates, which could end up giving them a few extra wins in the standings at the end of the season.
And in one of the strongest divisions in MLB (St. Louis and Cincinnati are also at least 10 games above .500), those extra wins could make all the difference.
Note: All statistics are from Baseball Reference, unless otherwise specified.