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Is Justin Morneau the Missing Piece to Put the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Top?

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 23: Justin Morneau #33 of the Minnesota Twins checks his swing during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in their game on August 23, 2013 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The Twins defeated the Indians 5-1. (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
David Maxwell/Getty Images
Josh SchochAnalyst IIIAugust 31, 2013

If you thought the Pittsburgh Pirates were done making deals after trading for Marlon Byrd and John Buck, think again.

As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported, the Bucs have traded for Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau:

Source: #Pirates acquire Morneau from #Twins for OF Alex Presley.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 31, 2013

The Pirates are looking to capitalize on their success this season by going all-in. The team is not content to win a wild-card spot or an NL Central crown, but is instead looking for a World Series ring.

At 78-56 going into Saturday, Pittsburgh is tied for the NL Central lead with the St. Louis Cardinals. This is the most success the Bucs have enjoyed in the last two decades, and they're looking to go as far as possible this year before their window of opportunity closes.

Morneau was considered among the top first basemen on the market this year, and by adding him, the Bucs address one of their biggest needs.

According to Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, the team's first basemen have struggled all year, but Morneau can help them:

The Pirates have gotten a .260/.336/.432 (99 OPS+) batting line and 16 homers out of their first baseman this year, with Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones sharing a platoon. The righty hitting Sanchez can still platoon with the lefty hitting Morneau while Jones sees time in the outfield. With rosters set to expand on September 1, there is plenty of room for all three guys.

Morneau has hit righties well this season, posting a .281/.343/.488 line with 15 homers in 342 at-bats, while Sanchez has hit .326/.440/.539 in 89 at-bats against lefties. Morneau is more powerful than either Sanchez or Jones, and he has been on fire as of late, as noted by Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

Morneau's 10 HRs tied for 4th in MLB in 2d half #Pirates #Twins

— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) August 31, 2013

With first base shored up, the team now has a complete lineup to back its tremendous pitching staff.

The Pirates rank second in MLB in ERA at 3.17. Unfortunately, they rank 22nd in runs scored and have been unable to take advantage of their fantastic pitching to post a better record.

The Pirates are obviously excited to have an experienced veteran like Morneau because they believe he can take them to the next level. Pitcher Mark Melancon is definitely looking forward to having him on the team:

So pumped to have another great player and leader in the @Pirates clubhouse in Justin Morneau! #GreatPickUp #BucN

— Mark Melancon (@Mark_Melancon_) August 31, 2013

With the additions of Morneau, Byrd and Buck, the Pirates have addressed their main offensive issues and look like serious contenders to make a deep run in the postseason.

The Bucs are obviously trying to win right now, and adding Morneau helps. He could easily be the difference-maker that helps the team not only win the NL Central crown, but also make it to the World Series.

If you weren't taking the Pirates seriously before, it's time to start.

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