Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Rumors: Latest Updates, News and Reaction
After making it to the playoffs for the first time since 1992 last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have taken a step back this season. Now, the club must figure out what to do as the trade deadline approaches.
Pittsburgh lost many key pieces from its playoff roster this past offseason. A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau all found new homes over the winter. Those departures left some holes on the team's roster.
The Pirates have found a replacement for Byrd in rookie phenom Gregory Polanco. As for the rotation and first base, Edinson Volquez and Ike Davis aren't the answers if the team wishes to get back to the postseason.
After a slow start to the season, the Pirates find themselves facing a sizable deficit in the National League Central. They are still alive in the wild-card race, so they could in fact be buyers at the deadline. They have the young talent that could help pull off a big deal.
Make sure to keep checking back here to see what rumors the Pirates are involved in or what deals the team makes as the MLB trade deadline approaches.
Potential Trade Target: RHP John Lackey, Boston Red Sox
Lackey is 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.231 WHIP in 21 starts this season.
The 35-year-old would make sense in Pittsburgh. He would give them a veteran presence that has won a World Series, and he doesn't have a large contract. Because he missed significant time with an injury while in Boston, he now has a $500,000 team option for the 2015 season.
The Red Sox appear to be willing to sell, so Lackey is available.
Potential Trade Target: RHP Ian Kennedy, San Diego Padres
Kennedy is 8-9 with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.219 WHIP through 22 starts this season.
There is plenty of potential in the right-hander.
Back in 2011, the right-hander won 21 games and posted a 2.88 ERA with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He followed up that stellar season by winning 15 games in 2012.
Kennedy has pitched for three different teams since debuting in 2007. The Padres haven't made it known if they are planning on trading him or not. He is under club control through the 2015 season, so there is no rush to deal him at this year's deadline.
Potential Trade Target: LHP Andrew Miller, Boston Red Sox
Update: July 30 at 11:58 a.m. ET
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick tweeted that the Boston Red Sox are asking for teams' best prospects for Andrew Miller, which means that they may not be able to trade him unless the price drops.
--End of Update--
Miller is 3-5 with a 2.52 ERA and a 0.941 WHIP in 47 appearances this season. He has 64 strikeouts to only 12 walks in 39.1 innings. As good as he has been against right-handers (.193 average against) this season, the southpaw has been even better against left-handed batters (.155).
The 29-year-old has turned his career around since becoming a full-time reliever in 2012. After going 6-3 with a 5.54 ERA in 17 games (12 starts) in 2011, Boston turned him into a reliever. Since then, his numbers just continue to get better.
Miller is a free agent after this season.
Potential Trade Target: RHP A.J. Burnett, Philadelphia Phillies
Update: July 29 at 5:25 p.m. ET
With the Pirates unable to get assurances that Burnett would not exercise his player option for 2015, talks between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are "all but dead," according to ESPN's Jayson Stark.
While the Phillies keep telling teams that they expect Burnett to retire, another executive remarked to Stark: "He keeps saying he's going to retire. But he said that last year, too."
--End of Update--
The Pittsburgh Pirates, especially the players, are interested in bringing back a familiar face.
The Philadelphia Phillies appear to be sellers, so if they try to build for the future, one player they could deal is A.J. Burnett.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported that if Burnett gets traded, he would prefer to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Rosenthal's report states that the players are lobbying for Burnett to return. However, his player option for 2015, which could be worth up to $12.75 million, may be a bit pricey for the Pirates.
Before signing with the Phillies this past offseason, Burnett had pitched the previous two seasons in Pittsburgh. He went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in 61 starts. His veteran presence had a lot to do with the Pirates turning the franchise's direction around and making it to the postseason last season. For much of his two seasons in Pittsburgh, Burnett was the leader of the staff.
This season, the right-hander is 6-9 with a 4.08 ERA in 21 starts. His strikeouts per nine are down and his walks per nine are up.
The 37-year-old's contract does include a no-trade clause, however. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick also reported which teams that Burnett cannot block a trade to:
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Red Sox
- Cincinnati Reds
- Kansas City Royals
- New York Mets
- New York Yankees
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Washington Nationals
That list shouldn't come as much of a surprise. All of those teams are either contenders or close to his home in Maryland.
Potential Trade Target: OF Marlon Byrd, Philadelphia Phillies
The Pittsburgh Pirates must've been happy with what they got out of Marlon Byrd last season because Fox Sports' Jon Morosi reported that the club is once again interested in the veteran.
Byrd is hitting .266 with 20 home runs and 22 doubles this season. The 36-year-old has fit right in with the Philadelphia Phillies, but now that the team has dropped out of contention, he may be on his way out.
The veteran helped the Pirates make a postseason run after a midseason trade last year. He hit .318 with three home runs and nine doubles in 30 games with the Pirates, and he also hit a key home run in the National League Wild Card game.
Byrd is making $8 million this season, due $8 million next season and has an $8 million option for the 2016 season. He does have a limited no-trade clause, however. He can block a trade to four teams, but the Pirates are not one of those teams.
When healthy, the Pirates don't have a spot for Byrd in the outfield. For $8 million per season, that's a tough trade to make if there's not a spot for him.
Potential Trade Target: LHP Antonio Bastardo, Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies are one of the few teams that appear to be obvious sellers right now, and one piece that the Pittsburgh Pirates may target is left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo.
Fox Sports' Jon Morosi reported that the Pirates are interested in Bastardo.
The southpaw is 4-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 43 games in 2014. He has 52 strikeouts to 24 walks and has allowed only two home runs in 43.2 innings. Left-handed hitters are hitting .143 against the southpaw, and right-handers aren't faring much better at .163.
The 28-year-old is making $2 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration for the third time this winter. For a consistent reliever, that's a fair price to pay.
Potential Trade Target: RHP Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres
As the Pittsburgh Pirates look to solidify the back end of their bullpen, they may be looking at one of the top relievers on the market.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported that the Pirates are interested in San Diego Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit. Until recently, Benoit was the Padres' setup man. Now that Huston Street is a member of the Los Angeles Angels, Benoit is the team's closer.
In 39 games this season, the 36-year-old has posted a 2.04 ERA and a 0.857 WHIP. The right-hander has held right-handed batters to a .186 average, and he has held left-handed hitters to a .149 average.
Before the start of July, Benoit had not allowed a run since the middle of May. He has now allowed at least one run in two of his last three outings.
The veteran had appeared in at least 63 games in each of the past four seasons and had posted an ERA above 3.00 only once during that span (3.68 in 2012). He has shown this year that he can be a setup man, and he has been a closer in the past. He recorded 24 saves for the Detroit Tigers last season.
Benoit signed a two-year, $15.5 million contract (which includes a vesting option for 2016) with the Padres in the offseason. It's a steep price to pay for a reliever, but if he continues to put up strong numbers, it's not an outrageous salary.
The Padres recently dealt Street to the Angels in a two-for-four swap. San Diego received three top prospects and another highly ranked prospect in exchange for its closer and a minor leaguer. If the Padres deal Benoit, they may look for a relatively comparable package.
Pirates Not Likely to Add Impact Starter at Deadline
Last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs thanks to a great rotation. That great starting pitching is nowhere to be found this season.
That could be due to the fact that there are different faces in the rotation in 2014.
A.J. Burnett signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason, and the Pirates tried to replace him with the veteran Volquez. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez was designated for assignment earlier this season.
The other parts of the rotation have had mixed results. Francisco Liriano was a big reason why Pittsburgh made it to the playoffs in 2013, but he has been a major disappointment this season. Brandon Cumpton had one terrible game but has been fairly consistent otherwise. Gerrit Cole has put together a solid sophomore season but missed time after shoulder fatigue forced him onto the disabled list. Cole returned to the rotation in late June.
Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton have been reliable, so there are some bright spots in the rotation. However, this staff lacks an ace.
Don't look for the Pirates to be in the market for one at the trade deadline, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel. Biertempfel suggests that the Pirates will continue to look for answers in their farm system rather than on the trade market. Trading for a top pitcher would require spending money and giving up a few top prospects. The Pirates aren't in a position to do either of those things.