The Pittsburgh Pirates are in contention for a playoff spot for the first time in two decades. With their sudden resurgence into national relevance, the question revolving around the club is whether they will be looking to make trades to improve for the stretch run.
In recent years, the Buccos have been sellers, dealing veterans for prospects in hopes of finally coming back into national relevance. Well, the hopes haven't been for nothing, as it appears to have happened.
Currently tied for first in the NL Central with Milwaukee and St. Louis, rumors have been running that GM Neal Huntington is trying to add pieces, though he has been unwilling to give up any of the club's top prospects.
While some people may feel that this team needs to take advantage of this newfound success, don't expect any major moves to be made by Pittsburgh.
Why? Simple. There are five players who have been injured for part of the season who are on their way back to the club that will greatly improve the team. Here's a look at them in order from when they're due to return.
Evan Meek was the lone Pirates All-Star last season. Before he got tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, Meek wasn't pitching nearly as well, but he was still a reliable arm in the bullpen.
The bullpen thus far has done incredibly well at getting out of jams, but the Pirates have been in the market for a reliever, particularly Oakland A's reliever Craig Breslow according to Pirates beat writer Rob Biertempfel, to give it further depth.
In September and October, the bullpen is arguably the most important part of a team, with its ability to hold leads.
Meek has as much talent as any current Pirates reliever aside from maybe closer Joel Hanrahan, so if he's able to come back by September (CBSSports.com reports not before early August) and pitch close to his All-Star form of a year ago, it would certainly give the Pirates that extra arm in the bullpen they've been looking for.
Ross Ohlendorf was in the Opening Day starting rotation, but an injury to his throwing shoulder in April put him on the DL, and has allowed for his replacement, Jeff Karstens, to make a major name for himself.
A big concern with the Pirates is that their starters will be overworked by the time September rolls around, and they've been in the market for a guy to come in and start occasionally to give guys like Karstens an extra day of rest when they need it.
While a return date for Ohlendorf has not been set, he recently had a rehab start in which he threw 69 pitches. While no one would claim Ohlendorf is a game-changer, the Pirates don't really need one since their starters have performed so well thus far.
Having another starter or long reliever will take less pressure off the regular five starters, and help the bullpen on the days when the starters don't pitch well.
The Opening Day starter, Ryan Doumit was playing some of his best baseball ever before he fractured his left ankle.
The revolving door that has been the Pirates catchers has been ridiculous, with a total of seven catchers having started for the team this season.
Doumit is the best of the bunch offensively, and for a team that could use some pop in its lineup, Doumit's return would be a huge boost. He recently began his rehab assignment and is projected to return in mid-August.
Jose Tabata is just one of the young core of Pirates who were beginning to realize their potential this season.
His speed was especially helpful in left field and on the basepaths, accumulating 14 steals in 71 games before injuring his left quad.
The Pirates have been rumored to be looking for an experienced outfielder to back up the likes of Tabata and Andrew McCutchen, but I kind of like the youth out there with those two and Alex Presley. While Tabata doesn't have the pop the Pirates are in need of, he provides another quality bat and is clearly a threat to run.
He recently had a bit of a setback, but should be due back by early August.
The odd thing is, they recently called up the guy who can be just that in Pedro Alvarez.
The talent has always been there with Alvarez, but after a slow start and an injury to his right quad, his confidence diminished and took some heat due to his mentality.
Today, however, after fully recovering and hitting .360 in AAA Indianapolis for the past couple weeks, Alvarez was called up and started at third base.
Pedro has the ability to be that power bat the Pirates have been so desperate for this season. He was the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft because of his power, and showed flashes of it late last season.
Should he continue his improvement from AAA up to the majors and realize his potential, the Pirates will have made the best move they could've asked for, and it wouldn't cost them anything.