Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, baseball enters its stretch run as summer begins to wind down. All the completed trades have been dissected a thousand different ways in the media and amongst fans. Buyers are happy with their new additions, stocked up for the final push for a playoff spot. Sellers are looking to finish their seasons on a high note and begin evaluating their talent pool for upcoming seasons.
For the first time in two decades, the Pittsburgh Pirates were buyers instead of sellers. With the addition of outfielder Ryan Ludwig and and first baseman Derrek Lee, Pittsburgh brought in some experienced players to add pop to their lineup. While these acquisitions were made with qualifying for this post season in mind, Pirates management made the moves with an eye on the future.
First, the Pirates did not have to give up any of their top prospects. This is probably the biggest key of all. The Pirates farm system is finally stocked with some very good talent. The likes of Jameson Taillon, Tony Sanchez, and Stetson Allie are a few names expected to make an impact with the club in the future. If they come close to realizing their potential, those three will provide a solid foundation to compete for the post season for several years to come. By not mortgaging their future for one post season run, the Pirates set themselves up to sustain a level above the cellar.
While the Pirates run this year has been an excellent storyline, it is easy to see this team does not have enough hitting to overcome the pitching they could face in the post season. The Phillies, Braves, and Giants all have excellent starters and good bullpen depth. If a team lacks the hitting to overcome the pitching of the opposition, then a team must have excellent pitching to keep the games tight. The Giants parlayed this formula to their World Series win last year. The Pirates were not only shorthanded in the hitting category, but their rotation does not have enough talent or depth to make a deep run in the post season. To truly compete for a World Series birth, the Pirates would have had to add a couple of quality arms as well.
By adding the bats at the price they got them, the Pirates increased their payroll for this year in an attempt to keep playing into October. The increased payroll is an easy risk to live with since neither player comes with a high-dollar long term contract. With this season’s success, the rise in attendance and the financial benefits with this improved standing easily make up for the extra money in salary.
The most overlooked benefit of this trade is the addition of experience to the clubhouse. Lee and Ludwig are seasoned professionals who have been in pennant races before. They can show the younger Pirates how to approach the additional pressure associated with a pennant race. This will help the Pirates down the road as they look to continue to compete for the playoffs.
As a fan I appreciate the approach Pirate’s management took during the trade deadline. They made deals that can help the ball club now without sacrificing the future. If they continue to make smart decisions like this, I believe we can see the Pirates competing on a regular basis for the National League Central crown now and in the future. They may come up short in their quest for the post season, but at least this run has not robbed them of the opportunity to repeat or improve their play in the coming years.