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Pirates are apparently serious about South Side assets but should they be? (Lessons from the Brian Giles trade) … Closing time will be awfully difficult … and a travel observation

SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – It appears the Buc Nation pipedream that is Giancarlo Stanton-to-the-Pirates is drying up.

 

The Marlins believe their timetable to back to relevance has accelerated due to the better than expected performances of late and the emergence of some of their young players like Jose Fernandez. MLB.com reports Stanton is most likely staying put …. well at least until this offseason or perhpas next summer.

 

Stanton isn’t on the market, and he isn’t expected to be dealt this season. There is a chance he could be moved in the offseason, if he declines a multi-year offer. Even if he does, it isn’t automatic he will be traded. Basically, Stanton could fill a bulk of the $11.5 million that Nolasco was making this year. So financially, the Marlins are well positioned to take on Stanton’s first-year salary in arbitration.

 

A number of clubs have called on Stanton, including speculation that the Pirates were among them. But those clubs are likely not going to have a shot at Stanton until he inches closer to free agency. (It seems unlikely Stanton signs an extension in Miami, but we’ll see).

 

So with the most valuable player on the market apparently not really on the market — a player that would be an ideal fit for the Pirates given their weakness in right field — who might be a more likely trade target?

 

CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman is reporting the Pirates are interested in White Sox outfielder Alex Rios and shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

 

Rios

 

Would Rios fit in Pittsburgh? (AP)

 

*Rios is one of the top outfielders known to be available. He’s a good defender. His offensive production to date — .270 (avg.)/.326 (OBP)/.429 (SLG), 11 home runs, 19 steals — is above average.

 

The Pirates’ RF production to date – .237/.298/.373 – is the worst in the NL if evaluating by OPS

 

*Ramirez is one of the few everyday shortstop available but he’s having a so-so offensive year: .286/.311/.358 1 home run, 20 steals.

 

Jordy Mercer has posted a .257./.309./.383 line and has four home runs. His defense has been acceptable.

 

ANALYSIS: From an OPS standpoint, the Pirates might gain little offensive by adding Ramirez, but he would add speed and would be more of a known quantity at a key defensive position. Rios would offer a boost offensively, but we must also consider they are both right-handed hitters and would be moving from a very favorable hitters’ park to one of the worst parks for right-handed hitters in the game: PNC.

 

The other factor is cost: Rios has $18 million guaranteed through next season; Ramirez has $23 million owed to him through 2015 including his  ’16 option buyout.

 

While I think Mercer remains something of an unknown at a key position and Ramirez would stabilize shortstop, and Rios would upgrade right field, the price in dollars might be too high for slightly better than league average production. If the Pirates pulled the trigger on such a deal the White Sox would have to absorb much of the dollars. Are they willing?

 

OTHER TARGETS: The Pirates have also been connected to Matt Garza, but the Rangers are the favorite to land him. Garza’s price is likely going to be high considering he is a rental and pitching isn’t a weakness for the the Bucs…. The Bucs have also been linked to Justin Morneau, and Cubs right-fielder Nate Schierholtz. Morneau hasn’t been the same since his concussion issues and while Schierholtz is having a nice season he is not an impact player. … I’m also curious to see what the Phillies do with Cliff Lee and Chase Utley (a possible option at first and second). Intrastate commerce? A Lee-AJ Burnett-Francisco Liriano top of the rotation wouldn’t be bad.

 

UNSOLICITED GUESS: This is my best guess: the Pirates are probably most likely headed for a modest upgrade.

 

But teams must be careful when moving assets or taking on dollars for incremental gains in production.

 

The evidence?

giles

Brian Giles.

 

The Pirates gave the contending Indians left-handed situational reliever Ricardo Rincon for Giles and the Pirates gained a 1.000 OPS player for several years. You don’t want to make a mistake like that as an organization. So when making a run at a slight upgrade the cost has to be at a minimum, meaning  a C-level, fringe top 10 prospects. Go big or think about not doing much at all.

 

CLOSING TIME IS GOING TO BE TOUGH

You knew it  wasn’t going to be easy for the Pirates to earn their first postseason in 21 years this season, but you probably didn’t think it was about to get this hard.

 

As our own Dejan Kovacevic notes today in his column, of the Pirates next 30 games, 24 are against winning teams. Of the final 69 games, 23 are against the Cardinals and Reds.

 

That’s going to make for some compelling television but it’s also going to make the second of the season extremely difficult.

 

Baseball Prospectus is giving the Pirates 92 percent odds at making the playoffs. I like their chances but it’s still far from a lock. Buckle up.

 

TRAVEL NOTE: APPRECIATING  U.S. SPORTS CULTURE 

 

Thankfully, the mid-summer dead period in U.S. Sports is over today. The four-day All-Star break is one of the quieter times in the American sports calendar and I’m sure some of you were wondering what to do with your evenings this week. I know I was.

 

One thing that struck me during my European trip was the lack of a serious sporting culture. I toured four cities but found few true sports bars. The space devoted to sports in news print was much less substantial than in the U.S. and there is nothing like our cable television offerings.

 

Yes, soccer is big in Europe. But there are not major pro or college sports offerings we enjoy here.

 

You could argue our sports culture is too big of an institution and perhaps it distracts us from dealing with harsher domestic and geopolitical realities but I find it a welcome and necessary distraction. I’m glad we have it, and I gained a greater appreciation for it while in exile. Enjoy the second half, or rather, the final 40 percent of the baseball season.

 

- TS

Comments

  1. War Horse says:

    To say that in Europe you found “the lack of a serious sporrting culture” is inaccurate. You just didn’t look very hard. To say there are not major pro or college sports here” is also inaccurate. European sports culture is as active and serious as it is in the States. But July can be a quiet month. The football (soccer) season will gear up again in a few weeks. When that happens, you won’t have trouble finding serious sports bars (if that’s how you think a serious sports culture should be measured). Try researching the number of people in Europe who attend sporting events and the further number watching and listening on TV and Radio.
    Here in the UK, we currently have the British Open Golf Tournament in Scotland and the second test match of The Ashes, cricket’s most important event every four years. The Brits follow tennis (Wimbledon was on earlier in the month), soccer (there are more leagues here than there are in baseball), rugby (professional and amateur), golf, cricket, tennis, basketball and, yes, even pro hockey. What have I left out? Oh, yes, snooker, darts and automobile racing. All but a couple of the Formula One car racing teams are headquartered and engineered in Britain. The races attaract tens of millions of fans on TV and hundreds of thouands in person.
    Oh, by the way, last year Europe played host to the Olympics, in case you’d forgotten.
    Is that sporting enough for you?

  2. JimBibbySweat says:

    Not overwhelmed by Kendrys Morales at first base, but he’s looking better when compared to the above possibilities. Better OPS numbers than above guys, .hitting 358 with runners in scoring position. Career .296 w/RISP as compared to overall .280 batting mark. Switch-hitter with better career numbers from the right side — which Pirates are looking for, though that’s reversed in ’13 sample size.

  3. justin says:

    I really hope the Phillies decide to sell. They have a lot of pieces that could either help the pirates, or saturate the market to make other pieces cheaper.

    BP gives them just a 6% chance at the playoffs, and they have J Rollins, M Young, C Utley, and C Lee.

    With the Pirates’ mediocre SS position, platoon-eligible 3b position, injury-prone 2b position, and soon-to-be-Burnett-less pitching staff, the Phillies could really help the buccos.

  4. justin says:

    ^^ Edit: POSSIBLY soon-to-be-Burnett-less pitching staff

  5. Travis Sawchik says:

    My sample size was small, and I wasn’t there during the peak of Premier League season, and perhaps I’m just an ignorant Yankee.

    But I don’t think any other country on our planet has the equivalent of four multi-billion dollar professional leagues MLB/NFL/NBA/NHL plus two multi-billion dollar industries at the amateur level in CFB and college hoops.

    I think American sports culture in its depth and top-end level of talent is unique and a lot of that has to do with U.S. wealth.

  6. Travis Sawchik says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. Some intrastate commerce makes a lot of sense for both clubs.

  7. Travis Sawchik says:

    Yes, Morales is another bat who has been linked to the Pirates. He’s not the hitter he was pre broken-leg-celebration … but he could still be a useful piece.

  8. Travis Sawchik says:

    In 2014? Yes, quite possible if not extremely likely. He’s in line for a pay day

  9. PopPopTS says:

    While I agree that PNC is not friendly to right-handed hitters, let’s not forget the 20 or so away games at hitter-friendly parks like Cincinnatii and Milwaukee, among others. Could make a diference in a close race.

  10. Leo Walter says:

    If you are talking about platooning Pedro Alvarez,you lost me ! Once a week maybe giving him an off day when there is a particularly difficult LH out here,but that would be the limit the way I see it. And,I am pretty sure that would be the way Huntingdon and Hurdle will see it too.

  11. T.S. says:

    Ramirez is awful, Rios is mediocre, Nate S is too, Morneau is worse than Jones and they ain’t getting Garza, My wish: First baseman, Kendrys Morales.

  12. Nick says:

    The Giles trade was an anomaly, he wouldn’t have been good had it not been for steroids. Bad example

  13. Michael Brourman says:

    I spent two months in Europe recently, and there are plenty of sports bars. Pretty much any Irish pub doubles as a sports bar. And, while soccer is the dominant sport, there are a lot of different competitions which are played regularly and which keep sports fans busy. I was in Barcelona most of that time, where devotion to FC Barcelona is almost a religion. In addition to the weekly matches in the Spanish La Liga, Barca also was in the UEFA Champions League, an annual competition among the top teams in Europe. In addition, with the World Cup being played next year, the Spanish national team was involved in qualification games. Spain also won the recent European Under 21 team title and made the quarter finals of the world Under 20 championship.
    Both Barcelona and Madrid have daily newspapers devoted primarily to soccer. We were in Seville the day Barca played Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals. There was a small plaza in front of our hotel. The owners of the three restaurants in the plaza put their big screen tv’s in the plaza and filled it completely with outdoor tables so people could watch the match. Every seat was filled. When Barca games aren’t available on local TV in Barcelona, the plazas in the city do much the same thing. I watched games in a plaza about 3 blocks from my apartment.

    When Barca won its 22nd La Liga championship, an estimated 1,500,000 people showed up for a parade which began around 5 pm and ended well after 9 after traversing almost the entire city. There is a great sports culture in Europe…you just missed it.

  14. longtimer says:

    None of the rumored trade targets seem much of an upgrade and none will solve the Pirates biggest problem, hitting with runners on base and in scoring position. I think the Bucs will go for smaller deals. I’ve always liked Keppinger. He’d certainly be an upgrade over Inge as he can also play all infield spots and pinch hit. I don’t think he’d cost a lot either. I think they need another pitcher as well. There was talk about Bud Norris being a target.

  15. Sisyphus says:

    Second base is a lot more platoon eligible than third. Walker’s production against lefties makes Alvarez look like a lefty masher in comparison

  16. leefoo says:

    I’m on the Kendry Morales band wagon.

    Foo

  17. mike says:

    Just give me a .280 hitting right fielder who doesn’t strike out all the time, makes good contact, and hits an occasional sac fly. That would be a huge upgrade over what’s there now.

  18. Chuck H says:

    Well, now it looks like our pitching staff is starting to slack off. First Francisco, now A.J.
    I hate the Reds, always did. With the pitching going south and too many automatic outs,
    where is this team headed? I don’t see another losing season, but also playoffs look doubtful now. Can’t let opposition score 4 runs in the first inning. Did I mention that I hate the Reds?

  19. Chuck H says:

    Would it be asking too much for someone to hit a homerun with at least 1 man on base?

  20. John Diulus says:

    After watching these first 2 Cincy games, I find myself more convinced than ever: a trade for a bat MUST be made. 3 chances at a sacrifice fly and NOTHING!! We can’t let this year slip away…..
    I truly hope that Clint continues to make good choices about the use of our bullpen and starters as the 2nd half progresses. Our pitching staff remains one of the best – and one of the deepest – in all of baseball. I believe, as we saw great pitching shut down the National League Allstars, our pitching can certainly carry the Pirates in to the playoffs. But unlike pitchers who are on teams which are out if contention, Clint will not have the ability to “shut down” a pitcher for the season based upon pitch counts, innings used or plain ‘ole obvious fatigue.
    I believe the figures show that if the Bucs play just .500 ball the rest of the way, they will be a 90 win team. A .585 winning %, I’ve read, will equal a 96 win season. Either total, at the very least, will allow for a first or second wildcard slot! However, I still maintain that we must risk some disruption of chemistry for a possible deadline move or two.
    We certainly must try to bolster our bench, which again this season, is simply lacking of a bat or two which brings excitement with him to the on-deck circle. In its current state, faith in a clutch hit just does not exist. This, along with a possible RF, I feel is required for us to drive in more runs. Even if the pitching staff is managed perfectly from a physical standpoint, the mental pressure which must exist among our pitchers during our frequent 3-2, 2-1 or 1-0 games has to take its toll. I realize that some of these games are a normal part of a long baseball season, but the Bucs seem to face many more of them due to our great pitching but poor run production.
    I am not against the Pirates looking at players such as Morneau or Schierholtz for an improved bench as players such as these should not force us to dip too deeply in to our prospects, probably not requiring any of the top 20 – and possibly may even be had for some members of the 40 man roster; but as for a solution for the power bat need who hits from the left or has the ability to hit lefties, I sincerely hope that we do not invest in a Derek Lee type player: an aging bat who amounts to only a rental which the club would have no interest in signing even in the event of a productive final few months.
    I realize that if the Bucs could get a team like the Angels to consider a deal for Trumbo, the Astros for Chris Carter, Toronto for Rasmus or even Encarnacion, Chicago for Rios – I feel are all decent examples of moves, should the Bucs be able to get talks started, would probably kick start run production almost immediately. I feel that any of these guys, potentially batting after Cutch and before Pedro should result in several more runs scored per series.
    During a year where most of the National League teams are struggling and on the cusp of beginning rebuilding, the Bucs pitching being so strong (its also my opinion that our pitching will probably be excellent for years to come, but it should be noted that even the best staffs may not be dominant every year. So, I don’t think that we can afford to pass on a year where this type of dominance exists), the Bucs have a very good chance of advancing in the playoffs even if we stood pat and made no deadline moves at all!
    I find it really interesting how quickly my emotions as a fan have pushed me past what was the simple expectation at the start of the season : a simple winning season. Just winning more games than we lost!! This was my sole hope for 2013 Pittsburgh Baseball. Now I find myself well past this simple expectation and dreaming of an October playing the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox or Texas Rangers! Can the risk(s) which did have an effect on team chemistry the past couple if seasons have a different outcome this season? Much like those couple of years in the late 80′s where we needed to mature to finally push past the Mets, could THIS team have matured enough where deals like the acquisition of just a couple of players like Tim Foley and Bill Madlock did for the 1979 team – a World Series team just waiting to he born? Is it time or is my desire for Pirates October success making my hopes for this team skewed? Maybe I should be patient and wait for players like Taillon, Polanco, Sanchez among others to provide what may come as a natural result of a much improved prospect scouting and management program? Ah, but maybe, just maybe, we in Pittsburgh can have both options?
    I suggest that the Pirates should go for it THIS year! Things like increased team revenue from attendance, national TV money as well as spiked ratings pushing towards an eventual much more lucrative ROOT SPORTS deal are as good as any reasons to begin the winning now. The winning may possibly continue as good team management in addition to higher revenue was able to allow many other teams to sustain winning for a decade or more! This IS the time.

  21. longtimefan says:

    These first two post-all star break game exposed the weaknesses in the team. The entire bench is useless, the team cannot hit with runners on base or when down in the count, the baserunners are far too often unable to advance more than 1 base on basehits, the defense is iffy with Mercer being played out of position at 2nd and the GM foists his sabermetric obsession on the manager resulting in unnecessary overshifts (which cost at least 2 wins), etc. Hurdle is an ok, doing a lot of a little, but he doesn’t seem to be the guy to get this group over the hump. Sometimes he seems to manage not to hurt feelings of his vet players instead of putting the team in the best position to win.

    Acquiring 1 “upgrade” is not going to solve these issues. The best move Huntington could make in the off-season is to hire every hitting coach in the StL minor league system, regardless of cost, since they apparently are taught from their very first days how to hit and make contact when behind in the count or with RISP.

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