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Monday Mop-Up Duty: A seller’s market, and if you build it in Pittsburgh …

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PNC PARK – Cliff Notes from Neal Huntington’s media briefing on Sunday: it’s a seller’s market and the Pirates aren’t willing to trade too much of the future for today.

Moreover, Huntington doesn’t feel the Pirates have to do anything. Unlike a year ago, Huntington doesn’t feel there are glaring needs.

Some were lamenting on Twitter and elsewhere that this is too often the Pirates’ mindset, others suggested that the future is now. While Pirates are in contention, and the future has arrived to some extent, but I think Huntington’s position is a sound one.

Just consider the cost of pitching in the trade market (See: Houston Street and Jeff Samardzija trades), it’s insanely high. There are few big time chips on the table and the extra wild card has about 20 teams in contention. Forget about David Price. The Pirates might be best served to sit tight and get Gerrit Cole healthy and hope Francisco Liriano gets right, rather than overpay.

The Pirates don’t have a one-year window. They need to build upon their Andrew McCutchen-Gregory Polanco-Gerrit Cole core. And the best way to do that is to keep and develop their top young assets.

The Pirates are reportedly in the market for a starting pitcher or a relief pitcher, according to Ken Rosenthal, and have been connected to Ian Kennedy, who is having a fine season (9.5 k/9, 2.5 bb/9, 6% HR/FB). But what would he cost? I thought Brandon McCarthy was a bargain but I don’t think there are many bargains to be found.

It’s tough to be a buyer in this market but the good news is the Pirates are not sellers.

 

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS

9. One of the underplayed story lines this season is that Pirates enjoying the third greatest attendance spike in baseball.

Through 49 home dates this year compared to last year, the Pirates’ attendance is up 121,938, trailing only attendance surges by the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins, according to Forbes.com.

The Pirates rank 17th in baseball in attendance, averaging 27,819 fans per game. The Pirates are on track to post a 2.3 million attendance figure, which is equal to Pittsburgh’s metro area population. With a continue strong showing, the Pirates could push to break the 2001 attendance record (2.4 million) at PNC Park.

It just goes to show if you build a winner in this town, it will be supported. Trust is growing and it’s important the Pirates capitalize on that with a strong second half — and upcoming offseason.

It means the Pirates’ ownership will never have had more money to spend than this upcoming offseason when also factoring in another increase in national television/media dollars. They were will be more pressure to spend from the public and there will be greater need to spend: Russell Martin is a free agent (there has to be a huge effort to retain him), 40 percent of the rotation is heading to free agency and the corners might need to be upgraded.

8. TV ratings are way up, too. (Though it doesn’t matter immediately since the Pirates are locked into an undervalued TV deal).

Four NL Central teams, including the Pirates, are among the top five clubs in the majors with the strongest local TV ratings in the first half of this season, according to data compiled by Sports Business Journal.

The Tigers average a 7.52 share on Fox Sports Detroit, which is tops in MLB. The St. Louis Cardinals (7.45 on Fox Sports Midwest) are second, followed by the Pirates (7.45, Root Sports Pittsburgh), Cincinnati Reds (6.37, Fox Sports Ohio) and Milwaukee Brewers (5.91, Fox Sports Wisconsin).

The Pirates’ ratings are up 2 percent from this point last season.

People are showing up and tuning in.

7.  I wouldn’t be in any rush to get Cole back. He’s already made two DL trips. He needs to be 100 percent. Cole had a lengthy talk on the field with Huntington and the training staff prior to Saturday’s game. The Pirates need Cole to be himself in September. He probably needs a rehab stint this time before rushing back to the rotation.

6.  Tyler Glasnow might be getting close to being considered an untouchable asset – unless you’re getting David Price and cash.  I certainly wouldn’t move him for Kennedy. Glasnow is 6-1 with a 1.18 ERA over his last 10 starts. Not only does he have above-average velocity but his size gives him a closer release point to home plate giving him greater effective velocity.

Glasnow, Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon and Cole? Quite a future potential rotation.

5. I don’t have much more to say about Pedro Alvarez‘s throwing issues other than he’s playing his way into becoming a platoon first baseman. That’s not ideal for anyone. I don’t understand why Alvarez continues to start against left-handed pitching.

4. I’ve been waving the Reese McGuire flag as much as anyone but the lack of pop is somewhat concerning. Still, I like the swing and power is typically the last tool to develop.

3. How do you screw up back to back No. 1 overall picks? Ask the Astros. Wow. The Astros might set the analytical movement back after selecting Mark Appel and failing to sign Aiken.

2. One scout on Baseball Prospectus said Cole Tucker was the greatest reach of the first round and was surprised to see how close his bonus was to slot money. We’ll see.

1. Gregory Polanco’s strikeout rate was 14 percent in June, it’s doubled to 28 percent in July.

He went 0-for-5 on Sunday dropping his average to .246. It’s early, but Polanco is batting .142 against lefties and .290 against right-handers.

Perhaps he shouldn’t be batting lead off agianst LHPs.

 

HE SAID IT:

“This guy cared about other people. This guy was a Christ-like guy.”

- Richard Ross, who wants the Roman Catholic Church to canonize Roberto Clemente as a saint (From Rob Biertempfel’s Sunday column)

 

STAT OF THE WEEK: 119

Josh Harrison‘s OPS+. (League average is 100). From Trib stat man David Golebiewski, Harrison has accomplished that OPS+ while playing 10-plus games at right field, third base, left field and second base. Only three players in big league history have posted a better OPS+ playing double-digit games at those positions.

 

STAT OF THE WEEK II: .332

Pirates’ lead-leaguing on-base percentage. Looks like that new approach is working

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK

Russell Martin is the most interesting Pirates. He’s a foodie. He’s a skateboarder. He lives in the Strip, as Karen Price learned last week. I have not yet been to the Lawrenceville restaurant Cure, but Martin – who grew up in the food Mecca of Montreal – said it’s his favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh. It’s not my recommendation, but I’d trust it.

- TS

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