How Do the Pirates Look After the Deadline?

For the entire season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been carried by their pitching staff, while seeing their offense struggle.  The biggest disappointment so far has been Pedro Alvarez, who was expected to be the leader of the offense, both this year, and for years to come.  The Pirates also had some disappointments from the free agent class, with Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz failing to live up to expectations.

Going in to the trade deadline, the need for offense clearly was the top priority.  The Pirates addressed that need by adding Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick.  The deals weren’t major splashes, but they should each upgrade the team, as we’ve already gotten a glimpse of the impact Lee can have in the lineup after his two homers last night.

As I detailed yesterday, trades can still be made in August.  It’s just a bit more complicated.  The Pirates can still pursue upgrades this month, although there will be a lot of upgrades that will come internally, due to the large amount of players coming off the disabled list.  Let’s take a look at the team as it stands right now, and focus on how each position looks, where the team could use an upgrade, and what possibilities could exist for an upgrade.


Starter: Michael McKenry

Backup: Eric Fryer

Internal Options: Ryan Doumit (Return from DL), Chris Snyder (Return from DL)

External Options: Ramon Hernandez

Analysis: McKenry and Fryer are holding down the catching duties for now, and doing a good job.  The position will get a boost when Ryan Doumit returns sometime next week.  That will probably result in Fryer being sent down to AAA to catch everyday, only to return on September 1st when rosters expand.  Snyder also will probably return in September, giving the Pirates four catchers, and five if you assume Jason Jaramillo gets the call.

The Pirates don’t need external help with the way McKenry and Fryer have been playing, but it will be interesting to see if they try to acquire some help during the August waiver period.  One intriguing option would be Ramon Hernandez.  If the Reds start falling out of the race, they could try to unload Hernandez, who makes $3 M this year, so that they can call up top prospect Devin Mesoraco.  If that happens, it will be interesting to see if the Pirates take advantage of a situation like that.  There was some talk about Hernandez before the trade deadline, specifically with the Giants interested.  Pittsburgh picks before San Francisco in the August waiver process.

First Base

Starter: Derrek Lee

Backup: Steve Pearce

Internal Options: John Bowker, Matt Hague

External Options: N/A

Analysis: The Pirates added Derrek Lee at the deadline, and they added him to be the starting first baseman.  He’s been on a hot streak lately, and had a strong second half last year.  If he can continue his hot streak, and have a strong second half this year, he will hold down the position very well.  I don’t see him being replaced for the remainder of the year, especially if he puts up more performances like the one we saw last night.

Walker is one of the few players that has locked down a roster spot all year.

Second Base

Starter: Neil Walker

Backup: N/A

Internal Options: Chase d’Arnaud, Josh Harrison

External Options: N/A

Analysis: There’s not much to say here.  Neil Walker is the starting second baseman, and I don’t see that changing after a month where he put up a .366/.404/.485 line in 101 at-bats.


Starter: Ronny Cedeno

Backup: Brandon Wood

Internal Options: Chase d’Arnaud (Return from DL)

External Options: Omar Infante

Analysis: Cedeno has been the best option for the Pirates this year, and the Pirates are thin at the position behind him.  Chase d’Arnaud is currently on the disabled list, but didn’t look ready for the majors when he was replacing Cedeno the last time around.  Pedro Ciriaco isn’t good offensively, but can handle the position defensively.  Brandon Wood is poor defensively, and hasn’t been much more than a bench bat offensively.

It will be interesting to see if the Pirates try to trade for Omar Infante of the Florida Marlins.  We heard rumors prior to the deadline that they were interested in Infante, although Florida didn’t seem to want to deal him to anyone.  He would be a better bench option than Wood or Ciriaco when Cedeno is the starter, and he would be a good defensive replacement for Cedeno if he suffers another injury this year.

Third Base

Starter: Pedro Alvarez

Backup: Brandon Wood, Steve Pearce

Internal Options: N/A

External Options: Aramis Ramirez, Ty Wigginton

Analysis: Alvarez has struggled since coming back up to the majors, and might have been called up too early after what amounts to a good week in AAA.  The Pirates don’t really have any internal options to replace Alvarez, and the best case scenario would be for him to start hitting.  If he doesn’t start hitting, they could go with an external option.  We’ve heard that they had interest in Ty Wigginton, who could be an August waiver trade candidate.  It will also be interesting to see if the Cubs decide to deal Aramis Ramirez.  Both the Cubs, and Ramirez, say that they don’t want a deal, although there has been some indication in the past that they could deal Ramirez in August.  The Pirates would assume anywhere from $3-4 M in an August trade.

The Pirates will need a big second half from McCutchen.

Center Field

Starter: Andrew McCutchen

Backup: Xavier Paul

Internal Options: Gorkys Hernandez

External Options: N/A

Analysis: Just like Neil Walker at second base, McCutchen has this position locked down.  He’s struggled lately, but the Pirates aren’t replacing him.

Left Field/Right Field

Starter: Ryan Ludwick, Garrett Jones

Backup: Xavier Paul, Steve Pearce, Matt Diaz

Internal Options: Alex Presley (Return from DL), Jose Tabata (Return from DL), Gorkys Hernandez, John Bowker

External Options: N/A

Analysis: I paired these two together because there’s a lot of uncertainty, both short term and long term, with how the Pirates will handle things.  In the short term, I can’t imagine a situation where Ryan Ludwick isn’t starting.  The question is, do they start Jones or Paul in the third outfield spot?  Once Alex Presley comes back (which should be next week), Jones and Paul will move to the bench, and there’s a possibility that one, or both, could be off the roster.  The long term question is, what happens when Tabata returns?  Do they move Ludwick to the bench?  Do they have Ludwick split time with Presley?

My ideal scenario for the short term would be bringing up Gorkys Hernandez, and starting him over Paul and Jones.  Hernandez is one of the best, if not the best, defensive outfielders in the system.  He also would provide the lineup with speed.  Worst case, he’d be a better version of Xavier Paul.  Once Presley and Tabata return, I’d move Ludwick to the bench, as I don’t think he should be taking playing time from either of the young outfielders.


Players: Eric Fryer, Matt Diaz, Brandon Wood, Steve Pearce, Xavier Paul

Internal Options: Ryan Ludwick, Garrett Jones, Chase d’Arnaud, Michael McKenry, Josh Harrison, Gorkys Hernandez

External Options: Waiver Trades

Analysis: The bench should get a boost once injured players start returning, thus pushing current starters back to the bench.  We could also see some minor leaguers brought back up in September when rosters expand.  I wouldn’t rule out a waiver claim, although I don’t think the Pirates will pay much for a bench upgrade.

Starting Rotation

Rotation: Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, Paul Maholm, James McDonald, Charlie Morton

Internal Options: Ross Ohlendorf (Return from DL), Brad Lincoln, Rudy Owens

External Options: Waiver Trades

Analysis: I’ve talked a lot this year about how the pitching staff has been playing over their heads.  A month ago I pointed out that pretty much every starter in the rotation was due for a regression.  We’ve been seeing that out of Charlie Morton and Kevin Correia lately.  Jeff Karstens has struggled some in his last few outings.  Paul Maholm seems to be the only pitcher who has avoided a regression so far.  The Pirates have some internal help.  Ross Ohlendorf is set to return from the disabled list sometime next week.  Brad Lincoln and Rudy Owens are two options in AAA that can step in if the Pirates need to replace someone from the rotation.  We could even see the Pirates move to a six man staff.  I don’t see them looking for external help in this area, although if a lower tier starter came along in a waiver trade scenario, I could see them making that type of deal to add to their depth.


Closer: Joel Hanrahan

Bullpen: Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Daniel McCutchen, Jason Grilli, Joe Beimel, Tony Watson

Internal Options: Chris Leroux, Tim Wood, Daniel Moskos, Brad Lincoln, Ross Ohlendorf, Bryan Morris, Evan Meek (Return from DL)

External Options: Waiver Trades

Analysis: The bullpen has been a strong point this year, and it should receive a boost in September when rosters expand.  The uncertainty of the rotation, and the extra arms could provide some more bullpen options.  If the Pirates make a move in August, it would likely be for depth.  Bullpen moves aren’t hard to come by in August, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates went that route.  It was only a year ago that they gave the bullpen a boost by adding Chris Resop and Chan Ho Park off of waivers in the first week of August.


Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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So if Charlie Morton continues to flame out in his starts will we shut him down for the year and look to have Ross or Brad take his spot in the rotation? He was really bad against the Phillies but pretty good in his start before that. But no doubt he has been really struggling the last 6-8 weeks. I think if he gets shelled again by the Cubs in his next start we have to look at doing something with him. You just can’t keep sending someone out there on the mound that gives you close to no chance of winning. With our offense we cannot afford to be down 4-5 runs after the first couple of innings. Not to mention is puts a lot of pressure on the pen when he only lasts 4-5 innings. So does anything happen if his next start is really bad?

Stevan Maly

Tim I got a question too..can you please explain to me how the Phillies got Hunter Pence for Jonathon Singleton, Jarred Cosart, and two other prospects? I just don’t understand Singleton looks like an Aaron Baker type player with his stats but somehow is a highly touted prospect, and Cosart same thing he looks like a Kyle McPherson type player if not worse…yet he is a top prospect. Also neither player was drafted highly with Singleton being drafted in the 8th round and Cosart in the 38th round.


Tough to see the Reds giving up Hernandez becasue he is a type A free agent. Two picks that high in the draft is quite a bit to give up for some small salary relief.


Tough to see the Reds giving up Hernandez becasue he is a type A free agent. Two picks that high in the draft is quite a bit to give up for some small salary relief.

Jonathan Dodd

Question, Tim: Am I right that when a player comes off the 60-day DL, a player has to be removed from the 40-man roster? If so, who do you anticipate coming off when Doumit, Snyder, Meek are activated? Doesn’t seem to be as much wiggle room currently as there once was…


I believe in 1-2 weeks that the way the Pirates approach it will be different. I believe the Brewers sail in from here. By Sept. 1,  I see Ludwick struggling and the Bucs will start Presley and Tabata at the corners (if healthy), since Ludwick won’t be coming back.  And at that point the Bucs have to play Pedro everyday to get him as much experience as possible. The biggest question in August is whether Maholm can pass through waivers and the Bucs can get a decent prospect for him. Still don’t have a problem with the Bucs offering Maholm 3/$24, but I don’t believe that will be their slant.


Two places the Pirates should have upgraded.

1. They need a setup man, waiting on Meek is called losing games, I would rather have traded for a good setup guy than wait on one that may or may not happen. Tyler Clippers was available, The Padres wanted too much for any of the 3 they had available, but many are saying that the trade for Adams probably landed the Rangers in the World Series. Any time you have to mix and match for the
8th inning, you don’t have a setup guy and the 8th inning can be as tough as the 9th to get guys out.
I am old school, I see games where I would bring Hanrahan in in the 8th inning to face the heart of the opposing lineup, if he does the job, most of the time the 9th inning is the bottom of the lineup.

2. The Pirates and their fandom IMO are enamored with the need for power, but the real need on this club is for a contact hitter, like a Keppinger that the Giants got or a Reed Johnson that the Cubs have.
The Pirates regard these types of players as utility players, but I regard them has hard to get out outs in the lineup, when the Bucs have them in the system they do not want to promote them, they do not regard them as top prospects, hitting 300 without any homeruns is frowned upon by this organization, but how many games could this team win down the stretch with guys on base in front of Lee, Ludwick and Alvarez?

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