Here are a few notes on the Pirates and Cardinals, and their race (along with the Reds) for the NL Central crown.
- The Pirates' surprising season has come, in part, as the result of bold drafting and good offseason decisions, the New York Times' Tyler Kepner writes. Picking Scott Boras clients Pedro Alvarez and Gerrit Cole early in drafts has paid off, and last winter's acquisitions of Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano (via free agency) and Mark Melancon (via the Joel Hanrahan trade) have done wonders for the Bucs. Kepner says that GM Neal Huntington's offseason was the best of any GM in baseball.
- The Pirates' improved farm system allowed them to make late-August deals for Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Justin Morneau, Huntington tells Peter Gammons. "In previous years, our system wasn’t developed and built enough to be able to make these deals," says Huntington. "Now we are, and because we are we didn’t have to trade a Jameson Taillon or our top young players." The Pirates did trade for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick down the stretch in 2011, and Wandy Rodriguez, Gaby Sanchez and Chad Qualls in 2012, so it's not as if mid-season deals for veterans are totally new to them.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak opened himself to second-guessing when he let the August trade deadline pass without acquiring a starting pitcher, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes. The Cards had interest in Dan Haren of the Nationals, but thought his price was too high. The Cardinals did acquire John Axford from the Brewers, but Miklasz points out that they had to give up a young, live arm in Michael Blazek to do it.
- One reason Mozeliak didn't acquire a starter is that he's happy with youngsters Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons as rotation stopgaps, Miklasz writes. The Cards' starters have struggled recently, which makes Miklasz wonder whether the team will change its rotation to arrange more starts for those stopgap pitchers.