The Pirates are looking for outfield help, GM Neal Huntington told reporters (including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). While Huntington likes the Bucs’ current outfield options, the team is still on the lookout for external players to help the fill the void left by the suspended Starling Marte. “If we felt there was something better internally at this point in time, we’d make that move,” Huntington said.
In four games since Marte’s suspension was announced on Tuesday, the Bucs have used Andrew McCutchen in center field, Gregory Polanco in left and a variety of players (Adam Frazier, Jose Osuna and John Jaso) in right. Frazier has been swinging a hot bat this season, though overall, the outfield mix isn’t tenable defensively. (Using converted infielders like Josh Harrison also wouldn’t help matters.) There isn’t much reinforcement available at the minor league level, as Huntington reiterated that top prospect Austin Meadows isn’t going to be promoted anytime soon. As Brink notes, Meadows isn’t hitting well at Triple-A and the Bucs would likely prefer to delay Meadows’ debut for service time reasons anyway.
The rather makeshift nature of the Pirates’ outfield over the last week isn’t surprising considering that the organization was apparently almost as shocked as the rest of the baseball world by the news of Marte’s suspension. “We had no idea, no knowledge that this was coming,” Huntington said, adding that Pirates only learned of the suspension the night before MLB announced the 80-game ban last Tuesday.
Given this surprise factor and the Pirates’ limited payroll capabilities, the team certainly won’t make a rash move to trade for a star outfielder, especially since Marte will be back by mid-July. Looking at the list of available free agent outfielders, Alejandro De Aza and Sam Fuld are potential fits, as left-handed bats are more of a need for Pittsburgh and a player with center field capability is necessary given McCutchen’s declining glovework.
The designated-for-assignment market is perhaps the more interesting avenue of exploration, as Leonys Martin was just DFA’ed by the Mariners earlier today. Martin’s $4.85MM salary is likely out of the Pirates’ comfort zone, though the M’s could cover some of that money or take on another contract in a trade. The Pirates have considered recently-designated Brewers outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (Twitter link). Nieuwenhuis is also a left-handed hitter but doesn’t produce much at the plate, so Biertempfel thinks the Bucs will look elsewhere.