The Pirates have fallen to earth since a solid start and now sit a game below .500 (35-36), but general manager Neal Huntington told reporters before Sunday’s loss to the Reds that he still has a buyer’s mindset as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. “We’ve had more conversations about adding players at this point in time than we’ve had about subtracting players,” Huntington said (via Adam Berry of MLB.com), adding that “our intent is to continue to give this club every chance in the world to show us that we can continue to do the things that we did the first six weeks, eight weeks to put ourselves nine games over and that we can dig out of this hole that we’ve dug ourselves over this tough stretch of 30 days.” The Pirates are sitting in fourth place in a tough NL Central, seven games behind first-place Milwaukee, but they’re only 3 1/2 out of a wild-card spot. With several playoff-contending teams on their schedule in the next several weeks, the Bucs will have an opportunity to make up ground on their competitors and end up as buyers. But if the Pirates drop out of the hunt pre-deadline, they could ultimately market some of their shorter-term players, as Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported this week.
More from Pittsburgh…
- Right-hander Trevor Williams has scuffled of late, as he recorded a 5.51 ERA in May and then allowed seven earned runs in six innings in his only June start thus far. Nevertheless, there aren’t any plans to pull him from Pittsburgh’s rotation and replace him with impressive rookie Nick Kingham, who’s currently in the minors, Huntington said (via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “Our focus with Trevor right now is to get that secondary stuff back to being effective, to get the four- and the two-seam fastball command back to being effective, and [we] believe that we’re going to be able to do that and work from there,” stated Huntington, who noted it’s unfortunate for Kingham that “we’ve got six guys that we believe can help us win major league games as starting pitchers right now.” In Huntington’s estimation, that group includes the 26-year-old Williams, who, to his credit, has been a respectable starter since debuting in 2016. Williams has combined for 216 innings of 4.15 ERA ball and posted 6.6 K/9 against 2.95 BB/9 in 40 starts.
- The Pirates are considering promoting middle infield prospects Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer, but call-ups don’t seem imminent, Brink suggests. Starting middle infielders Josh Harrison (second base) and Jordy Mercer (shortstop) have been reasonably effective, and Huntington expressed confidence in reserve Sean Rodriguez, even though he has hit just .159/.286/299 in 126 plate appearances. Playing time would be hard to come by for the prospects, then, and the Pirates don’t want to promote them unless they’re going to see regular action. Both Newman, MLB.com’s seventh-ranked Pirates prospect, and Kramer (No. 8) have logged above-average production at the Triple-A level this season. Neither Newman nor Kramer is on the Bucs’ already full 40-man roster, though, which stands as another roadblock in the way of the “Seinfeld” tandem.
- More from Brink, who writes that Huntington took some of the blame Sunday for the woes of Pittsburgh’s bullpen. “The general manager didn’t give the manager a legitimate eighth-inning guy or seventh-inning guy, speaking in conventional terms,” said Huntington, whose team entered Sunday tied for 25th in the majors in bullpen ERA (4.56). As Brink points out, the Pirates’ season-opening plan to have Michael Feliz and George Kontos set up closer Felipe Vazquez didn’t work. Feliz, whom the Bucs acquired over the winter from Houston as part of the teams’ Gerrit Cole trade, has registered a 6.18 ERA over 27 2/3 innings. And Kontos managed a subpar 5.03 mark in 19 2/3 frames before the Pirates released him last month.