With the trade deadline less than three days away, Pirates GM Neal Huntington said that his front office “in the process of looking at adding to future clubs” rather than buying for a late run at a postseason berth in 2019. The Pirates have posted a nightmarish 2-14 record since the All-Star break, sending the team spiraling down the NL Central standings and leaving Huntington accepting his share of the blame.
“We haven’t overcome the challenges presented to us, and somebody has to be accountable for that — and it falls on me,” Huntington said during his KDKA-FM radio show this morning (hat tip to Nubyjas Wilborn of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). “I am accountable for everything that goes on in baseball operations. When it doesn’t work, we have to address why it doesn’t work. At the end of the day, this is a club I felt good about when we put it together.”
Pending free agents stand out as the most logical trade candidates, though “just because a player is on an expiring contract that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to retain that player,” Huntington said. “That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing just to grab a nickel if that’s all you can get. The player may have more value to us if he continues to perform. There is still a value you need to get on a deal; otherwise, it may be best to hold on to that player.”
In terms of potential free agents, Jordan Lyles, Corey Dickerson, Melky Cabrera, and Francisco Liriano are players who have been mentioned in trade rumors and have value to 2019 contenders. Chris Archer is under control via a $9MM club option for 2020, though it seems unlikely that Pittsburgh would sell low on the struggling right-hander just a year after paying a huge price to acquire Archer from the Rays. Starling Marte is also in the last guaranteed year of his contract, as he is controlled on club options for 2020 and 2021, though there hasn’t been any indication that the Pirates would make a huge move like dealing a cost-controlled outfielder with Marte’s high ceiling.
It should be noted that Huntington didn’t confirm whether the Bucs could be both sellers and buyers, as building for the future could also entail adding pieces to help the Pirates contend as early as 2020. The Archer trade, for instance, plus last summer’s addition of Keone Kela from the Rangers, were meant to help a struggling Pirates team turn things around this year. It’s probably somewhat less likely that Huntington and company will make such a big splash of an addition again at this deadline, but by the same token, Pittsburgh also seems likely to hang onto players like Marte or oft-mentioned trade target Felipe Vazquez since they want to compete soon.
“If we were not intending to be a competitive club, then the right move would be to explore trades for Felipe. But, we like our young core,” Huntington said. “We like what we have coming up in the minor leagues. We feel that can add to this club appropriately in the offseason, and Felipe will play a key role in that.”