Going into the last couple of weeks there were a lot of way the deadline could have gone for the Pirates. It started off with rumors that the Pirates were in talks to try and bring Justin Upton to the team and that was followed with some pretty strong consideration for the Pirates getting Chase Headley from the Padres and they were linked to almost every bat that was on the market.
The Pirates weren't able to get a big bat, mainly in part because the prices for those players were said to be extremely high or the players were taken off the market, but here is what the Pirates were able to do right around the deadline:
Wandy Rodriguez (Houston) for Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain and Rudy Owens
Travis Snider (Toronto) for Brad Lincoln
Gaby Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska (Miami) for Gorkys Hernandez and Competitive Balance draft pick
Chad Qualls (NY Yankees) for Casey McGehee and cash
All in all you are going to look at those players that the Pirates received and say that they didn't really do much and I have seen some people that said that they made themselves worse at the deadline. I am not one of those people and here are some of the reasons why:
-Improving now: While some might argue that the Pirates aren't better now than they are a few weeks ago I would disagree. With the addition of Rodriguez the Pirates gave them some much needed depth in the rotation. While Kevin Correia was throwing relatively well, winning his final six starts, it just felt that he was a ticking time bomb and the Pirates got a guy in Rodriguez that is durable and has been a good left handed arm to throw into the rotation. This also helps if Erik Bedard continues to struggle where they could throw Correia back into the rotation. In the same respect the offense and defense gets better immediatly with the additions of Snider and Sanchez. While both aren't hitting particularly well right now they have shown in the past that they are quality bats that pushing some guys to the bench who probably should already be there. Alex Presley isn't an everyday outfielder but will be a nice option on the bench and with Sanchez's great career numbers against lefties (.298/.390/.488) and will semi platoon with Garrett Jones at first base to give them another bat off the bench.
-Improving down the line: The Pirates not only got better now (marginally some will say) they get even better down the road. Both Sanchez and Snider are under team control through at least 2016 and both have shown the ability to hit in the big leages, especailyl Sanchez. While Sanchez had two pretty nice years before he struggled this year Snider was considered one of the best prospects in baseball not too long ago and is only 24 years old. Snider is a power bat that hits from the left side. Over the years we have heard a lot about the Pirates needing a left handed power bat and they got one that they control for a number of years.
-Giving up little: In all the deals that are outlined above the Pirates really didn't give up anything. I think losing Lincoln was probably the most significant but as I said before replacing relievers really isn't that hard in the grand scheme of things and with guys like Bryan Morris knocking on the door in AAA the Pirates have options. You might say that the next significant thing they gave up was the competitive balance draft pick they got which will be in the low 30's that will carry around a $1.5M slot value that they Pirates probably could have used. Other than that Owens is a back of the rotation guy and Cain is still trying to figure things out while Grossman is a fringy outfield prospect that might hurt losing but it is hardly the end of the world. I know some people will say that I overvalue the prospects in the system but when you can upgrade the team and not give up Cole/Taillon/Bell/Hanson you are doing the right things. I really think that most people look at Cole/Taillon/Heredia and think that all three of them are automatically going to turn into three number ones. That isn't how it works. If one of those three turns out to be a top of the rotation guy I think that would make most happy but when you start dealing away guys for rentals for a one shot deal you decrease your chance of having that power arm that you spend some much of your energy to just go for rentals.
-Improvement from within: The Pirates didn't even have to trade anyone to improve in one position on the field and that is via the call up of Starling Marte. While Marte has been up and down I don't think you can call the start to his big league career bad. There have been ups and downs but it sure beats watching Jones or Josh Harrison try to play in the outfield.
-The division did nothing: The Pirates were far and away the most active team in the NL Central. The Reds and Cardinals only acquired relievers and while that might make their pens a little better both basically stood pat. Both of those teams are still great ball clubs and the Reds will be getting Joey Votto back but neither the Reds or the Cardinals did much at the deadline.
-Not doing anything stupid: Huntington is taking some heat because some feel the Pirates did nothing to make the team better this year for the chance to be a World Series contender. While I understand the notion that the Pirates are a playoff contender it really isn't that clear cut for me. Take for instance Hunter Pence. Word floating around is that the Phillies wanted a Lincoln/Marte combo for Pence and that would have been a pretty out there move and probably a little too much for Pence. He is struggling a little bit this year playing at a hitters friendly park and moreover he will only be under control for this year and next year. It really isn't only giving up Lincoln and Marte that is the problem it is also the fact that you are going to probably have to pay him $14-$16M next year in his third year of arbitration. Pence is a good player but he isn't THAT good and we aren't even talking about giving up two players for him.
To wrap it up here (this has been way too long already) I know a lot of people are looking for the playoffs here, I know I sit here after every game and check out the wild card standings like I am taking a test on them in the morning. The part that really gets me about going "all in" this year is that if the Pirates don't win the division and stick in either that first or second wild card spot you are penciled in for a one game playoff. So, hypothetically speaking, you get Pence and you are in a one game playoff against the Nationals do you feel good about the Pirates beating Stephen Strasburg? Or the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw? I don't know if I do. A one game series is a huge toss up. Again, the Pirates could win the division and not worry about that but I don't think they are quite that good enough. This is a team that nobody expected to even get to .500 and now they are around 15 games over .500 going into August. I get that people want to go for it all this year but lets not treat this year like it is the last time the Pirates are ever going to have a chance to make the playoffs. Staying within themselves and making smart moves and taking necessary risks is how I think this team is going to contend for more than just one year and when you do things like the Brewers did last year with Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum you might make the playoffs for a year but then you are right back to where you were ten games under .500 and you don't have much of a farm system to speak of.
That is just my thoughts, what are yours?