The answer to my question is yes. The Pirates aren’t all in as far as mortgaging the farm for David Price but they are all in when it comes to the trade market and finding other options at lower, more reasonable costs. The Pirates have been linked to many different impact players lately and need both starting pitching and relief help. It was reported that the Pirates, as well as the Royals, had scouts at Ian Kennedy‘s start on Friday for the Padres. The Pirates could solve problems by acquiring Kennedy but they’ve also been actively involved in scouting other talent.
One name that has been mentioned besides guys like Joaquin Benoit and Ian Kennedy is A.J. Burnett. Burnett spent two years with the Pirates and was their ace. A lot of the Pirates success came not just on the field but also off of it when Burnett was in Pittsburgh. Along with Russell Martin, Burnett was one of those veterans that you could tell played a huge leadership role in Pittsburgh and held the clubhouse together in hard times. Burnett has been more of an average pitcher this year as he has posted a 6-9 record and owns a 4.08 ERA. But trading for him doesn’t make much sense in my opinion. There’s a few reasons to that theory. One is because Burnett’s contract is huge seeing that the Phillies gave him $16 million this year and he has a mutual/player option worth $15 million next year so the Phillies would probably have to eat some of that in order for the Pirates to acquire Burnett.
Another name that has been thrown around is interesting because he is also a Phillie. I’m talking about Cliff Lee who the Pirates scouted Monday during his start at home against San Francisco. Lee makes plenty of sense for the Pirates and is the more legitimate Phillies pitcher for the Pirates to acquire. The asking price may be elevated because Lee has been a proven ace in past years and helped the Phillies achieve a lot of their success in past years. Lee currently holds a record of 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA but keep in mind this is being written during Lee’s start Monday night. Lee makes sense because he is under control for another three years after the 2014 campaign.
The final starting pitching candidate is an interesting one and one that caught me off guard. According to Colin Dunlap, who hosts a show on sports radio 93.7 the Fan in Pittsburgh, he talked to guys from other teams and both made statements about the Pirates and the trade deadline:
Talked to 2 ppl in know from other teams today at Pirates game. Both expect Bucs to make big move– both mentioned Jon Lester. Interesting.
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) July 21, 2014
Acquiring Jon Lester would be huge for the Pirates and probably come at a steep price. Lester is 10-7 with a 2.50 ERA this season with the Red Sox. However, Lester is the least likely of the three pitchers mentioned because he would just be a rental player with his contract ending after this season.
Neil Huntington, Pirates GM, has said that he’s confident in the current Pirates roster. However, the Pirates shouldn’t stand pat and I don’t think they will either. They need a little bit more on their roster because the current team is not going to be able to grind out enough wins to take the NL Central and I’m not too sure they could grab a wild card spot. However, trading for Lee or Burnett helps the Pirates next season at least. With Lee, it would help them for years to come but Burnett is only under control one more year. The Pirates are probably going to lose Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez after this season so acquiring a starting pitcher that’s under control in 2015 and/or beyond then makes sense to help the club win this year and in the future.