2009 Trade Deadline Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

Buyers or sellers?

Sellers, just like every year. The Bucs have already been very active this trading season, shipping Nate McLouth to Atlanta for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke; sending Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett to the Nats for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan; and passing Eric Hinske to the Yankees for catcher Eric Fryer and pitcher Casey Erickson. The Bucs got younger in all three deals and should continue to do so before the deadline.

Short-term need

The Pirates don't have enough talent to worry much about short-term need. They might, however, seek a young middle infielder or two if Freddy Sanchez or Jack Wilson are traded, because of the inadequacy of all the potential internal replacements (including Ramon Vazquez, Brian Bixler, and Luis Cruz) for those two. Cruz is worthless at the plate, and replacing Sanchez or Wilson with Vazquez or Bixler would turn a good team defense into a mediocre one, which might be a problem for a team trying to develop a number of young pitchers.

Long-term need

Talent. Starters, relievers, batters, bakers, candlestick makers, you name it. The organization that team president Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington inherited less than two years ago lacked talent not only at the major league level, but in the minors as well. In the trades they've made so far, Coonelly and Huntington have grabbed talent without much regard for position or specific organizational need. With the possible exception of the Sanchez/Wilson provision above, that won't change.

Big leaguers on the market

Sanchez and Wilson are signed through 2009 with options for 2010. Sanchez is 31, has a colorful injury history and is having one of his best seasons, so he'd be a great player to deal if the Bucs can find a team willing to buy high, perhaps the Rockies or Giants. First baseman Adam LaRoche and lefty reliever John Grabow are free agents after this season, so the Pirates would surely trade them, but there hasn't been much of a market for LaRoche so far. The Bucs have also probably had enough of starting pitcher Ian Snell, who lost break on his slider, got bombed all season, and then requested and received a demotion to the minors. Snell is signed through 2010, with team options for 2011 and 2012.

Minor league strength

The low levels of the minors, from Class A West Virginia down to the Dominican and Venezuelan teams--you know, the ones where Coonelly and Huntington acquired most of the players--are fairly well stocked with prospects, but the upper three levels (despite the presence of third baseman Pedro Alvarez and pitcher Brad Lincoln) are a bit thin. Several of the most talented players who are at the upper levels (Hernandez, Locke, outfielder Jose Tabata) were acquired by Coonelly and Huntington. This month, look for them to continue to try to fatten the upper levels of the system.

Take on short-term money to win?

Obviously not. But claims that the Pirates are merely dumping salaries have probably been overblown by fans and the Pittsburgh media. While no one but the parties involved can know the team's true motivations for trading many of its best-known players over the past year, the Bucs' new front office has made viable (if not always spectacular, or always successful) baseball trades, and their actions have been suggested they're willing to take some short-term lumps in order to follow through with the type of genuine rebuilding for which the Cam Bonifay and Dave Littlefield administrations lacked the stomach.

If nothing else, Coonelly and Huntington certainly have shown a willingness to anger the Pirates' dwindling fanbase. This month, they'll probably make a couple more unpopular moves, but if the Bucs are lucky, the fans could end up thanking Coonelly and Huntington later.

For more coverage of the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout.

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