For years, it has been the Pittsburgh Pirates trading their one and only productive player to someone else for a bucket full of prospects that were nothing but unproven. That worked so well that it was a key piece to the past 19 years of losing. Now the Pirates are talked about as buyers for the second straight year. Last year, they made minor deals by acquiring middle of the road players like Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick. This year, they may strike big. Let's take a look at some of the names that could be in black and gold by the end of July.
Justin Upton: This is the big fish. Upton and the management of the Arizona Diamondbacks have been at odds of late. They have the organizational depth in the outfield to replace him. The things that a team trading for him has to consider is that he is locked up through 2015 which does nothing but increase that already steep asking price for the right fielder. The move makes sense for the Pirates though. They just recently sent the struggling Jose Tabata to Indianapolis and Alex Presley is far from the long term answer.
The problem is what the Diamondbacks want in return. They want third base, shortstop, or a top of the rotation pitcher in return. They also want players that are close to the majors as they are a young team that still wants to contend in the near future. The only guy that fills that description that the Pirates have is Gerrit Cole. The Pirates are much more willing to part with Jameson Taillon but he is much further away from the majors. The positive is that if they could pull it off, it would give them a future outfield of Upton, Andrew McCutchen, and Starling Marte since the Diamondbacks look like they don't have a need in the outfield.
Carlos Quentin: The San Diego Padres are going to be one of the big sellers once the trade deadline rolls around. They have one of the worst records in the National League but they also have some valuable pieces. Quentin is one of those guys. It has been reported that the Padres have interest in retaining him but he is a free agent after this year and there are no guarantees he would be back. Quentin has had injury issues this year like he's had most of his career which does make his a risk but there is high reward. He's hitting .481 with five home runs since being activated from the disabled list.
Quentin is going to be much more attainable than Upton is. The Padres have been scouting the Pirates' low A ball affiliate but they have made known some prospects that they like at the higher levels. They have expressed interest in Kyle McPherson, a pitcher for Altoona who just recently came off the disabled list. They also like Gorkys Hernandez who is currently on the Pirates' roster. Another name that has been tossed around is Robbie Grossman who is starting to get hot after struggling in his recovery from a hamate bone injury.
Shane Victorino: Victorino is likely going to be the most polarizing when it comes to opinions about whether the Pirates should be interested in him or not. He's having a down year for the Phillies and he is extremely frustrating to watch at times. But he is a switch hitter that could potentially give the Pirates an effective lead off man which they haven't had since Kenny Lofton. He is probably going to be the easiest guy to acquire off of the Phillies' roster. It wouldn't be shocking if he could be had for a couple middle of the road low level prospects.
Chase Headley: Another Padre that is on the market and likely the most difficult player for the Pirates to swing a deal for. Headley makes a very reasonable salary of just under 3.5 million. He's a switch hitter with potential power and has two more years of team control. All those factors mean it is going to take a king's ransom to acquire him. The Padres do have a lot of needs but it would almost be guaranteed that the Pirates would have to put together a package that involves Marte. The biggest problem in making this deal happen is that there are going to be a lot of other teams in on the conversation.
Josh Willingham: It is hard to even gauge what it would take for the Pirates to get Willingham. The Minnesota Twins are continuing to tell teams that he is unavailable but it seems that as the deadline gets closer, they will be more willing to deal him.
Joe Saunders: Acquiring pitching depth may be even more necessary than acquiring a bat for the Pirates. We saw last year what a lack of pitching depth can do to a team. Saunders was a name that was brought up earlier in the season but the potential of it happening has faded. The reason why is because the Diamondbacks' rotation has struggled of late. However, they do have some depth in the minor leagues and they just called up Trevor Bauer so it is possible Saunders could still be dealt. Especially if he comes off the disabled list after the All-Star break and strings together a few good starts to drive up the asking price.
Saunders has really been the only pitcher that has been named surprisingly though I'm sure more names will pop up as we get closer to the deadline. Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke were tossed around but there are about a million different reasons why those two aren't going to happen.
I am not a general manager. Who would have guessed? But as any other person does, I have my thoughts on what the Pirates should do. Another pitcher is necessary. Especially if the Pirates make a deal with the Diamondbacks or Padres. It's been reported that both of those teams have an interest in Brad Lincoln who would take a potential spot starter away from the team (though we know how well that ended last time). Kevin Correia and Erik Bedard have been less than stellar this year and adding a middle of the rotation arm is going to end up being a necessity.
Offensively, a corner outfielder would be nice. I would be fine with a middle of the road guy with some power that can provide some protection for McCutchen. I would love Upton. I personally think that if they can make a deal that involves anyone that isn't Cole, they should do it. That being said, I don't think it happens. But isn't it fun to talk about?