Pittsburgh Pirates Wake Up Call: The Trade Deadline Looms

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In our daily Wake-Up Call, we get you ready for the day with a complete look at all things Pittsburgh Pirates.

Baseball can be an emotional roller coaster and the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates are living proof of that. A month ago, the team looked left for dead and destined for irrelevant baseball in August. Now, the team is very much in the race and looks poised to be deadline buyers. What a difference a month makes, heh? 

Despite the series split with the New York Mets, the Pirates still find themselves in a good position as July turns to August. The team is 55-52 and about to take on the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates are a long shot to win the NL Central, but if they win this series, they could be within five games of the division lead, which is certainly encouraging. The Wildcard is the team’s most likely postseason path and they are currently three games off the pace. 

During the team’s poor streak, I made reference to not believing this team could really turn things around and to their credit they have proved me wrong. The team may not make the postseason, but as long as they are playing meaningful baseball in August and September, I will be content. Maybe my standards are fairly low, but given where the team was a month ago, meaningful baseball seems like a small miracle. 

It’s not an exaggeration to say this upcoming Cubs series is the biggest of the season so far. The team has played some of its best baseball over the past few weeks and the Cubs aren’t the world beaters everyone thought they would be. The Pirates have a chance to punch the Cubs in the mouth and maybe show they aren’t JUST competing for a Wildcard spot. Strange things happen in baseball and a team left for dead in July getting hot over the past two months and winning a division isn’t that crazy. It isn’t likely, but no one thought this team would bounce back and win 15 of 18 to get back in the race either.  

The elephant in the room right now has nothing to do with the current on field team. The MLB Non-Wavier Trade Deadline is fast approaching and fans are wondering what Neal Huntington is going to do. A few weeks ago the team looked destined to be sellers, but right now they almost have to buy. Fans are finally coming back to the ballpark and the team has played outstanding baseball for most of the last month. If Neal Huntington doesn’t add to this team, he risks losing favor with the fan base forever. 

Neal Huntington has had a few poor off seasons and the shine from 2013-2015 is nearly completely off the apple. Sports are a what have you done for me lately business and lately, Huntington has delivered two straight losing seasons. The Pirates shouldn’t do anything stupid because realistically, their playoff chances are low. However, they should make some moves that improve the team for both this season and the next few. The best strategy is controllable players and not rentals. Rentals are for teams going all-in for one season and this is not the best course of action for a team that just got above .500. 

The trade deadline is definitely going to be interesting for the Pirates and especially, Neal Huntington. He needs to balance improving this team and not hurting it long term. It’s a tough position for a General Manager to be in, but that’s the reality of the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates. They are a team on the cusp of contending and rebuilding. They aren’t exactly stuck in baseball purgatory anymore as they are close enough to the Wildcard to be labeled contenders, however, they are one bad week away from once again being irrelevant. It’s a tough spot for any General Manager, much less one that can probably feel his seat heating up. 

I expect Neal Huntington will add and improve the team, but it won’t be a headline stealing move, which I am sure will cause anger on social media. Whatever happens, remember that nothing is won or lost on the actual trade deadline. Games still have to be played. Teams that win the deadline don’t always win in August and September. 

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