With the 2012 MLB trade deadline just hours away, it is vital that Pirates general manager Neal Huntington makes a statement with a deal that will help his club make a playoff appearance for the first time in 20 years.
The Pirates are coming off a 9-5 loss in Houston and a 14-4 thumping against the Cubs. The Cubs are playing well during the month of July, but if you are fighting for a division title and a wild-card berth, you can't lose by a 10-run deficit against a subpar opponent, especially when the first place Reds finally lost a game, which snapped their 10-game winning streak.
You may think the fact that the Pirates gave up 23 runs in two games against Houston and Chicago means that pitching needs to be acquired before 4:00 p.m.
Yes and no.
While James McDonald has been awful since the All-Star break, you have to figure he will turn it around. He may not put up the numbers he did in the first half of the season, but he is nowhere near as bad as he has looked the past four weeks, either.
Burnett, McDonald and Rodriguez are as good as any three starters in most of the majors.
You can make an argument that Bedard, Karstens and the now No. 6 starter Kevin Correia could be weak spots. I can live with Karstens as a No. 5 starter—he has had a number of impressive games.
The problem with all three of those backend starters, though, is inconsistency. I wouldn't be surprised to see Huntington try to add a four or five-type arm to the rotation.
The starting staff isn't the main concern, though.
I believe it is imperative that Neal Huntington add a bat to this lineup. In the past 10 days, Pirates opponents have been pitching around Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen's average has stayed around the .370 mark thanks to a few two-out doubles, some singles and a lot of walks.
Neil Walker is not a true No. 5 hitter. He is much better off in the two-hole of the batting order.
Garret Jones can hit for power with the best of them, but not so much when it's a lefty against lefty situation.
The need is obvious. Get a bat who can hit behind the Pirates MVP!
It seems like a lot of the names being thrown around in Internet rumors will not be wearing a Pirates uniform anytime soon. Headley, Victorino, Pence and Choo, to name a few, look like they may be off the table, unless the Phillies, Padres and Indians lower their demands.
Choo is still a possibility, but it doesn't look like it will happen. (Rumors attributed to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.)
Where does that leave the Pirates?
They obviously hope teams will reconsider offers once 4:00 p.m. rolls around. Looking for a fourth outfielder and bench player is always a possibility. Huntington could also go with what he has now and stand pat.
The above possibilities shouldn't even be on the list of the Pirates' options. The organization is in a tie for the top wild-card spot and three games out of the division lead.
The fans of Pittsburgh have responded. When was the last time you saw 30,000 fans at a weekday Pirates home game against the Cubs? Barring an Opening Day crowd at PNC, the answer is never.
The fans have answered the bell, and it's up to management to return the favor, whether it's trading a player or two on the current roster, or trading a so-called "untouchable" prospect. If Huntington gets a deal that cannot only help his team this year, but down the road as well, the trigger should be pulled.
Who might Huntington acquire? I don't know. That's not my job and it's not the job of the fans. That's something the GM has to figure out.
The four o'clock hour is approaching and Mr. Huntington is up at the plate.