PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — The Pittsburgh Pirates are winning for the first time in nearly two decades and, for the first time in many of our lives, they are buyers as the trade deadline approaches.
No more shipping off talent for a slew of prospects or dumping salaries to “grow for the future.” Rather, there are now playmakers on the roster that are too good to let go as they pave the way to a possible pennant race. Here are five players in the organization I believe CAN NOT be part of any trade.
1. Andrew McCutchen — .277 avg., 14 HRs, 58 RBIs
This one should come as no surprise. He’s the anchor in the outfield and, quite honestly, leads the entire defense every inning. He’s also a leader in the clubhouse and was pegged years ago as the future of this franchise.
Well, he’s here now, and he’s producing at just the level we hoped and expected. He’s got pop in his bat, hits for average near the top of the order and is lightning along the basepaths. There’s very little this guy can’t do, and he’s one of only a handful of players throughout Major League Baseball labeled as a cornerstone to an organization.
He is the franchise like Sidney Crosby is to the Penguins and Ben Roethlisberger is to the Steelers.
2. Neil Walker — .277 avg, 9 HRs, 62 RBIs
Walker anchors the infield just as McCutchen anchors the outfield. He’s brought surprisingly good defensive play to the field since being called up to the majors early on in 2010, and his stout play with the glove has become expected on a nightly basis.
His bat is just as effective. Take a look at the RBI leaders this season and you’ll notice how much of an impact he’s making. While not typically a clean-up hitter, Walker has filled that role admirably as the Pirates have struggled to find a consistent power hitter.
He also serves as a leader in the clubhouse, which is currently full of infielders younger and more inexperienced. The “Pittsburgh Kid” aura should not make him untouchable, but it definitely adds to his appeal for staying in Pittsburgh for the long term.
3. Charlie Morton — 8-5 record, 3.62 ERA
As far as starting pitching goes, nobody has more upside than Morton. That’s scary to think about, considering he’s shown us this season that he can be among the league leaders when he’s on his game. It’s scarier to know that people call him a young Roy Halladay.
Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, James McDonald and Jeff Karstens have all had outstanding seasons this year, there’s no doubt. But none of them have the potential to improve and grow in to a Cy Young candidate like Morton.
He came over in 2009 in the Nate McLouth deal as a top prospect for the future. The future is just starting, and he shouldn’t be pitching anywhere other than Pittsburgh.
4. Joel Hanrahan — 1.24 ERA, 28-of-29 saves
I feel like we’re picking one player per category but honestly, there’s one marquee guy residing in each part of the field. In the bullpen it’s Hanrahan.
His saves this year speak for themselves. While he might be a tough player to sign in the future, he’s in Pittsburgh now and is responsible for a handful of wins. With a heavy lack of run support all season, Hanrahan has been thrust in to closing out games with little room for error.
I truly believe there’s no more confident reliever in baseball right now. Every time Hanrahan takes the mound he’s knows what he’s got, the batter knows what he’s got and Hanrahan wins the battle with pure power.
With Evan Meek hopefully returning to form when healthy, Hanrahan might be a guy that gets dealt in the future. But it should not and CAN NOT be this year.
5. Pedro Alvarez — .208 avg., 2 HRs, 10 RBIs
Just as many of the others already listed, Alvarez is part of this franchise’s future. He hasn’t had a great season to date, as the injury bug and sporadic production at the plate and in the infield have troubled him. But he is far from giving up on and is still very, very young.
The dream scenario is Alvarez is a powerful clean up hitter, regularly driving home McCutchen and Walker in front of him. It’s still very much a possibility and still very much a work in progress.
Still far too early to even consider this guy as trade bait, too.
There are also a few guys at the minor league level that probably shouldn’t be part of a trade.
In the outfield, Sterling Marte and Alex Presley are going to look very attractive to teams. The Pirates have to choose one that is going to be here long term. Presley is proving it right now in the majors, but Marte has just as much hype and possibly more upside.
There’s probably little need to keep both, as one could be valuable to use in future deadline deals if this team continues to compete this year and in future years. With an already solid outfield, the Pirates have more wiggle room to deal a prospect.
Tony Sanchez should also be an untouchable prospect. Looking at how the catching situation has panned out this year, the Pirates have a desperate need for a solid every-day guy. This kid has a lot of hype and a lot of potential. We need to see him reach the majors before even thinking about using him in a deadline deal.
2010 draft picks Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie are far too young and have far too much potential and expectations to go anywhere as well.