PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Pirates general manager Neal Huntington addressed the media prior to the team’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park Wednesday evening after an uncommonly uneventful non-waiver trade deadline day around Major League Baseball.
News of the only move made by the Pirates did not break until during the game, when multiple sources reported the Bucs acquired veteran minor-league infielder Robert Andino from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later.
At various times the Pirates were believed to be seriously interested in, among others, Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios, Houston Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris (who was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday), Chicago Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz, and New York Mets right fielder Marlon Byrd.
However, Bill Brink of the Post-Gazette reports Pittsburgh, generally, was an unlikely destination for Rios and/or Norris.
In any event, Huntington’s efforts to possibly upgrade the right field spot–a particularly weak link in a low-ranking offense–and, to a lesser extent, the pitching staff–which has overcome key injuries to post some of the best numbers in pro baseball–proved futile.
He said the team was in various conversations and amenable to parting with various prospects at various organizational levels, albeit reluctantly, in some cases.
“We were willing to do something stupid. We just weren’t willing to do something insane,” Huntington quipped.
“We focused more energy on…trying to add a bat. As you saw, from the market, not many bats moved anywhere. It was a very shallow market to begin with–not only the offensive market, but the pitching market,” he explained. “It was, arguably, one of the shallowest I’ve seen in 20-plus years in the game. There were a lot of teams willing to hold, and not necessarily for baseball reasons.
“That made it a challenging market in and of itself, when you’ve got that few sellers. But then you’ve got some mid-range teams that hold onto players, and that reduces the talent pool.”
You can listen to the full press conference below, as Huntington commented in greater detail on why he believes the market, ultimately, was not conducive to him making a significant move, and whether he thinks prospects such as Triple-A outfielder Andrew Lambo could help the Pirates this year:
Meanwhile, he left the door open to the possibility that the Pirates, whether internally or externally, will still try to add helpful pieces.
Going forward, teams are still allowed to trade players who first clear waivers until Sept. 1, at which point they are allowed to expand their active rosters from 25 to 40 players. Players in question do not have to clear waivers if they are not already on a 40-man roster, and any team may claim a player off waivers at any time, with the claimant with the poorest record always getting priority.
Furthermore, any player traded after Aug. 31 is not eligible for postseason play unless he is replacing an injured one.
“There’s more games, and teams could feel more out of it at that point,” Huntington said. “We’ll certainly continue to be active, and we looked exhaustively…to try and find a way to help this club. Our challenge is, we want to be sitting in the back of the pack, and, in this day and age, teams in front of us are frequently aggressive with claims and blocks.”
Despite the needs that were not addressed, he professed faith in a team that has turned heads around Major League Baseball, heading into the penultimate game of its series against St. Louis with a big league-best 64-42 record and 1.5-game lead in the National League Central Division.
Regardless of Wednesday’s results, the Pirates, currently on pace to end a historic 20-year playoff drought, enter August leading their division for the first time since their last year of winning baseball in 1992.
“We believe in this club. We’ve had a good next-man-up sort of [attitude] working, and a lot of young guys from our system have come in to help us be in the position that we’re in right now,” Huntington stated. “We feel like we’ve got some guys, internally, that are ready to turn a corner, and we feel like we’ve got some guys in our minor-league system that can come up here and help us as we move forward.”
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(Ross Insana contributed to this report.)