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Pirates

MLB Experts: Bucs Pay Small Price For Big Upgrade

By Matt Popchock
Marlon Byrd

(Photo Credit: Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — The Pirates believe they might have finally gotten external help for their anemic offense, as the team announced Tuesday afternoon it has acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd, catcher John Buck, and cash from the New York Mets for shortstop prospect Dilson Herrera and future considerations.

They entered their six-game homestand, which began Tuesday night with a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers, in the bottom third of the National League and just 25th in the majors in runs scored, 24th overall in team batting average, and tied with Washington for 18th in team OPS. On their off day they watched the St. Louis Cardinals, who visit PNC Park this weekend, turn a dead heat atop the NL Central into a half-game deficit.

Herrera, 19, is a middle infielder–primarily playing second base–who has been playing “A” ball with the West Virginia Power. He’s hitting .265 with 11 homers, 27 doubles, and 56 RBI. He’s walked 37 times and stolen a base successfully on 11 of 17 tries.

Oddly enough, he was at Citi Field earlier this season, as a participant in the MLB Futures Game during All-Star week.

As Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review told “Starkey, Miller and Mueller” (weekdays 2:00-6:00 P.M. on The Fan), the Pirates had been pleased with Herrera offensively, but weren’t confident he could handle the defensive aspects of his position.

Byrd, 35, has been hitting .311 since the All-Star Break, and could really shore up the right field spot, which has been problematic most of the year despite recent productivity from Jose Tabata.

Buck, 33, has scuffled with a .215 average, but he also has 15 homers and 60 RBI in 101 games, and might be able to spell Russell Martin more effectively than young Tony Sanchez.

Both are slated for free agency next year, but in the meantime, MLB experts seem to agree that GM Neal Huntington made exactly the sort of low-risk, high-reward deal he needed.

“The largest immediate impact here will be Byrd taking over right field in Pittsburgh. The Pirates’ right fielders, led by Jose Tabata and the injured Travis Snyder, have hit just .232/.297/.369 this season. Byrd, who was a non-roster invitee with the Mets this spring after a miserable 2012 season that ended in a steroid suspension, has hit .285/.330/.518 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs on the season. Since May 29, he has hit .304/.350/.561 with 17 of those homers,” explained Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated, who writes their baseball blog ‘The Strike Zone.’ “That’s a tremendous upgrade for a team that already ranks among the best in baseball and should make the National League Central race all the more compelling down the stretch.”

Click here to read the full post by Corcoran.

With six games apiece remaining against the Cardinals and Reds, the Pirates will look to take home NL Central honors and avoid playing in the one-game Wild Card Round come October,” said Bleacher Report feature columnist Joel Reuter. “This deal certainly helps their chances of accomplishing that, shoring up a major hole in right field with a potential impact bat, and adding some bench depth as well.”

Click here to read the full article by Reuter.

Frequent 93.7 guest Brian Kenny also likes the addition of Byrd to a team that, to a man, has struggled against left-handed pitching. Having said that, he hopes things work out for outfield prospect Andrew Lambo, who has been quiet in right field in a handful of big-league appearances this month.

“He’s having a career year. If you’re a Pirate fan, don’t expect that Marlon Byrd, but this is a good player. He’s slugging about .600 against left-handed pitching,” Kenny said on MLB Network Tuesday. “I like it for this month. I understand why they did it. But Lambo…you know how many plate appearances he’s had in the majors this year? Seventeen. I know why we like [Byrd], but I also like 25-year-olds who are crushing Triple-A pitching. I like those guys, and I want to get those guys more at-bats.”

To make room for the newcomers, the Pirates designated Triple-A Indianapolis third baseman Russ Canzler for assignment, and placed right-handed pitcher Kyle McPherson on the 60-day disabled list after recalling him from the Indians.

The last-minute shopping may not be done yet. The Cardinals, Reds, and Diamondbacks, the three teams immediately challenging the Pirates for playoff positioning, still have four days to add players via waivers before every MLB team expands its big-league roster to 40 players Sept. 1.

As Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported earlier this evening, the Pirates continue to show interest in Twins first baseman and former AL MVP Justin Morneau.

Stay tuned to your flagship home of Pirates baseball, SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan, for the latest.

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