Colin Dunlap: Pirates Lose Out On Arms Race
On Deadline Day, the Pirates stood pat.
No key acquisitions.
No added boost to the rotation.
No bat for the middle of the lineup, no enhancement to the bullpen, and, for many, one big letdown.
This is your roster — at least for now — for the Pirates moving forward in the National League Central Division race.
As David Price was whisked away from Tampa to Detroit, Jon Lester shipped from Boston to Oakland and John Lackey from the Red Sox to Cardinals, here is what business the Pirates conducted on Thursday:
“The Pirates claimed RHP Angel Sanchez off waivers from the White Sox.”
What a joke.
Honestly, this is some kind of farce, right?
Perhaps the Pirates were in on all three high-profile pitchers, or perhaps they weren’t. The bottom line and what everyone will remember is this: They didn’t get them. They didn’t get anyone. On a day when many point to a succinct goal of teams in the race to get better, the Pirates did not.
It isn’t, and never should be, about near-misses at the non-waiver trade deadline, but more about the pieces a team adds for a stretch run that could propel them into the postseason and then, hopefully, a jaunt through that postseason.
With the Milwaukee Brewers beginning the day two games ahead of the second-place Pirates atop the National League Central standings, it appeared high time for this franchise to act in atypical form. It would have been, in the eyes of at least this columnist and radio host, time for the Pirates to overspend for the sake of adding to a shaky-at-best starting rotation.
Give away Starling Marte if you have to? Sure.
Trade Pedro Alvarez if you must? Yep.
Part with Josh Bell or a high-end pitching prospect as part of a deal packaged in with a big league player for a Lester, Price or Lackey? You betcha.
But here we are and general manager Neal Huntington will flip the calendar from July to August in the throes of a pennant chase with, I guess, Franciscio Liriano as his ace.
Or is it Charlie Morton? Perhaps it is Edinson Volquez? Maybe it is Gerrit Cole fighting back from injury? Who really knows.
All that’s known, and what I will focus on, is that at some point in time — even if you have to gut the minor league system to a degree and overspend — this year needs to be next year if you really want to show the fan base and the people who supported this franchise through all the losing that you’re dead serious about winning a World Series.
Acquiring a hammer, undeniable ace before 4 p.m. on Thursday would have done that.
Would it have guaranteed the Pirates anything? Positively not.
But it would have at least symbolized that this franchise is willing to mount up in an arms race that has become Major League Baseball’s final few months.
In the division on Deadline Day, the Cardinals — who entered Thursday one-half game back of the Pirates in third place — weren’t going to sit on their hands.
Instead, St. Louis got Lackey from the Red Sox in exchange for firstbaseman/outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly. This comes a day after the Cards acquired pitcher Justin Masterson from the Indians for a minor league, high-end prospect.
Did the Cardinals do the right thing by shipping out a couple of key guys for Lackey, a man who is a few months rental but has a history of being lights-out in the postseason? Who knows?
But at least they took a chance, at least they tried to get better, at least they entered the arms race.
In the American League, Detroit and Oakland did the same thing, entering that arms race. Detroit took a big chance and you know what they now have? The last three Cy Young winners and the last three American League most valuable players for the stretch run.
That ain’t bad.
But, you know, the Pirates claimed some fella named Angel Sanchez on Thursday.
What a farce.
In fairness, however, there’s still time.
As the Pirates were in the thick of the National League Central — and by extension Wild Card — race last season, their bold moves came well after the non-waiver trade deadline.
It wasn’t until Aug. 27, 2013, that the club made a move for outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck from the Mets, dealing minor leaguer Dilson Herrera and Victor Black, a high-end prospect.
A few days later, on the final day of August, the Pirates acquired Justin Morneau from Minnesota for outfielder Alex Presley and a player to be named later.
Byrd was a big factor in the Pirates getting to the Wild Card game and eventual National League Division Series while Morneau underachieved but still provided professional at-bats in the heart of the lineup and solid defense.
Indeed the Pirates could still make a move; yes that might still happen.
But a big part of me thinks the Pirates needed to go big just this one time — and they didn’t.
No one remembers the near-misses. They remember the ones you got.
And on this Deadline Day, the Pirates got no one at a time it seemed they needed a top-end starter more than ever.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.