By Matt Popchock

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — As the Pirates’ offense putters along, the possibility exists the first walk-off celebration invalid in Major League Baseball history could help put an end to another of the sport’s most dubious distinctions: 20 consecutive losing seasons.

Jay Jaffe, a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated and special contributor to Yahoo! Sports, recently pointed to Mariners first baseman Kendrys Morales as a feasible fit for the Bucs. Furthermore, ESPN baseball reporter Jayson Stark tweeted Sunday that interest in Morales from the Pirates may be serious:


Since joining the M’s via the Los Angeles Angels this past off-season, Morales has hit .280 with an OPS just over .800. He’s cranked out 14 homers and 54 RBI entering the All-Star Break, and, if he were to put on a Bucco uniform right now, he’d be second only to Pedro Alvarez in both team categories. Plus, as the Pirates blog “From Forbes To Federal” illustrates (via ESPN’s Home Run Tracker), slugging in a more pitcher-friendly setting like PNC Park wouldn’t be a problem for the 30-year-old switch-hitter.

One burning question is, would the Pirates want to bring in someone who, potentially, wasn’t a long-term solution? Morales will make $5.25 million before becoming a 2013-14 free agent.

The deals done by GM Neal Huntington last summer–like, for example, the one that brought middling utility player Gaby Sanchez to Pittsburgh–demonstrated a desire for long-term aid under team control. On the other hand, the year before, the Pirates opted for low-risk moves to acquire Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick that saw both walk out the door after brief and generally unproductive stays.

Looking strictly at bottom line, the Pirates are as close to “win-now” mode as they have been at any point since 1992, but they need immediate help on offense. With injuries to second baseman Neil Walker keeping him from reaching career norms, there is even less debate about that need.

Jose Tabata, after perhaps reaching a crossroads in his Pirate career in 2012, has gotten his act together since getting demoted and getting healthy, with a .333 batting average in July, including a recent six-game hitting streak, and a .293 clip for the season. That solves some of the problems in right field. But first base remains a weak link; Sanchez has struggled mightily, and hard-hitting Garrett Jones had a very disappointing finish to his first half, going just 3 for his last 20.

The St. Louis Cardinals, who hold a one-game lead over the Pirates in the NL Central, lead the majors with a .337 team average with runners in scoring position. The Pirates, at .230, are better than only the Astros. Morales, who has hit .358 individually (1.014 OPS) in that situation this year, could help them close both gaps, and at a reasonable price.

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


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