By Matt Popchock

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — The Pirates ended their infamous postseason drought in 2013 by turning low-risk moves into high-reward ones, and it might be best for their ship to stay that course through another critical winter.

A.J. Burnett, one of the team’s regular season heroes, but also one of its playoff goats, told SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan’s Colin Dunlap (weeknights 10:00 P.M.-2:00 A.M.) this week he will either stay in Pittsburgh or retire.

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There’s no telling whether or not Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year Francisco Liriano can continue his amazing success, or how effective guys like Wandy Rodriguez or Jeff Locke will be after frustratingly premature endings to their 2013 campaigns. So, if Burnett does retire, the temptation will be great to go after another veteran arm while the franchise grooms up-and-coming prospect Jameson Taillon.

Rays hurler David Price is one of the established stars most likely to be shopped around this offseason. But knowing how unusually timid the non-waiver trade deadline market was this summer, don’t expect the Pirates to be a player for him, or anyone like him.

“For most teams, trading three or four top prospects for two years of control of an established, Cy Young award-winning left-handed starting pitcher would be a risk worth taking. For a small market team like the Bucs, it is playing with fire, essentially,” Zach Morrison of Rant Sports writes. “The Pirates depend on having a top farm system; their inability to spend money like large market teams makes it vital to their success to keep a strong stable of prospects and young talent.”

Click here to read Morrison’s full post.

To paraphrase what GM Neal Huntington said July 31, the Pirates were willing to do something stupid, but nothing insane. Faced with another depth dilemma, this one at first base, Morrison says Huntington kept his sanity, so to speak, when assessing young Angels phenom Mark Trumbo.

“The most likely scenario is [the Angels were interested in] either Cole or Taillon, and we can pretty much assume Cole isn’t going to be traded at this point. Cole had a great rookie season with the Bucs…Taillon would probably be the biggest piece moved in a potential Trumbo deal involving the Pirates,” Morrison adds. “Even if it is just Taillon, it is an extremely steep price to pay from the Pirates’ perspective.

“The Pirates have to rely on their prospects so much; trading them away almost seems counter-productive, even if they are getting an established All-Star caliber player like Trumbo.”

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They acquired much sought-after Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, but only after the non-waiver deadline came and went, and only after his price, presumably, went down. Morneau did contribute to the Pirates’ playoff push, but he never quite swung the hot bat he had leading up to that transaction.

Gaby Sanchez proved to be an effective platoon option against left-handed pitching, but Garrett Jones, who, like Morneau, is 32, is coming off one of the more disappointing seasons of his career. Therefore, this will be an even bigger question mark than pitching.

The Pirates won’t immediately tear down a farm system that has been ranked consistently in Major League Baseball’s top ten, and, as evidenced by their playoff berth, is just starting to bear fruit.

Perhaps they’ll just look for the next Russell Martin?

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


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