Written by: Noah Hiles (@Noah_Hiles95)
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To say that 2017 has been an interesting year for the Pittsburgh Pirates would be an incredible understatement. From the lows of the Cutch trade rumors, Jung Ho Kang’s DUIs, Starling Marte’s PED suspension, Jameson Taillon’s battle with cancer, players under performing to the highs of Andrew McCutchen’s comeback, Josh Bell’s impressive rookie campaign, Felipe Rivero emerging as one of the best closers in baseball and the recent winning streak to put the Pirates within reach of the division lead. This season has been an absolute roller coaster.
With the Buccos still in the middle of the pack, remaining just a few games out of first, the big question is, are they buyers or sellers as the trade deadline approaches? I believe the way the Pirates front office answers that question will not only indicate their thoughts on this year’s team, but it will also tell the steel city what we can expect from our Buccos for a few years to come.
As of right now, if the Pirates have any desire at all to attempt a legitimate run at the post season, I feel that they would have at least made a small move. The once red-hot team from the north shore has cooled down, only winning two of their last six games, after an impressive 6-1 start after the All-Star break.
If you look around the league, nearly every team who is in the playoff hunt seems to be making moves to better their club. In the National League alone, the Cubs, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Nationals have all made trades with the deadline only a day away. Yet, the Pirates, who at one point in time last week were only two games out of first place, did absolutely nothing.
One would think after getting arguably their best player back and opening the second half of the season red hot, the Pirates would at least be in the running for a player who could make their team better, especially when every other team they’re competing with is doing so. This leads me to believe one thing, the Pirates are simply not in win now mode.
I could be wrong. The beautiful thing about the game of baseball is that it can always surprise fans of any team. There is absolutely no way of telling what the Pirates will do in the next few days. If they go out and make a deal and get someone to help them in areas of need, this tells us that the front office honestly cares about the 2017 season and believes that we have an actual shot. If they do not make trades to win now, well, in my eyes, it is going to be a tough pill to swallow.
Granted, I do not think the Pirates have a great shot at catching the Cubs to win the NL Central, but if the Pirates mail it in at this year’s deadline, I feel like it tells me more about the upcoming off season than anything else. For years we have been hearing about how great this group of prospects consisting of Gerrit Cole, Gregory Polanco, Elias Diaz, Tyler Glasnow, Bell, Taillon and Marte will be. This year, they have finally all arrived. Yet, I feel as if the front office is already admitting they were wrong about their faith in the future.
By not making a trade to add to this year’s team, the Pirates are telling us that they have no faith in the club that we currently have. That their big plan to hold onto all their top prospects throughout the years so we could have something like the Cubs, is not running as planned. If the following is true and the Pirates are not in win now mode this season, they will more than likely take that mindset into the off-season.
The Pirates have never been a team to make a huge trade or sign a big name in the off-season. That is not what I am hoping for, nor would I ever expect them to do so. What worries me about the franchise going into this year’s offseason as sellers is what they will do with two of the team’s best players, Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. If they tell us this year that what they have now is not good enough, I would expect nothing less than a rebuild from Huntington and company. That means they will more than likely part ways with two of their best bargaining chips for prospects so we can attempt to get things right for the future.
The Pirates cannot sell hard now because their team is too close to contention. Plus, Cole and McCutchen are playing well while the rest of the players at their positions are struggling. However, in the off-season, all bets are off. Pirates fans have all but accepted the fact that Cutch and Cole are not going to be offered the big-time contracts they deserve. Their time here is probably limited as is, and the off-season would be the perfect time for the franchise to ship them away.
If this does happen, do not expect the 2018 season to be anything exciting. Cole is the ace of a very thin starting rotation and Cutch is without question the heart and soul of the team, not to mention the best player we have had since Barry Bonds. This will put Pittsburgh baseball in a rut that will take a few years to recover from. Though teams like the Yankees, Cubs and Astros are currently excelling right now with a core of new talent, they also have a great number of established veterans who can even the balance. Because the Pirates will not keep nor sign our established stars, our team will be all young faces with no guidance.
With all this being considered, as I mentioned before, baseball is a game that defies logic almost every day. Things happen that shock fans of every single team in both good and bad ways, year in and year out. Even a team like the Pirates, who have been more predictable than not can find a way to surprise the league every now and then. That is what makes this trade deadline so interesting and what makes the game of baseball so great Now it is time to sit back and watch, so we can see what will happen.