By John Perrotto
Perhaps the most indicative aspect of how dramatically different this Pirates’ season has been came earlier this week when president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington, manager Clint Hurdle and the rest of the club’s baseball operations brain trust met to discuss what player moves it could possibly make in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
In a most pleasant change-of-pace development, the Pirates decided they are going to be buyers at the deadline and attempt to win the National League Central. They won’t be selling off their players this July, barring a total collapse over the next three weeks.
However, those rumors that have the Pirates acquiring a high-profile outfielder like Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence or Andre Ethier can pretty much be to rest. The Pirates are telling teams their top prospects are off limits, which makes unlikely to they can acquire an All-Star caliber player.
Thus, the Pirates will set their sights somewhat lower and look for useful players to fill gaps while also hoping to get a boost by the return from the disabled list of such players as catcher Ryan Doumit, third baseman Pedro Alvarez, shortstop Ronny Cedeno, left fielder Jose Tabata, set-up man Even Meek and left-handed reliever Joe Beimel.
With all that in mind, here are five players the Pirates have some interest in and they could acquire sometime this month:
—Outfielder Melky Cabrera | Contract Status | 2011: $1.25MM |
The Pirates nearly acquired the 26-year-old from the New York Yankees at the 2006 winter meetings and now they have interest in trading with the Kansas City Royals to get him. Cabrera has his drawbacks, including a lack of patience at the plate and misadventures in the field, but he is a switch-hitter who is batting .286 with 11 homers, 48 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 85 games.
—Outfielder David DeJesus | Contract Status | 2011: $6MM | 2012: FA |
The 31-year-old left-handed hitter is having an awful season for the Oakland Athletics as he is hitting just .221 with five home runs and 24 RBIs in 76 games. However, DeJesus has a .285 career batting average and the Pirates, big devotees of advanced statistical metrics, are well aware that he has a .246 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), a strong indicator that he is hitting in tough luck.
—Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome | Contract Status: 2011: $13.5MM | 2012: FA |
The 34-year-old Japanese import has not lived up to his big contract with the Chicago Cubs but the left-handed hitter is effective against right-handed pitching. He hasn’t show much power this season as he had just three homers and 11 RBIs to go with a .272 batting average in 74 games but the Pirates could use some of his fine .375 on-base percentage.
—First baseman Carlos Pena | Contract Status | 2011: $10 million ($5 million deffered to be paid on January 2012. Free Agent in 2012)
He seems tailor-made for the Pirates as he has pop from the left side and is willing to work a walk. The 33-year-old is hitting just .225 but his OBP is .340, his slugging percentage is .467 and he has 19 homers and 48 RBIs in 85 games. As an added bonus, he is as good of a clubhouse influence as anyone in baseball.
–Catcher Matt Treanor | Contract Status | 2011: $850,000 | 2012: FA |
His value lies in his game-calling ability and working well with young pitchers, some qualities attractive to the Pirates as they have two rookie catchers on the active roster. Defense keeps Treanor employed as the 35-year-old is hitting .217 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 55 games.
— John Perrotto has covered the Pirates and Major League Baseball for 24 years and is the national writer for Baseball Prospectus and the baseball columnist for the Beaver County Times.