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Kubel top target, Lee, Kotchman on radar for Pirates as Trade Deadline looms
By John Perrotto
The Pirates have set their sights much lower in their attempt to find a hitter to aid their sluggish offense.
The Pirates are zeroing in on Minnesota outfielder Jason Kubel and first basemen Derrek Lee of Baltimore and Casey Kotchman of Tampa Bay with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching at 4 p.m. Sunday, multiple baseball sources said Thursday.
Kubel and Kotchman are left-handed hitters and Lee is a right-handed hitter. All would become free agents at the end of the season.
Kubel, 29, is the Pirates’ primary target as he is hitting .308 with six home runs and 36 RBIs in 59 games during an injury-plagued season in which he spent almost two months on the disabled list with a sprained foot from May 31-July 21. He also has a .359 on-base percentage and a .463 slugging percentage.
Lee, 35, has struggled in his first season in the AL after spending the first 14 years of his career in the National League. He is hitting .245 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in 83 games with a .301 OBP and a .399 slugging percentage. Lee’s slugging percentage is his lowest since posting a .399 mark in 1999 for Florida.
Kotchman, 28, has been resurgent this year in his first season with the Rays, hitting .324 with four home runs and 29 RBIs in89 games with a .385 OBP and a .445 slugging percentage. He is the fourth in the AL in hitting after batting just .217 last season with Seattle. Kotchman’s career .998 fielding percentage is the highest in major-league history among first basemen with at least 500 games played.
The Pirates had been linked in rumors to a pair of All-Star outfielder last week in Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence. However, Beltran informed the New York Mets that he would not waive his no-trade clause to go to the Pirates and he was traded Thursday to San Francisco. The Pirates are unwilling to meet Houston’s asking price for Pence and he appears headed to Philadelphia.
The Pirates have scored more than four runs just once in 13 games since the All-Star break. Yet they are 7-6 in that span and have remained firmly in contention in the NL Central as they are tied for second place with St. Louis, 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee, one year after losing 105 games for their record 18th consecutive losing season.
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates and Major League Baseball since 1988.