On the trade front, the Pirates have not emerged emerged as players for front-line starting pitchers Zach Greinke, Cole Hamels or Ryan Dempster and don’t expect them to at any point leading into the July 31st deadline.
While the Pirates covet a front-line starting pitcher, they’re showing no interest in giving up assets for a rental starter, even in the mold of a Hamels of Greinke as teams for those respective players are not targeting the Pirates in trade talks.
The Pirates focus at least from the standpoint of trying to land a top-3 starter is on Boston’s Jon Lester, Chicago’s Matt Garza and Tampa Bay’s James Shields, pitchers who would be around past the 2012 season.
Lester, 28, is 5-6 with a 4.49 ERA in 18 starts. He’s 5th in the AL in complete games with two and would be under team control through the 2013 season. Lester is making $7.625 million in 2012 and is scheduled to make $11.625 million in 2013. He has a $13 million club option ($250,000 buyout) in 2014 but the 2014 club option is voided if Lester is traded.
Garza, 28, is very high on the Pirates radar and is 5-7 with a 4.02 ERA in 17 starts. Garza is making $9.5 million in 2012 and is arbitration eligible for next season. He’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2014. Huntington and Theo Epstein have a close relationship and there’s been discussions between the two and the Pirates had a scout in attendance for Garza’s start on Sunday when he pitched seven shutout innings, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out seven.
Shields, 30, is a pitcher GM Neal Huntington has been high on for a while now and has been asking about for over a month, a team source says. The Rays are reportedly at least listening on Shields who is 8-6 with a 4.44 ERA. He’s an innings eater, ranking 5th in AL with 123.2 innings pitched and in strikeouts with 114. Shields is so attractive on the trade market to teams like Pittsburgh, because he could be under team control through the 2014 season. Shields is making $7 million this season, following by a $9 million club option with $2.0 million buyout in 2013 and a $12.0 million club option with a $2 million buyout in 2014. The Rays are reportedly looking to get an impact major-league bat or a catching prospect in return for Shields.