By John Perrotto
PITTSBURGH — It seems doubtful that the Pirates will either deal Pedro Alvarez by Friday afternoon’s non-waiver trading deadline or acquire another first baseman to either take his place or serve as a right-handed hitting platoon partner.
A Pirates’ insider said late Monday night that reports about the team wanting to make a change at first base have been “overblown.”
The Pirates’ top priority is strengthening the bullpen beyond the late-inning trio of closer Mark Melancon, left-hander Tony Watson and right-hander Jared Hughes.
Two relievers the Pirates are zeroing in on are Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Oliver Perez and San Diego Padres right-hander Shawn Kelley.
If the Pirates are able to acquire Perez, it would in a homecoming story in much the manner of third Aramis Ramirez, who was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade last Thursday.
Perez, 33, was a starter for the Pirates from 2003-06 before being traded to the New York Mets for Xavier Nady.
Perez was switched to the bullpen during spring training in 2012 with Seattle and has compiled a 3.11 ERA in 206 games and 167 1/3 innings over the last four years with the Mariners and Diamondbacks. He has 8.1 hits allowed, 11.0 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings in that span.
Kelley, 31, is 1-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 31 games. What has caught the Pirates’ eyes, though, is his 39 strikeouts and seven walks in 35 innings.
Perez and Kelley both can become free agents at the end of the season, meaning their teams are unlikely to get a lot back in a trade.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington isn’t tipping his hand as to what he might do in the finals days leading up to the deadline.
“We’ve shored up what we felt was our biggest soft spot,” Huntington said of the Ramirez acquisition. “We’ll continue to look. It just gives us some versatility and flexibility to find where we think the next best match and next best fit is.
“We’re exploring basically everything. Trying to find out what the acquisition costs are, what our impact would be internally — both on the field from a production standpoint, but also trying to be sensitive to the clubhouse and what move ‘X’ or ‘Y’ would do to our expected production versus the intangible, as well.”
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