Friday, July 22, 2011

Heaven can wait (but Pedro can't)

Pirates fans have ample reason to be antsy at the moment, no matter how many years of losing we may have personally endured. (I hopped on board in 1998.) After all, the Bucs are tied for the NL Central lead with nine weeks to go and 10 days until the non-waiver trade deadline.

Understandably, the public's desire is great to add a weapon or two for the season's final two months.

Pushing this urgency to a higher level are the next 10 games on the schedule, starting with tonight's (Friday's) collision with the third-place Cardinals at PNC Park. Following this weekend's series with St. Louis - just one game back of the Pirates and Brewers for first - Pittsburgh takes to the road for four games in Atlanta and three in Philadelphia to close out July.

With this gauntlet leading up to the trade deadline, naturally there have been rampant calls for general manager Neal Huntington to move quickly to augment the Bucco roster before the team takes on the best of the NL East.

But beyond the Brewers' dealing for a glorified setup man in Francisco Rodriguez during the all-star break, the trade market has been very quiet in recent weeks. It's apparent that teams interested in being "buyers" are holding out until deadline pressures lower the asking prices for players available on the market.

This delay shouldn't make Pirates fans uneasy. In fact, it should have the contrary effort for a couple of reasons:

1. Huntington isn't simply taking the first deal available. There is much (deserved) speculation about how the Pirates' fourth-year GM will handle his first trade deadline as a playoff contender. The fact that Huntington hasn't let his eagerness to deal get the better of him so far is an encouraging sign.

2. Despite the ominous stretch currently upon the Pirates, there will still be two months left of baseball after July 31. Even if Pittsburgh goes 3-7 or 2-8 against the Cards, Braves and Phillies, they will still very likely be in a position to make a run at the Central crown. Obviously, any help the Buccos could get over the next 10 days would be welcomed, but the season will not be determined by the first week of August.

Looking further ahead, the entire month of August figures to be grueling for the Pirates, with home series versus the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers and road series at San Francisco, Milwaukee and St. Louis lurking in the next five weeks.

With that in mind, it wouldn't be prudent for Huntington to rush into anything. Any new players are likely to make their presences felt more significantly in the final 56 games, as opposed to the next 10.

On the other hand, the sooner that rehabbing third baseman Pedro Alvarez gets called back up, the better. The Pirates are presently trotting out replacement level offense at 3B, and an upgrade with no tangible cost is waiting at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Sure, Pedro may struggle as the season wears on, but for a team near the bottom of MLB in slugging and runs created, not using the organization's best power threat is inexcusable.

Assuming Alvarez is completely healthy, he needs to be working out his problems while simultaneously helping the big club.

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Matt Gajtka is a featured writer for Sports Haze Pittsburgh. He also hosts the Polish Prodigy Podcast on Blog Talk Radio.

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