There are plenty of opinions of exactly what Pittsburgh Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington needs to do when the trade deadline approaches.
Huntington certainly has his options to choose from as targeting a productive right fielder certainly makes sense, as would more production at shortstop and maybe an additional arm or two.
However neither is as pressing as the need to upgrade the woeful Pirates bench.
Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle has been known for frequently using all 25 players on the roster, which is especially big for a National League team.
However given the current state of the bench, it’s hard to envision the Bucs having enough bullets on it to seriously compete for the long run.
Currently the options for Hurdle to choose from aren’t pretty.
There’s Michael McKenry behind the plate and his .191 AVG/.248 OBP.330 SLG slash line. Add in The Fort’s defensive deficiencies and you can make a realistic case for him being one of the worst players on any major league roster. McKenry provided some key hits for the Pirates last year, but that ship has since sailed and it is time for an upgrade when it comes to the Bucs No. 2 catcher.
Then there is Brandon Inge and his .190/.214/.250 slash line. Inge may be a good clubhouse guy and bring some intangibles, but in terms of production he brings nothing.
Next on the list is Clint Barmes. For his $5.5 million salary the Bucs have received a .200/.232/.271 line. Barmes has even slipped a little defensively as of late, which isn’t a good sign.
Finally there is Travis Snider, who despite his power potential has produced a .224/.295/.333 slash line.
Snider did some good things early and still could be a nice part of a platoon, but his lack of production could kill the Bucs in the long run. He’s slumped big time as of late and the strikeouts are piling up at a high rate.
Add up the Pirates four bench pieces and you get a combined .205 batting average (120-for-583) with nine homers and 49 RBI (22 belonging to Snider). In addition they have combined for a .247 on base percentage, .296 slugging percentage and a -1.7 WAR.
It’s crystal clear that the Pirates bench needs a huge upgrade and a quick one.
Add to that fact that when one of the regulars gets banged up, such as Neil Walker at the moment, there is such a huge drop off in production. You simply cannot sustain success that way.
With the trade deadline just over three weeks away, you have to think that upgrading the bench needs to be very high on Huntington’s wish list.
The word chemistry gets tossed around a lot but at the end of the day while chemistry is important, it doesn’t win games.
Huntington can’t really turn to the minors for help, although Alex Presley could be an option, but turning to players like Josh Harrison doesn’t improve things any.
It should be a lot easier to make trades to improve the bench in the next few weeks than to acquire a star that would likely result in the Pirates having to part with major pieces of their future.
You can’t make the playoffs in the NL without a quality bench and that has to be something that Huntington seriously needs to consider strongly over the course of the next few weeks.