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Pirates win big by doing nothing at deadline

July 31, 2013 - Cory Giger
The Pirates had a great trade deadline and saw their chances of continuing this magical season increase Wednesday.

Simply by doing nothing.

Nobody else did anything, either, so by default, the Pirates are in exactly the same position as they've been for a good while.

The Bucs have their shortcomings, and the woeful offense coming out of right field tops the list. They still have the best record in baseball (65-42) despite that, and even though they didn't address the need at the deadline, the Pirates came out smelling like roses since none of the other contenders in the National League did anything of note.

Hey, if they're chasing you and they didn't improve, that's great news.

Give general manager Neal Huntington a lot of credit for standing pat and not panicking by making a deal in which the Bucs certainly would have overpaid badly. The market for bats wasn't great anyway, and Huntington wisely held onto his best trading chips to be used in the coming years, when the Pirates still should be factors in the NL.

Tuesday was arguably the Pirates' best day in the last 20 years as they swept the Cardinals in a doubleheader for a 1 1/2-game lead in the NL Central (now 2 1/2). One thing that probably went overlooked from that day largely explains why the Bucs are in the situation they're in right now, as well as why they didn't feel like they had to make a splash at the trade deadline.

Eight of the nine starters in Tuesday's second game were home-grown players, each having appeared with the Curve at some point. There has never been a game in which all nine Bucs starters were Curve alums, and eight has only occurred about five or six times (Gaby Sanchez was the lone holdout Tuesday).

It will be a historic day for the Curve when all nine Bucco starting spots are filled. But more significantly, when that happens -- and if it happens for a contending team -- it will serve as a great testament to the organization's complete overhaul of what has been at various times a dreadful farm system.

The plan to build the major league team from within, while adding key pieces when needed such as catcher Russell Martin or pitcher A.J. Burnett, has finally come to fruition. And while the farm system isn't exactly loaded with high-ceiling position players, there are enough good prospects all around to believe the Bucs can keep adding a youngster here and there over the next few years to remain contenders.

Huntington wasn't willing to give any of those pieces away for an unfavorable deal at the trade deadline.

"It is a credit to our international, amateur and professional scouts, our development staff, our major league staff and the support staff for the great work they have done," Huntington texted the Mirror on Tuesday about the minor league success.

"Patience is a challenge in sports, but we have a lot of really good people that have done and continue to do some great work, and the results are showing on the field at PNC."

They are showing, everywhere but right field. The Pirates have been flat awful offensively in that spot all year, and at some point you just know it's going to bite them.

So let me say this one more time: Why not give Andrew Lambo a shot?

It makes absolutely no sense to keep ignoring Lambo, whose 28 home runs are tied for second most in all of minor league baseball. He hit 14 in 58 games for the Curve and has 14 in 41 games for Triple-A Indianapolis, to go along with 87 total RBIs.

Lambo actually has a higher OPS in Triple-A (.946) than he did in Altoona (.910), and his left-handed power potential should have the Pirates salivating.

OK, so he's never played in the majors and might stink up the joint if he's promoted. Well, Pedro Alvarez did that for huge chunks of the past two seasons, but he's a game changer with his power, and Lambo could provide that type of difference if given a chance.

There's very little chance Lambo could perform worse offensively than what the Pirates have been running out in right field.

Pirates assistant general manager Kyle Stark said Tuesday that Lambo is still working on things such as "consistency of his at-bats" and "little things" including defense and baserunning.

"He's still in the minors because he's still developing and because we've had a few guys ahead of him who had earned their own opportunity," Stark texted to the Mirror.

Maybe guys like Jose Tabata, Travis Snider and Alex Presley have earned opportunities, but none brings as much potential upside as Lambo.

The right field situation will have to be addressed if the Pirates -- and yes, I'm actually about to write this -- are going to have a shot to win the World Series.

This team, because of its tremendous pitching, is a legitimate World Series contender. If anyone had doubts about that, four straight wins against the Cardinals this week should have changed your mind.

At this point, fans shouldn't be worried about a collapse any longer. The concern is winning the NL Central rather than getting a wild-card berth, which brings with it a ridiculous one-game, do-or-die scenario.

It's Aug. 1, and the Pirates are the best team in baseball. If this is a dream, please, no one wake us up until the end of October.

Follow Giger on Twitter @CoryGiger

 
 

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