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Marte injury sparking Pirates’ moves

September 1, 2013
By John Mehno (johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com) , The Altoona Mirror

If Starling Marte hadn't injured his hand, maybe the Pirates don't deal for rental players Marlon Byrd and John Buck.

But with Marte facing more time out of the lineup, and with one corner outfield spot already completely unsettled, the Pirates had no choice. They needed help.

When you have a chance to win the division, you can't fill both corner outfield positions by dipping into the same grab bag of mediocrity.

So they wisely paid the price, which was two decent prospects. Second baseman Dilson Herrera is only 19, so who knows how he'll develop. He's probably three years away from the major leagues.

Reliever Vic Black is ready now, and the Pirates had plans for him in their ever-changing bullpen. But one of the reasons to stockpile prospects is to have them available as trading chips to fill other needs.

Somehow Buck makes $6 million, so there's a $1 million hit on the remainder of his contract. That shouldn't be a big issue with the kind of business the Pirates have been doing for the last few months.

(Buck will be paid more for this month than previous backups Michael McKenry and Tony Sanchez will make for the entire season, combined).

Byrd is a bargain whose payroll impact is negligible. Each player represents an upgrade, so it was a deal that had to be made.

The Pirates took a much bigger financial hit when they added Justin Morneau on Saturday. The last month of his 2013 contract will cost the team about $2.3 million.

They gave up Alex Presley, who had played his way out of their plans. It remains to be seen what other player will be sent to Minnesota. Unconfirmed reports said it was pitcher Duke Welker.

Morneau's contract also expires at the end of this season, making him eligible for free agency.

You take the chance, but there are never any guarantees. The Penguins found that out in the spring when they landed Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Morrow in deadline deals that were widely praised.

But all three players flopped in the playoffs, and the Penguins had no interest in bringing any of them back.

Last cuts

The Steelers' decision to release Jonathan Dwyer is an indication of how unhappy they are with their running game.

Dwyer was the team's leading rusher last season, but that only points out how weak the running game was. The Steelers obviously think Felix Jones is a better option.

Dwyer fumbled too much for Mike Tomlin's taste, and his conditioning last year was lacking, even though he improved on that this year.

Sometimes a player gets in a coach's doghouse, and there's no way to escape.

The Steelers are still woefully thin at running back with No. 2 draft choice Le'Veon Bell still sidelined with a foot injury.

That's bad news for a team that keeps talking about a stronger commitment to running the ball.

The season starts in a week, ready or not. Are the Steelers ready?

It sure doesn't feel that way.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

 
 

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