Bucs need partner for any trades

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PITTSBURGH — Buyers or sellers?

That’s the question facing the Pirates as the non-waiver trade deadline arrives at the end of the month.

The truth is it’s not entirely up to them. As much as fans might want to “get rid of” Tony Watson, what’s the market for a reliever who hasn’t offered much relief?

Watson pitched his way out of the closer role and has struggled since he moved back to a set-up spot. Someone might — emphasize might — be willing to take him, but the return would be negligible.

Mike Williams used to pile up saves for bad Pirates teams. But when it came time to trade him (and the Pirates did twice), the only thing they could get were terrible pitchers Frank Brooks and Tony McKnight.

There are more reasons to keep Andrew McCutchen than to trade him. His June surge provided a reliable bat, but even his .400 average couldn’t get the Pirates to .500.

There’s no ready replacement for McCutchen, so his departure would blow a hole in an already weak lineup. The numbers McCutchen had in June are not sustainable. His history has been blazing hot months and really cold ones, but he’s worth keeping, especially considering a good return is unlikely.

How many contenders are looking for an outfielder? McCutchen is a star in Pittsburgh, but he’s probably a corner outfielder and No. 6 hitter in a stronger lineup. Contenders don’t want to give up players from their major league roster so any proposed deal would be for prospects.

Trading Gerrit Cole makes no sense unless the return is overwhelming. He has the ability to be a legitimate top of the rotation starter, and those are hard to find. The Pirates still have two years of control and would have to be knocked loopy by a fabulous offer to deal Cole.

Buyers or sellers? It’s up to the other teams as much as the Pirates.

Different views

So much of the perception of player performance is colored by which colors the player is wearing.

The other night in Philadelphia, Pirates left fielder Jose Osuna threw out three Phillies runners at second base. Two of them came on consecutive plays.

A Pirates fan watching that probably reacted this way: “Osuna is a heads-up player with a rifle arm who should play more often.”

If the Pirates had been thrown out three times at second base from left field, the reaction likely would have been: “There isn’t a team in baseball worse at running the bases.”

Making history

Osuna’s accomplishment sent researchers scrambling to find the last time it happened.

Some of those searches bring impressive results. For example, Josh Bell has the most home runs before the All-Star break by a Pirates rookie since Ralph Kiner in 1946. That’s something. Kiner was one of the most prolific home run hitters of his era, and power punched his ticket for the Hall of Fame.

Other “first since…” facts don’t carry as much weight.

Osuna’s three outfield assists were the first since Cecil Espy did it in 1992. Espy was a forgettable part-time outfielder who was part of the committee that tried to fill in after Bobby Bonilla left and vacated right field.

Bell has the most runs batted in before the break by a Pirates rookie since … Warren Morris in 1999. Morris was a half-season phenom who fizzled quickly after the league developed some familiarity with him.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.

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