Harrison, other Pirates vets soon may be gone

Commentary

Notes and observations from a recent trip to Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

PITTSBURGH — The writing is on the wall for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

More specifically, for some of the Pirates’ veteran players.

With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington recently went on record as saying that unless the Pirates pull off a huge turnaround on the current homestand, the club will be trading some veteran players.

One of the team’s most popular and productive players over the last several years, infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison, appears to be at the top of the list.

Harrison, a two-time National League All-Star, recently turned 31 years of age, and he has two very expensive option years remaining on his contract — a $10.5 million option for next season (or a $1 million buyout), and an $11.5 million option for the following season.

It’s very unlikely that either of the option years will be exercised, and Harrison seems to know it.

“As a younger player coming up, I never thought much about the trade deadline, but when you get to the point that I am, you understand the professional part of it,” Harrison said recently. “(But) you just show up every day, and you get what you’ve got to get out.

“I can’t worry about that,” Harrison said of the trade deadline. “My job is to show up every day. There’s the business side that’s out of my control. Some things have to happen, and as you get older, you understand it.”

Harrison — who has been mired in a significant batting slump over the last several weeks — is taking a one day at a time approach.

“I’m not trying to look to next week, not trying to look to tomorrow, I’m trying to look to today,” Harrison said. “Today is the only thing that matters right now.”

Harrison’s versatility — he has played second base, third base, and right and left field for the Pirates — would be a huge plus for a contending team during the season’s stretch run. According to published reports, the Los Angeles Dodgers are one team that has already expressed an interest in Harrison.

Virtually nobody on the Pirates roster is immune from the trade speculation. Other veterans who could be moved are infielder David Freese, outfielder Corey Dickerson, starting pitcher Ivan Nova, and shortstop Jordy Mercer — who will become a free agent after this season.

Even closer Felipe Vazquez — the Pirates’ only representative in next week’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game — and catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has been enjoying an all-star type of season, could be viewed as attractive bargaining chips.

Left fielder Dickerson, who has been extremely solid since being acquired by the Pirates in an offseason trade with Tampa Bay, thinks that paying undue attention to trade rumors is a waste of time.

“It’s not helpful to think about unless, or if, something does happen,” Dickerson said. “I’m just going about my business. These guys are fun to play baseball with and it’s fun to come to the clubhouse.”

n Vazquez now has 41 saves in two seasons as the Pirates’ closer, breaking the previous franchise-record career mark by a left-hander of 39 that was set by Ramon Hernandez. Hernandez was a member of the Pirates’ 1971 World Championship team. Vazquez has converted 20 of his 24 save opportunities this year. The single-season Pirates’ record for saves is 24, set by Mike Gonzalez back in 2006.

n Vazquez, in this view, deserves his all-star selection this season, but gone should be the days when every team should be required to be represented by at least one player at the all-star game. There are presently some cases where a player is selected who just isn’t deserving, and other cases where deserving players are not selected for the game.

n Mercer has now appeared in 737 games as the Pirates shortstop, and recently passed Frederick “Bones” Ely for seventh place on the club’s all-time list in that category. Ely played with the Pirates between 1896 and 1901. Gene Alley, who played 11 seasons with the Bucs between 1963 and 1973, ranks sixth in club history in games played at shortstop, with 977.

n As a result of a June 20 rainout, Pirates’ fans will be treated to a traditional doubleheader — two games for the price of one — on Saturday afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers. The first game starts at 12:35 p.m. It’s a refreshing change from what most clubs around Major League Baseball do — charge fans for two separate games in a day-night doubleheader format.

John Hartsock can be reached at jhartsock@altoonamirror.com

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