Huntington: ‘We’d like to add’

PITTSBURGH — The Pirates don’t play today, so that should give general manager Neal Huntington the full day to work the phones.

He’s up against Tuesday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trading deadline as he tries to improve his team.

Huntington would like to beef up his bullpen, but only if there’s a deal that makes sense.

“We’d like to add,” Huntington said before Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the New York Mets. “We like this core. We’ve tried the buy and sell in the last couple of years and they buy was more future-oriented. The sell was we were taking better players off this club.”

Huntington indicated he doesn’t plan to deal players for help that would be strictly in the future.

“That’s not our intent,” he said.

The majority of the starting lineup is under team control for seasons beyond the current one. Shortstop Jordy Mercer is in the last year of his contract and probably won’t be back next season.

Second baseman Josh Harrison could have the final two years of his contract bought out after this season ends. Harrison is having a sub-par season and has had injury issues over the past couple of seasons.

The Pirates believe they have potential replacements at the Class AAA level in former top picks Kevin Kramer (shortstop) and Kevin Newman (second base). Newman was the team’s top draft pick in 2015, and Kramer was the third-round choice in that draft.

The Pirates also have two players with major league experience at the middle infield positions — Adam Frazier and Max Moroff.

The team could use experienced help in the starting rotation, although it’s unlikely they would find a reasonable deal for a starting pitcher.

They’ll continue to look for middle relief pitchers, which are often made available by teams that are not in contention.

Although Tuesday is the non-waiver trading deadline, deals can still be made if waivers are secured. The Pirates acquired Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau in August of 2013, and were also able to get pitcher Ivan Nova after the deadline in 2016.

“We’re open to really anything at this point and having conversations on all levels and fronts,” Huntington said.

Kang still out

Huntington expressed pessimism about getting much out of third baseman Jung Ho Kang this season.

Kang’s spring training started late because he was unable to secure a work visa. When it appeared he might be ready to join the Pirates, he injured his wrist and went on the disabled list at Class AAA Indianapolis.

“He could be a great addition when he’s healthy,” Huntington said. “It’s not something we’re counting on.”

On deck

After today’s open date, the Pirates continue their homestand with a two-game series against the first-place Chicago Cubs.

They have another day off Thursday, then play the St. Louis Cardinals in a weekend series.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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