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In Search for Deadline Acquisitions, Pirates Will Have Stiff Competition to Upgrade Offense

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Ben Cherington

As the season reaches its midpoint and the summer weather starts to warm, trade rumors start to swirl around Major League Baseball. Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington is one of 30 general managers working the phones with the trade deadline just over a month away.

The build up to this year’s deadline is an unusual one. With nearly half the season in the books, 13 of the 15 teams in the National League are realistically within striking distance of a playoff berth.

It’s a situation rarely seen this far into the season, even for a veteran executive like Cherington.

“It does feel different, in maybe a couple of ways,” Cherington said during his media availability at PNC Park. “One in that way, where there is sort of a condensed middle. That’s a little different than most years.

For the first time in a while, the Pirates are hanging around in the playoff picture relatively far along into the season. As each game passes, the team’s needs become clearer.

Most of the areas the Pirates project to be looking to upgrade are in regards to the offense.

The starting pitching this season has been among the league’s best. The bullpen, while shaky at times, looks to be finding its stride, especially so with the back-end of David Bednar, Colin Holderman and Aroldis Chapman.

However, the Pirates will need to upgrade their lineup. Outside of Bryan Reynolds, the production at the plate from the outfield has been well-below par. Center field in particular will be an area the Pirates will explore external additions as will right field.

Rowdy Tellez is starting to heat up at the plate but the Pirates could still look for more consistent production at first base. Catcher is another weak spot in the lineup, but Joey Bart’s impending return could help provide a boost to the lineup.

An issue for the Pirates as they search for improvements is that offense is down across the league. While the production in Pittsburgh is even below what an average offense means this year, plenty of contending teams are in the same boat.

That’s another atypical aspect of this year’s trade deadline.

“It just seems like, and knock on wood because this could change in two days or two weeks and become an entirely different picture, but it seems like right now, there is as much interest among teams to add offense as there is pitching,” said Cherington.

“Usually, you can sort of book it every year, every team wants pitching. Not that teams aren’t looking for pitching, but it sort of feels like there is a little bit more of a priority on offense, which makes sense because offense is down around the league and every team is sort of feeling that and looking to add.”

Given the Pirates’ situation and looking at the league as a whole, it doesn’t make much logical sense for the Pirates to give away talented young assets to acquire a rental player.

Though Cherington wouldn’t rule out adding a player who is only under control for this season, controllable players appear to be the priority.

“Acquiring players we know are going to contribute and are controllable past this year of course have value and in a vacuum, yeah, there’s probably some preference for that but we’re not going to close our eyes to anything even if the player has shorter control.”

No matter who the Pirates decide to pursue this summer, the competition will be steep.

With only a handful of sellers and so much emphasis on offense across the league, the Pirates will need to be aggressive if they hope to land an impactful bat.

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