"We are open to an impact trade if it is the right deal," general manager Neal Huntington says, "not because we need offense."
Ken Rosenthal suggests a deal similar to the one the Mariners made last offseason, where they traded Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero. That certainly makes sense in the abstract, but Huntington is right that the Pirates need to make the right high-profile trade, not a trade just to trade. (The Bucs should be able to make a deal or some other kind of lower-profile move to get a Class AAAA slugger, someone like Clint Robinson or Mauro Gomez, to fill one of their holes at first base or right field. I'm not sure why that hasn't happened yet, but I expect that it will eventually, unless something changes dramatically. They should be able to make a move like that without any serious long-term cost to the franchise.)
Dejan Kovacevic, meanwhile, addresses Rosenthal's column:
Wow. Perish the thought of prioritizing an actual need at the major league level. You have it right there in plain language: The GM who built this terrific pitching staff will NOT make a move aimed at addressing this team's hideously glaring need. But if it helps in 2018 or whenever, he'll listen. Amazing. Really is. There go the goal posts again.
Leaving aside the problem of it generally being difficult to make trades this time of year, there are a couple of points here.
The moving-goalposts thing is a problem. In fact, it's the problem. Dejan seems to be of the opinion that this year's team is a contender, or at least would be a contender if the Pirates could trade for a bat. Obviously, though, you have to give up talent to get talent, and without a lot of really attractive prospects in the high minors, Huntington is going to have a hard time getting an impact bat without either making a deal that would weaken the big-league starting rotation, or trading a top prospect like Jameson Taillon (which, no no no no no). The one really good option that avoids those traps would be to deal Joel Hanrahan, but I don't know why any team would pay through the nose for a closer right now.
And beyond all that, I frankly don't believe this year's team is a contender. The Pirates have scored 140 runs and allowed 166 so far this season. They look more like a 70-win team than a contender. It's late May. They shouldn't be running around desperately trying to piece together a team for a playoff run. That's a short-term strategy for a team that, unfortunately, still needs to be thinking for the long term.
The real reason to be angry with Huntington isn't that he's unwilling to run around like a chicken with his head cut off and trade James McDonald for the first team willing to give up a hitter, or whatever is supposed to happen here. (And it certainly doesn't make sense for Huntington to say he's desperate to make a trade -- whatever his actual outlook, the quote in the Rosenthal article strikes exactly the tone Huntington should take into negotiations with fellow GMs.)
No, the real reason to be angry is that it's 2012, and we still don't know where the goalposts are. Whatever rosy scenarios we might have dreamed up when Huntington was hired four and a half years ago, it might not have been realistic to expect the team to be a legitimate contender in 2012, except perhaps with a ton of luck. Fine. But at this point, we should see a contending season on the horizon, and right now, I just don't see one, or at least I don't see one that doesn't involve a ton of wishcasting about Pedro Alvarez and a bunch of West Virginia hitting prospects. The goalposts are moving. But whether or not Huntington is willing to make a big trade to improve the offense really has nothing to do with that. They're separate issues.