On the one hand, it may be absurdly early to start speculating about exactly who the Pirates might consider adding or subtracting in order to make a playoff run. But since it increasingly appears as though they’re going to be buyers rather than sellers again this year, it’s probably fair to start talking in general terms about what form such moves might take.
With respect to the Pirates' needs, I'd say that, barring a major injury, the most glaringly obvious hole is at shortstop. Clint Barmes seems like a good guy and his teammates like him, but there's just no way to justify his bat in the lineup anymore — especially in the 8-hole, where he and the pitcher's spot kill way too many rallies. Keep him around as a defensive replacement if you want, but adding a competent hitter at that position would make a huge difference in this lineup and it's time to take that step. (And yeah, I wonder whether Jordy Mercer could be the answer, too. But how would we ever know?)
One intriguing name I've heard floated is Jimmy Rollins. At 34, he's not the player he used to be, but he's still batting .267 as of this morning and can field his position. He's signed through 2014 at $11 million per season — which is a lot of money for someone that old, but why else would the Phillies consider parting with him? Their lineup is aging and unless they're in contention by July (and with the Nationals and Braves ahead of them, good luck with that), they'll be in downsizing mode. Offer them Mercer and a C-level pitcher. They'd probably bite on that just to be rid of his salary.
From the Pirates' point of view, it's hard to picture them throwing dough around like that, but the owners have always said they'd spend when it made sense to do so, and here's the perfect opportunity to show you meant what you said. The rest of the position players seem fine, and the bullpen has been spectacular. The starting rotation is arguably still a little suspect, but there are reinforcements on the way. But shortstop could be the difference between 82 wins — and maybe a playoff berth — and another season of also-ran status.
If Mercer isn't the answer, there are no other internal options until Alen Hanson arrives. A guy like Rollins could bridge the gap for a couple of years and give you a solid 1-8 lineup in the meantime. And all he really costs is money.
I don't want to turn this thread into a referendum on Rollins per se. I just think that's a model that could work for this team's circumstances. I don't want to gut the farm system to bring in a rent-a-bat or -pitcher, nor do I want to trade away anyone from what looks like a pretty decent everyday lineup. But bringing in a shortstop who can improve your lineup without parting with your minor league stars would make everyone happy.