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Ask Bucs Dugout: Should the Pirates trade Mark Melancon next winter?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks again for your questions, and here's a second round of answers. I might do a third round as well -- there were a lot of good questions this time.

Hank Chadwick: The Pirates should trade Mark Melancon after this season, right? If he finishes strong, his value will be high, he’ll only have one year left and he should be replaceable. What kind of value should the team expect for trading a guy like that?

Yes, they should probably trade him after the season. He'll only have one year remaining before he becomes a free agent, he'll be set to make about $9 million next season (assuming he continues to perform well), and a team like the Pirates shouldn't hold onto closers too long. There's little chance they'll extend him a qualifying offer after 2016, either, so trading him is the only way they'll get any lasting value from him. The Bucs could then move Tony Watson into the closer role, where he would likely be fine.

The Joel Hanrahan deal (which now looks like merely a good trade, rather than an outright steal, thanks to the emergence of Brock Holt in Boston) perhaps provides a framework of what the Pirates could expect to get in return. Or, for a more current example, look at what the Rangers got for Joakim Soria last year -- a live-armed young reliever in Corey Knebel who now seems to be emerging as a contributor in Milwaukee, and a good starting pitching prospect in Jake Thompson. That represents the upper end of what the Pirates could hope to get. I'd imagine that if the Pirates were to acquire a young reliever as part of the package, they would look for someone with ground ball tendencies who could emerge years later as another Mark Melancon.

AuJus: Do you think the Pirates need a fifth starter? I still don’t trust the inconsistent Jeff Locke and I am not sure the minors have is what the Pirates need for another playoff drive.

Especially with Jameson Taillon's return delayed again today, I understand your concern. I think the next month will help the Pirates decide whether they need to add a starter or not. If Locke doesn't pitch well, maybe they do; if he doesn't, maybe they don't. There are a bunch of dimensions to this. The Pirates could catch the Cardinals in the NL Central, but I wouldn't bet on it. That leaves the Wild Card, which is a currently a tight race.

Let's imagine that the Bucs can establish some distance from their Wild Card competitors in the next month, though, without making up significant ground against the Cardinals. Based on how the Cardinals and Pirates have played in the last month, that seems like a reasonable possibility. That would make the last two months of the season a low-leverage situation for the Pirates -- they'd have a high probability of making the playoffs but little to gain from winning a couple extra games. If they acquired an extra starter, they could, of course, use that pitcher in the playoffs, but the front of their rotation has already been so good, and a fifth starter isn't necessary in the postseason, so it might be hard to get significant postseason value out of any new starting pitcher, except perhaps as an upgrade to Charlie Morton in the No. 4 spot. That would make it very tricky to get much value out of any trade acquisition.

Then again, the Pirates could make up four games or so against the Cardinals in the next couple weeks, or they could lose a bit of ground to the Cubs and Giants. Either of those situations would change the landscape considerably.

TL; DR: The Pirates have another month to figure out what to do here, and they'll probably need it.

Marte Parte Hard: Which of these pitchers will have the biggest impact on the Pirates in the second half of the season?

A. Jeff Locke
B. Starter the Pirates trade for
C. Clayton Richard
D. Jameson Taillon

Probably Locke. Taillon still isn't back and isn't a great bet to be in top form right away. Clayton Richard wasn't a good pitcher even before his injury issues and has struck out 17 batters in 43 innings at Indianapolis. I don't see much evidence he can help the Pirates right now. And as I mentioned above, it's easy to see how the Pirates might not trade for a starter.

Peach Tea Snapple: What's your opinion on Royals fans stuffing the ballot box for the All-Star Game?

What Royals fans are doing really makes clear how silly it is for fans to vote on the lineups for a game that determines home field advantage for the World Series, so I'm all for it.