Hey all, thanks for your questions. This is the second round of answers. Here's the first.
SKVolcanoes: For the rotation slot vacated because of A.J. Burnett’s injury, would you go with or prefer to see Radhames Liz over J.A. Happ in August? Given how well Liz has been pitching at Triple-A along with Happ’s low ceiling, would Liz have been the better choice?
If so, only modestly. First, though, Happ isn't as bad as many Pirates fans seem to think. His peripherals suggest he's a 4.00 ERA type of pitcher, which isn't great, but for a back-of-the-rotation guy, it's fine. If Liz is better than that, it probably isn't by much -- he has a long history of racking up walks, and my guess is his control issues would return in the big leagues, simply because he's still walking his fair share of batters in Triple-A even though he's otherwise been dominant. (And again, his shiny ERA is mostly irrelevant.)
And, of course, by adding Happ, the Pirates gave themselves extra depth. Happ is mostly just a solution for the next few weeks, so I'm not sure ceiling is the best way to look at this. Liz's is higher, but his chances of walking a ton of guys, struggling, and straining the bullpen are also higher. If the Pirates were to have gone with Liz instead of trading for Happ, they would have had less to work with and a greater chance of making a mess in this next month. Now, if Happ's first couple outings are disastrous, the Pirates will at least have options. Trading for Happ was a conservative move, but there's a non-zero chance of the Bucs falling behind the Giants and Cubs and missing the playoffs completely, so I understand it.
MarcBenning: The Pirates have now been buyers at the deadline for five consecutive years. In that time, Neal Huntington has never dealt a top prospect. Robbie Grossman was the highest rated prospect traded, and he was not considered to be in the top 100. Do you think it’s fair to say Huntington is risk averse when it comes to trading prospects?
Yes, and I think that's good. Trading top prospects, especially for rentals, is hugely risky, and it's very rare that two months of a single player is actually worth what fans imagine it is. Trading for players who are controllable for several years is a different story, but overall, I think Huntington's resistance to dealing top prospects is a good thing.
Mike B (via email): After two game-saving defensive plays, is there any chance that Starling Marte will take over center field? I guess it would take Andrew McCutchen stepping aside?
That probably is what it would take, and why would he? It isn't as if he's inadequate. The Pirates have an MVP-caliber player who's decent in center field, and until he's not, that's probably how things will stay. Besides, left field is a very important position at PNC Park, so it isn't as if Marte is being wasted.
NastyNate82: Would you have liked to see the Pirates make more of an effort to bring in a starting pitcher under control for 2016? And would you have liked to see them make this move now, so that pitcher would be under control for 1.5 years? Burnett is retiring after 2015, so the chances are the Pirates were likely to bring in some outside help anyway, but another decent arm (Andrew Cashner, just to name one) would be a nice bridge.
In a vacuum, sure, but who? As far as I know, the only non-rental, non-prospect starters traded anywhere near the deadline were Cole Hamels and Alex Wood. Good, controllable starters are hugely valuable and not at all easy to get. As it turns out, the Padres probably weren't going to trade Cashner or Tyson Ross regardless of what the Pirates did.
Eric K. (via email): Do you think there was any deadline interest in Pedro Alvarez?
I'm not sure why there would have been. His likely 2016 salary would have made him a non-tender candidate regardless of what team he was with, which means he's pretty likely to be a free agent in a few months. And it's not as if many contenders could have used him in the short term. Actually, maybe he could have made a bit of sense for the Angels, who haven't hit well from the DH position.