Right off the bat, that weekend in Milwaukee was a Disaster with a capital D. No way, NONE, to put a positive spin on anything that took place up there over those three somnambulant performances. When historians look back on the 2016 Pirates, July 29-31 may well be pointed to as, to borrow a rock-and-roll metaphor, the days the music died.
Now, the trades.
- Mark Melancon to the Nats for LHP Rivero and Hearn. This was no surprise, and it may well end up working out for the Pirates over the long haul. MM was gone at the end of the season as a free agent, so it makes total business sense to do this, and it may very well work out in baseball sense. It can be argued that it makes the statement that the Pirates are giving up on the 2016 season, so that lends a sad note to the whole deal. Personally, I believe that Tony Watson will close and save games with the same degree of efficiency as Melancon did.
- This is not to say that Melancon will not be missed. He served the Pirates honorably and well in the time that he was here, and he seemed to be a good guy. I wish him well.
- Jon Niese back to the Mets for former Pirate Antonio Bastardo. In making this deal, Neal Huntington is saying that the Pirates sure got fleeced when they sent Neil Walker to the Mets for Niese over the winter.
- Ivan Nova (4.90 ERA in 97 IP) from the Yankees for a Player To Be Named Later. Nova will be a free agent at the end of the season. This has all the earmarks of a classic Nothing-for-Nothing deal.
- For everyone who has been saying that ANYBODY would be better than Jeff Locke and/or Jon Niese, well, we are about to find out.
What does it all mean? Well, if it means that the Pirates are giving up, in deed, if not in word, on a serious post season run this year, that 2016 may well be the "bridge year" to which the front office has often alluded, then make it a true bridge year. That means....
- Install at least one more of the "young gun" pitchers as a full fledged member of the rotation. Jameson Taillon is already in there. The next guy should probably be Chad Kuhl once he is off the DL.
- I'll give in that Tyler Glasnow isn't quite ready yet, so keep him in Indy, but bring him up in September and pitch him. The season may well be over for the Pirates then, so what will be lost? (This assumes, of course, that he is healthy and hasn't reached an innings limit.)
- Take a really long hard look at John Jaso at first base. His numbers in both BA and OBP have been falling so precipitously as the season has progressed that he is not helping the ball club at all, particularly as a lead off batter.
- Bring Josh Bell up and put him at first base. The word is that he is not very good defensively at first base. So what? The Pirates won 98 games last year with a guy at first base who was far and away the worst defensive first baseman in all of baseball. A gold glove at first base is way over rated if you've got a first baseman who can, you know, hit. Where Josh Bell is concerned, the future is now. Not with a September call up, but now.
I don't know what to make of what has happened to Andrew McCutchen this season. His, to be kind, sub-par season has killed the team this year. I almost hope that we learn that he played with an injury all season that affected his play, because if he's NOT hurt, then are we seeing a sudden erosion of skills that have tuned a superstar into just another guy? I hate to think that.
Finally, it appears that Ryan Vogelsong will return to the team and get a starting assignment this week in Atlanta. Having watched the game where Vogelsong was hit in the face with a pitch, I could not be happier that he has recovered and is healthy, because that was a truly awful and frightening thing to watch. So his comeback so soon is a great thing to see. However, let's be honest, Voglesong's best days are behind him, so he cannot be looked upon as the saviour who will salvage the Pirates ineffective starting rotation.
Hey, a wild card spot is still not out of the question, but it won't be easy and nothing up to this point, including the trades made this weekend, makes you overly optimistic about the team making a charge these last fifty-plus games, but you never know. I, for one, am not going to stop watching them. I will still stand by my pre-season prediction of 89 wins. I also predicted no playoff spot, and, alas, I will stand by that as well.
Did you notice that I didn't include any pictures with this post? Did you really want to see pictures of Antonio Bastardo and Ivan Nova?