Imagine it's October 1st and the Pirates are getting ready to play in the Wild Card Game. Who do you pick to pitch?
- Liriano, who has been inconsistent and ineffective for most of the season?
- Cole, who has been hurt and oddly non-dominant for most of the season?
- Morton, who is prone to one bad inning it seems every game?
- Locke? Volquez? Worley? Do you really trust any of these three in a one game playoff?
Then think of the Dodgers (Kershaw/Greinke), the Cardinals (Wainwright), the Nationals (Strasburg). These teams all have bonafide aces to throw out there, guys who are locks for 8 innings in a crucial game.
The Pirates need a name pitcher. I hope that Cole comes back from his rehab stint in early August and becomes that guy that we all hope he can be. If so, that would be a bonus. But right now, the Pirates need a horse.
Neal Huntington has been collecting prospects like they're Star Wars toys in their original packaging. When he breaks open one and deals them one year, then I'll know that the front office and ownership both believe the Pirates are a World Series contender. This year, if he deals Taillon, Glasnow, Kingham, Bell, or Meadows, that will signal to me that they are making a run and not worrying about the future as fastidiously.
There's a lot of big names out there, but most are out of the Pirates' price range for 2015 and beyond (Price, Lee, Hamels). I see two that are viable candidates -- Lester of the Red Sox and Kennedy of the Padres.
Lester is a low end #1/high end #2 level pitcher. He's got about $4.3M left this year and is then a free agent. The money this year shouldn't be a problem, since I calculate that the Pirates have $8M left from their original offseason spending pool when they were rumored to have $19M last offseason for free agents.
The Sox want one premium and one other top 10 prospect for Lester. I'm comfortable trading Bell and someone like RHP Adrian Sampson for Lester. The Sox had a great deal of interest in Bell during his draft year, but avoided him due to the infamous note his mother sent to all 30 teams asking them not to draft her son so he could go to University of Texas. Bell would be a loss, but that sting should just motivate the Pirates to win more.
Kennedy is a #2 pitcher and not as flashy of a name as Lester, but he would be an upgrade for this rotation. The Padres are said to be seeking an ML-ready starter for the rotation and a prospect for him. Since Vance Worley is basically found money for Huntington, why not include him? Worley has 3 more years of control and has revitalized his career. Imagine him in Petco. I would also use Universal Trade Chip Adrian Sampson in this scenario.
The Pirates have rebounded amazingly from their April malaise and positioned themselves well for the playoff run. It's time to solidify it.