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Report: Pirates Have No Room to Increase Payroll at Trade Deadline

Per a baseball operations member, the Pittsburgh Pirates have no room to increase payroll at the upcoming trade deadline. That’s what he told John Perrotto of Pittsburgh Baseball Now under the condition of anonymity. In June, owner Bob Nutting told the media that general manager Ben Cherington had “flexibility” to make moves in advance of the July 30 deadline. However, the source characterized these comments as “misleading, at best” and said they made front office employees “furious.” It may have also been the source of Cherington’s recent comments about looking to “internal improvement” more than outside help.

Pirates Have Payroll Issues Ahead of Trade Deadline

Several baseball executives told Pittsburgh Baseball Now that the Pirates are making Aroldis Chapman available. There is also speculation that Ke’Bryan Hayes could be dealt. Dumping those salaries would give Cherington the room he needs to add an impact bat or two at the deadline.

Chapman, signed for $10.5 million in the offseason, has shown occasional flashes of his former dominance, but for the most part, hasn’t given the Bucs $10.5 million worth of relief pitching. Chapman is 1-4, with three saves, a 4.13 ERA, 1.684 WHIP, and three blown saves entering Tuesday’s action. “The Cuban Missile” still blows up the radar gun and throws some of the highest-velocity pitches in baseball. He’s struck out 14.9 batters per nine innings. However, he’s also walked 8.8 per nine, which has largely contributed to his struggles.

On the other hand, Hayes is a slick fielder and 2023 Gold Glove winner at third base who hasn’t put together consistent offense despite being in his fifth year. After finishing 2023 with an encouraging hot streak, he’s hitting .233/.292/.302, 3 HR, 20 RBI and 71 OPS+ in 2024. His current contract is worth $76 million if his $12 million option is picked up in 2030. Because of his glove work, he carries a 13.4 WAR for his career. Despite this, the Pirates may feel these dollars will be better directed elsewhere. They can turn to Jared Triolo at third base. Triolo provides above-average defense there, too, and hasn’t reached his potential as a hitter yet.

Trade Speculation

Starter Martín Pérez, under a one-year, $8 million contract, could also be a candidate to be traded. He’s 1-4 with a 4.85 ERA and 1.558 WHIP. He’s pitched well at times but would be expendable once Marco Gonzales returns from his rehab stint.

With no room to increase payroll, the Pirates will have limited options at the trade deadline. Rumors connecting them to Luis Robert Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. were a pipedream. Now they could be a backdrop for a Jonathan Lethem science fiction novel. A reunion with Josh Bell and what remains of his $33 million contract is out of the question, too, although in light of Rowdy Tellez’s recent performance, it wouldn’t constitute much of an improvement anyway, if at all.

More realistic, lower-salaried targets with some years of control would be Jazz Chisholm Jr., Taylor Ward, and JJ Bleday. A deal for Bleday was previously a subject of industry speculation. It’s unclear why the Oakland Athletics would make such a deal unless overwhelmed with a package of top prospects, a place where Cherington may be unwilling to go. The same might be said of Ward and the Los Angeles Angels.

Pirates Should Jazz Things Up

It makes the most sense for Cherington to add some Jazz, and I don’t mean a collection of John Coltrane records. Craig Mish of the Miami Herald reported recently of a “growing belief” that the Miami Marlins would deal Chisholm, with the Pirates mentioned as a possible destination. The left-handed hitter is batting .255/.326/.407, 10 HR, 40 RBI, and a 103 OPS+. His 17 stolen bases would also add an element sorely lacking in the Pirates’ attack. With the ability to play center field and second base, he’d give the Pirates flexibility with their daily lineups. That would play right up manager Derek Shelton’s alley, given his propensity to use different lineups.

Regardless, hardcore Pirates fans should have an interesting July 30 on their devices, refreshing the many trade rumors sites (hopefully this one) in search of updates.

Main Photo: © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


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