Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 7/11/12

Check out Part 1 of the series here, and Part 2 here, where available hitters were covered.

The third in a multi-part series laying out what pieces are available to the Pittsburgh Pirates, how well they’ll mesh with the team, and what the Pirates may have to move in return…      (Opening image Zack Greinke, Image credit uweblogsports)

Part 3:  Available pitchers, and their suitability grade with the current team roster

Hamels; Image credit philly.com

B+  SP Cole Hamels (L), Philadelphia Phillies

2012 Season:  10-4, 3.20 ERA, 9.0 K/9

Hamels or Geinke.  Take your pick for the best arm available at the deadline.  Both are only 28, and utterly dominant.  I gave Hamels the slight edge, simply due to most teams’ unwillingness to deal within their own divisions, and the fact that he’s a lefty made for PNC Park.  Despite constantly living in the shadows of rotationmates Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and one-time mate Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels has been absolute gold for the past 3 seasons.  In fact, subtracting his 4.32 ERA 2009 season as a statistical outlier, he hasn’t finished with an ERA above 3.39 since his rookie year of 2006.  He’s the ace stud in almost any rotation outside of Philadelphia.

B+  SP Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers

2012 Season:  9-3, 3.32 ERA, 9.0 K/9

A lot of people are talking Greinke to the Pirates, simply because the similarly small-market Brewers acquired him two years ago after a long run of losing themselves.  The 6’2″ righty hasn’t disappointed, compiling a 25-9 cumulative record for Milwaukee over the past 2 seasons, propelling the Brewers through a hard-fought 6-game loss to the eventual World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series in 2011.

Like Hamels, Greinke is in the twilight of his current contract, set to expire at the end of the season.  So the only reason these compatibility grades aren’t A’s isn’t due to a lack of talent- both pitchers would immediately become the best arms in the Pirates’ already-overachieving rotation- but rather due to a deficiency of adequate trade chips in return.

The Pirates do have them, but while they may be willing to part for #2 prospect SP Jameson Taillon and/or #3 prospect OF Starling Marte for at least 3 years’ worth of young Diamondbacks’ stud OF Justin Upton, it’s unlikely they’d ante up such chips for what’s assuredly a rental through October at the latest.  Despite the Nutting ownership’s willingness to spend on the draft and international signings, Pirates’ fans are still a ways away from seeing the team compete for marquee free agents that could command upwards of $15,000,000-$20,000,000 a season.

C+  SP Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs

2012 Season:  4-3, 1.99 ERA, 7.3 K/9

After Hamels and Greinke, there’s a significant dropoff in quality, and hence a drop in compatibility grades.  Dempster boasts a stellar, league-leading 1.99 ERA…but it comes attached to a 35-year old’s body, and an inconsistent handful of years that culminated in a 4.80 ERA in 2011.  Dempster still strikes out a LOT of batters (over 200 in 2010), and on an expiring contract himself, would cost far less than Hamels or Greinke to acquire…yet the chance of him anchoring a rotation down the stretch is far less likely.

Garza pondering an NL Central move; Image credit bleachernation

SP Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs

2012 Season:  4-7, 4.32 ERA, 8.3 K/9

Despite a roster of big names, the Cubs are just so utterly terrible this year that they’re bound to be at the forefront of countless trade rumors.  Garza has one arbitration year remaining, yet is already earning $9.5MM, so he’s a rather expensive option for a guaranteed contract in 2013, as his salary is bound to increase even further.  After being traded from Tampa Bay for a bevy of prospects, Garza posted a very solid 2011, finishing 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA and 9.0 K/9.  But in 2012, his ERA has risen a full run, while his K/9 has dropped slightly.

Like Dempster, SP that whiff nearly a batter an inning will never go out of style, or demand.  But neither would be the staff ace the Pirates need to vault themselves into legitimate NL Pennant contention.

SP Wandy Rodriguez (L), Houston Astros

2012 Season:  7-6, 3.38 ERA, 5.9 K/9

Had Rodriguez’s K/9 not dropped over each of the past five seasons (career high of 8.6 in 2008), he’d be a much more attractive option, as the 33-year old lefty is signed through 2013 at $11.3MM, with a 2014 team option.  Despite the declining ability to miss bats, Rodriguez has consistently finished each year since 2008 with a 3.00-3.60 ERA and around a .500 record on Astros’ teams that haven’t been competitive since then.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I didn’t include anyrelief pitchers, because the Pirates’ pen has been so oustanding that I find it highly unlikely that they pursue any upgrades there.  Despite the success of the rotation to date, I do believe they need to acquire another arm for the stretch run.  The tradeoff is this:  Hamels and Greinke are the clear, staff ace upgrades that would make the team an immediate contender.  But the cost will be substantial, and the Pirates stand next to no chance at extending them beyond 2012.

Dempster, Garza, and Rodriguez would upgrade the middle of the rotation after A.J. Burnett and James McDonald, but would they be improvements enough over SP/RP Brad Lincoln, and AAA SP Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, and Justin Wilson to be worth the prospects they’ll command in trade?

Only time will tell.  It should be an interesting July, if GM Neal Huntington is serious about this team contending.

Thanks for reading.  Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.


Tyronn Lue taking leave of absence for health reasons

Joe Thomas turns retirement presser into roast of Browns

Leonard Hamilton: Tournament chaos is sign of ‘revolution’

Patrick Reed shades Jordan Spieth after not getting drop

Penny Hardaway to become next Memphis coach


James Franklin: Saquon Barkley had 'very average' combine

Eagles, Vikings will reportedly kick off 2018 NFL season

Gregg Popovich reflects on ‘frustrating season’ for Spurs

Martin Perez 'killed and ate' bull that caused elbow injury

Goaltender interference dominates GM meetings

Sam Bradford due huge bonuses for per-game production

The 'How sweet it is!' quiz

Winners & losers from the NCAA Tournament's opening rounds

Cavaliers Notes: Lue's illness; Calderon's steadiness; LeBron's health

Sports & Politics Intersect: Presidential sports coverage from coast-to-coast

The 'Braves new world' quiz

NHL Weekender: Kings, Avs pushing their way into the postseason

10 biggest takeaways from Thursday’s NCAA Tournament action

Jamal Murray's heel turn is exactly what the Nuggets need

Top 10 players at every MLB position for the 2018 season

Women discuss breaking barriers in sports and in life at San Jose State University

Why Trae Young will be an NBA star

Teams to watch and avoid in the 2018 tournament

Pirates News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

The 'How sweet it is!' quiz

Winners & losers from the NCAA Tournament's opening rounds

Sports & Politics Intersect: Presidential sports coverage from coast-to-coast

The 'Braves new world' quiz

NHL Weekender: Kings, Avs pushing their way into the postseason

Top 10 players at every MLB position for the 2018 season

Jamal Murray's heel turn is exactly what the Nuggets need

The '30 for #30' quiz

Why you should watch this year's NCAA Tournament

Why you shouldn't watch this year's NCAA Tournament

For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker