The MLB rumors are starting to heat up as we get ready to enter July and one team nobody expected to be a buyer at this point is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Right now the Pirates are only three games back in the hotly contested NL Central race behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. With the extra Wild Card team this postseason, the Pirates actually stand a very good chance of making the playoffs and owe their fanbase an attempt at doing so after over a decade of futility.
Right now the Pirates offense is subpar. They are getting practically no production from first basemen Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee who have combined to hit under .240 with 12 homers between them. An upgrade here makes the most sense. Right now, one of the best first basemen on the market is Carlos Lee of the Houston Astros. He isn’t the player he once was but he is hitting .295 with 5 homers and 29 RBI for an awful Astros team.
Lee is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the year when his six-year, $100 million contract expires. He does have a no-trade clause that he has said he would be willing to waive if traded to a contender. While the Pirates and contender haven’t been together in the same sentence since Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Andy Van Slyke were wearing the black and gold, they are one right now in a wide open National League race.
There might be some competition for Lee’s services and Houston GM Jeff Luhnow will attempt to get as much as he can in return for Lee before the Astros make the move over to the AL West next season. The Los Angeles Dodgers might be in the market for a first baseman as well so Luhnow might be able to start a bidding war.
I don’t think the Pirates should get involved if the price gets too high. There is no reason to sacrifice too much for an outside shot but the team owes their fans something, even meaningful August baseball at this point after years of futility. The Pirates have, in recent years, shown a willingness to add a piece here and there for a stretch drive, like acquiring Derrek Lee last season. They caught a bit of lightning in the bottle with Derrek Lee who hit .337 with 7 homers and 18 RBI after coming over from the Baltimore Orioles on July 30, 2011. Perhaps they can get something similar from Carlos Lee this season.
Adding Carlos Lee at the right price would make sense for a Pirates offense that has had trouble scoring runs all season. They are currently 29th in baseball with 256 runs scored, just two runs ahead of the San Diego Padres, and are second to last with a .231 team batting average. While Carlos Lee won’t mean an instant turn around, he would be an instant offensive upgrade over what the Pirates are currently fielding.