Bucs remain frugal at deadline

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 4:01 p.m.

CHICAGO — The deals the Pirates made leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline Tuesday were not the bold, high-profile moves of a team seeking to turbocharge its roster in the middle of a pennant chase.

Instead, management took a pragmatic, low-key approach. The Pirates acquired two position players who've been battling deep slumps and a reliever who was about to be released.

The overall cost was low. The Pirates gave up reliever Brad Lincoln, prospect Gorkys Hernandez, infielder Casey McGehee, a draft pick and $250,000.

Is the new-look roster — after the additions of right fielder Travis Snider, first baseman Gaby Sanchez and reliever Chad Qualls — better than it was before?

“We feel we've improved the rotation, the lineup and the bench, and we'll work to put the bullpen in the same spot it was before,” general manager Neal Huntington said.

Manager Clint Hurdle was a bit more emphatic.

“I think we have a better team to contend right now,” Hurdle said. “And we still haven't tapped into some of our resources at (Triple-A) Indianapolis.”

Huntington and Hurdle were quick to point out the Pirates' first trade came last week, when the Houston Astros swapped left-hander Wandy Rodriguez for three minor leaguers. Late Monday night, Lincoln went to the Toronto Blue Jays for Snider.

About an hour before Tuesday's 4 p.m. non-waiver deadline, the Pirates got Sanchez and minor league reliever Kyle Kaminska from the Miami Marlins. The Pirates gave up Hernandez and their Round A compensation pick in the 2013 draft.

Sanchez, 28, finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2010 and was an All-Star in 2011. However, he was demoted after batting .202 with three homers in 55 games this season. At Triple-A New Orleans of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Sanchez hit .302 with five home runs and 18 RBI.

“We've inquired about him the last two winters but couldn't get close to him,” Hurdle said. “The season went sideways for him. He's gone back to Triple-A and hit well, and we think he's in excellent position to help again at the major league level.”

Sanchez's arrival made McGehee expendable, so he was dealt to the New York Yankees for Qualls. The Yankees also got $250,000 in the deal.

According to the New York Daily News, the Yankees already had planned to designate Qualls, 33, for assignment in order to activate Joba Chamberlain off the disabled list.

In 43 combined outings with the Yankees and Phillies this year, Qualls went 2-1 with a 4.89 ERA.

“We like his ability to get ground balls,” Huntington said. “Chad thinks he's found a mechanical fix that will allow him to get the ball down more consistently.”

Unlike most teams who were active in the trade market this year, the Pirates acquired mostly players who have multiple years of control. The exception is Qualls, who will be a free agent this winter.

Snider and Sanchez will be arbitration-eligible after the 2013 seasons and won't become free agents until after the 2016 season. Rodriguez's contract runs through next season with a $13 million player option for 2014.

The Pirates had inquired about several players with proven track records — Justin Upton, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino — but ultimately were not willing to part with any of their top prospects.

“This year's rental players were very expensive,” Huntington said. “We're looking to get years of control in return. ... We're always going to need the pipeline open to help the team win.”

Even with a division title within reach this year, the low-budget Pirates had to remain focused on the future.

However, four teams that potentially stand in the Pirates' way to earning either a division title or wild-card berth each made big moves.

The NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds added Jonathon Broxton, who should form a lethal late-inning duo with closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Atlanta Braves picked up outfielder Reed Johnson and lefty Paul Maholm. The San Francisco Giants got Marco Scutaro and Pence. The Los Angeles Dodgers dealt for Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League and Victorino.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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