Kovacevic: Insider trading tips for Pirates
TribLIVE Sports Videos
WASHINGTON — You want trades that convert the Pirates into a certified contender?
OK, then, in the context of fighting for first place and knocking down the Nationals yet again, 4-2, Wednesday night, I've got three trades for you right here …
1. Trade this Neil Walker for the real Neil Walker.
You know, the one who can hit .280 in his sleep, who never saw a two-strike count he didn't relish, who can put it over the fence once in a while.
Not this one dragging around a .240 average, six home runs and all the injuries that have cost him chunks of the past two seasons. He returned this week from the latest, a strained oblique.
“I've battled some stuff,” Walker was saying beforehand in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. “Battled a few injuries. Battled myself at the plate, pretty much grinding all year. I haven't gotten hot much. But this is the time of year I start to feel good, and those injuries are behind me.”
He stressed he wasn't citing injuries as an excuse.
“I've just got to do better. I know how much it can mean for this team.”
He would demonstrate exactly that, drilling a ninth-inning RBI double — first-pitch sinker crushed to left-center — for the welcome second run.
Should have seen him light up afterward. And no, not just because of his phantom tag for the closing double play.
“Honestly, it felt great for us as a team,” Walker said of his hit. “Look, numbers are numbers. I'm not going to feel bad over where I am. It's kind of the theme here: Doesn't matter who gets credit or how you get it done. Just get it done.”
Which he did.
Take care of my first trade proposal, and you're jumping 40-50 points in average at one position, more than you'll get with the finest first baseman/right fielder Neal Huntington could find on the outside.
2. Trade this Garrett Jones for the 2012 edition.
Think the Pirates would be combing through options like a broken Justin Morneau if Jones were pacing toward, oh, a .274 average with 27 home runs and 86 RBI?
Well, that was his line last season, not far off his current .255, 10 home runs and 37 RBI and yet far enough that first baseman/right fielder now tops the Pirates' target list.
Yeah, I know, Jones doesn't hit lefties. He also doesn't face lefties — just 16 at-bats — so it's irrelevant. Gaby Sanchez tends to face the lefties and, flat as he's been for a while, he's still .295 against lefties.
Put another way, if Jones goes on one of his tears — hasn't happened yet — those Jones/Sanchez platoon splits look better than any first baseman from the outside.
“Well, unless we get Miguel Cabrera,” Jones conceded with a laugh. “That'd be cool.”
“I just need to be consistent. I've been feeling good at the plate since just before the All-Star break, and I feel like it's coming. Going and getting a guy … there's no guarantee. I know what I can do.”
What Jones has done of late: He's 7 for his past 24, and five of those hits have gone for extra bases, though he did lay an egg — as did most guys — against Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday night.
That's a separate issue. It was smart of the Pirates to give Jose Tabata a shot, but he's dug himself a 2-for-24 rut at a lousy time, and it's now of genuine urgency to find a right fielder elsewhere.
3. Trade K-machine A.J. Burnett for an efficient model.
Here's a question: If the Pirates wind up in a one-game wild card match this fall, which pitcher would go?
Francisco Liriano, right?
You did watch him utterly annihilate the Nationals, yes?
And which would it have been last fall?
Burnett, without a doubt.
Make no mistake: For all the fuss over adding a bat and replacing Jason Grilli, the No. 1 issue the Pirates face down the stretch is sustaining their excellent starting pitching. Or even improving it.
The best way — better than giving up a mint in prospects for the blah likes of Bud Norris — is for Burnett to get back to going deep in games.
His 3.07 ERA and 118 strikeouts are fine, obviously, but those Ks run up his pitch counts quickly. He's topped six innings only seven times in 17 starts, once in his past six.
“I'm aware of it. I am,” Burnett, the starter in the series finale here Thursday, was saying. “But you know, like a few of us were joking about in here the other day, it's a simple game: That hitter's trying to hit the ball out of the park, and you're trying to strike him out. I won't lie. I like strikeouts. I do. I consider myself to be a power pitcher.”
“But, hey, if they roll over on the first pitch and ground out, I'm OK with that, too.”
Find a right fielder, repair or replace the Fort, do all of the above, and go ahead and print playoff tickets.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Jerome Bettis to be enshrined in hall of fame
- Tennessee quarterback Peterman considers transfer to Pitt
- Familiar Downtown Pittsburgh presence lost arm, leg to train
- Snow, freezing rain, bitter cold coming to Western Pa.
- Gulls fleeing frozen Great Lakes fill skies over Pittsburgh’s Point
- Suggestions are aplenty on what Penguins need to break through
- Starkey: Pitt needs this version of James Robinson
- Penguins minor league notebook: Rookie Wilson emerges as 3rd-line NHL prospect
- Pitt upsets No. 8 Notre Dame to snap losing streak
- Mt. Washington renovation is a labor of love
- As banking goes mobile, branch closures rip through local economy