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Rumors persist, but still no deal for Pirates

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 11:21 p.m.
The Giants' Hunter Pence reacts after striking out to end the fifth inning against Cubs on July 28, 2013, in San Francisco, Calif.
Getty Images
The Giants' Hunter Pence reacts after striking out to end the fifth inning against Cubs on July 28, 2013, in San Francisco, Calif.

With the non-waiver trade deadline looming at 4 p.m. Wednesday, so far there has been a lot of talk but not much action.

Only 11 trades had been made when the countdown clock ticked to 24 hours Tuesday. A year ago at that time, 31 deals had been done.

“There are so few sellers, the buyers are getting more frustrated by the day,” veteran ESPN analyst Jayson Stark said. “I had an executive of one team tell me, ‘We keep looking at our draft board, saying, That's it?' ”

For the first time in two decades, the Pirates have been at the center of several significant trade scenarios — as buyers, not sellers. After sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in a doubleheader Tuesday, the Pirates lead the National League Central by 1 12 games.

The Pirates' most pressing need is a power-hitting right fielder. They also could use a starting pitcher in case lefty Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness) can't return.

Finding a partner is not easy. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the second wild card berth has constricted the trade market.

“I do think it's really changed the challenges for a general manager,” Hurdle said. “There are some doors that literally are not opening, and the asks (trade demands) really don't make sense for us.”

The past couple of years, the Pirates swung deals for rental players (Derrek Lee, Ryan Ludwick) and for guys with years of control (Rodriguez, Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez). None of those moves was a blockbuster, though.

This summer, the Pirates have been linked to a few big-time names: Hunter Pence, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Justin Morneau.

For better or worse, social media sites such as Twitter have enlivened the speculation process. A trade rumor can be born, discussed and dissected by fans and analysts — and dismissed in the span of only a few minutes.

Early Tuesday, a radio sports talk host in Chicago indicated in a tweet that the Pirates were hot in pursuit of Rios. A couple of hours later, however, sources told the Tribune-Review that the Pirates' interest in the Chicago White Sox outfielder had cooled.

The Pirates have chased Pence, a right fielder with a big bat, in each of the past two seasons. Pence can become a free agent this offseason, so he might not stay very long if they get him.

The San Francisco Giants could make a qualifying offer to Pence this winter, ensuring they'll get a compensation draft pick if he signs with another team. That sets the bar high for the return they'd expect to get if Pence is traded.

“I'd be surprised if he's not here (after the deadline),” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told MLB Network Radio.

With Pence and Rios seemingly out of the picture, the Pirates could target Chicago Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz. They have scouted him in recent weeks.

The cost might not be high to acquire Houston Astros righty Bud Norris, who was scratched from his start Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles. Norris has only a 34-46 record in five seasons with the Astros but is affordable ($3 million this season) and has two years of arbitration eligibility left.

“I think Huntington will do everything in his power to upgrade the roster,” ESPN analyst Jerry Crasnick said. “But if it means digging too deeply into his cache of prospects, Huntington might summon the will to stand pat and take his chances.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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