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Pirates expect high prices in trade market

| Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
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Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins is among the Pirates' targets at the trade deadline.

SAN FRANCISCO — Any team that wants to make a significant move before Thursday's non-waiver trading deadline must be willing to pay a hefty price.

It's a seller's market. Going into Monday's games, 23 of 30 major league teams still were very much in the hunt for either division titles or wild-card playoff bids.

Greater competitive balance and the recent addition of a second wild card in each league has made things more challenging for most general managers. One way to readjust the market would be to move the non-waiver trade deadline back a few weeks into August.

“That's something to think about it, although I kind of like it the way it is,” commissioner Bud Selig said last week during his visit to PNC Park. “I heard somebody grumbling on TV the other day that there aren't many sellers and the prices have gone up, and I thought to myself, ‘Well, that's good. That's what we set out to accomplish.' We can talk about extending the deadline, but I'm happy with where it is.”

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington wishes the market had played out this way a few years ago, when his team was rebuilding. Instead, Huntington has listened to outrageous demands from other clubs who want the Pirates' high-end prospects, even in exchange for relievers.

The Pirates need more production from first base than what they've gotten from Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez. There is uncertainty in the starting rotation, due to Gerrit Cole's injury and Francisco Liriano's struggles.

Upgrading those two areas would be costly, in terms of prospects and salary dollars. Huntington might have more options (and success) if he tries to beef up the bullpen.

“It's an invaluable asset,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I think everybody's going to try to find one more guy, if they can, to add to that mix in the back — especially if they get a closer or an eighth-inning guy — to get one more guy involved.”

Huston Street, one of the Pirates' early targets, already has been dealt to the Los Angeles Angels, but he wasn't their only choice.

Even after moving Street, the San Diego Padres might be willing to give up Joaquin Benoit. The right-hander can fill either back-end role but is due $8 million next season. His contract includes an $8 million team option for 2016.

Adding a left-handed reliever would give the Pirates insurance in case Justin Wilson scuffles down the stretch and could allow for more down time for Tony Watson.

Boston Red Sox left-handed setup man Andrew Miller is being eyed by several teams and would demand the biggest return. Teammate Burke Badenhop is a reliable righty who's making $2.15 million and will be a first-time free agent after this season.

Three Red Sox relievers in the bargain bin are Felix Doubront, Craig Breslow and Edward Mujica. Doubront would be a reclamation project after flopping as a starter. Mujica ($9.5 million over two years) is too pricey, given his sub-par performance. Breslow is 33 years old and has an unhealthy 1.75 WHIP.

Colorado closer LaTroy Hawkins, 41, is another possibility. The righty can pitch in any role, has playoff experience and worked with Hurdle with the Rockies in 2007.

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

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