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Pirates' attempts to bolster roster at deadline a fruitless endeavor

| Thursday, July 31, 2014, 10:33 a.m.

PHOENIX — A star-studded day of dealing around the majors ended with a thud for the Pirates.

They made a solid bid for Jon Lester. They made a push for David Price. They looked into John Lackey. The Pirates also mulled possible trades for a host of relief pitchers and bench players.

When the non-waiver trade deadline passed at 4 p.m. Thursday, the Pirates had made zero deals.

“We were engaged on a ton of fronts,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We wanted to add to this club. ... But, at the end of the day, we felt the right move was no move.”

The two other clubs clustered with the Pirates near the top of the NL Central, the Brewers and the Cardinals, made trades. The Brewers got outfielder Gerardo Parra for two prospects. One day after adding pitcher Justin Masterson, the Cardinals picked up Lackey.

Huntington always has been inclined to hoard his best minor league players, and this year was no different. However, many of the biggest trades Thursday involved teams swapping major leaguers.

“It was interesting that the majority of impact major league players went for major league talent or guys who were young major league players,” Huntington said. “It was kind of an NBA environment, where it was established guys (dealt) for younger established guys versus a market where (GMs) were grabbing the best prospects they possibly can.”

Huntington still can swing a deal or two in August, as he did last year to get Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau. However, any player acquired from this point on first will have to clear waivers.

Things got off to a disappointing start Thursday morning when the Pirates' top target — Lester, the Red Sox ace — was dealt to the Oakland Athletics. The Red Sox also gave up outfielder Jonny Gomes and received All-Star center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, cash and a draft pick.

Less than a year after winning the World Series, the Red Sox are retooling their roster and adding depth to their farm system. Yet by getting Cespedes instead of a package of prospects for Lester, Boston still could be poised to make another deep playoff run before slugger David Ortiz, 38, ends his career.

Lackey, one of Lester's mates in Boston, was dealt to the Cardinals for a pair of big leaguers: outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly.

Late in the day, the Pirates jumped into the fray for Price. The Tigers won that battle, getting Price as part of a three-way deal with the Rays and the Mariners. Four of the five players involved are already in the big leagues.

One Pirates prospect frequently mentioned in talks was outfielder Josh Bell, a second-round pick with a nice swing and good power potential. However, Bell was promoted to Double-A Altoona just two weeks ago and might not reach the majors for another three years.

Boston, like several other teams, had interest in left fielder Starling Marte, who soon should be activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list.

After signing Marte to a six-year, $31 million contract in March, the Pirates were not motivated to move him, especially for a two-month rental player such as Lester.

One source indicated there was little interest from other clubs in Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Defensive issues and batting funks have reduced Alvarez to essentially a platoon player in recent weeks.

“We like the foundation of our rotation, bullpen and position players,” Huntington said. “We're still going to look to see what we can add and how we can add to it. We've got some guys who are getting healthy. And we've got some guys in Triple-A who we think are on the verge of being able to help us.”

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

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