By Jared Lankes
The Pirates have probably their most important week of the season to date. They play the St. Louis Cardinals and then the Chicago Cubs, two teams in which they are chasing. As this team has sat around the .500 for most of the past two weeks, there is a huge decision to be made about where this team will go at the trade deadline. In my opinion, this is the week that could decide just that.
Let’s first look what could happen if the Pirates go 2-5 or worse this week. That puts them at best 43-46 at the All-Star break as well as essentially at least giving back the 4-1 trip in Seattle and Oakland that dug themselves out of a hole. That would be deflating for this team going forward. Teams that are below .500 by that much at the All-Star break typically are not playoff caliber teams. It is rather rare that teams like that make it to October. This could lead the team to trade impending free agents such as Juan Nicasio, Mark Melancon, Neftali Feliz, David Freese, Matt Joyce etc. as well as trading guys like Jon Niese, Francisco Liriano, and maybe even Tony Watson. A bad week, even with an easier schedule coming up after the break, gives the team a different feel.
Now, say they go 3-4 or better. This puts the team at worst at 44-45. I know that would only be a one game difference from 43-46, but the two records have a totally different feel, especially around the trade deadline. Being 44-45 wouldn’t be quite as deep of a hole. On the other hand, say they have a winning record this week. That would give this team a massive boost where the front office might feel like they have a chance, especially since they would show that they can beat the Cardinals and Cubs.
The worst case scenario for this team is that they go 3-4 and get stuck in the middle somewhere whereas they don’t know what to do. The All-Star break is where teams really need to evaluate what they want to do at the trade deadline. They have to have at least some sort of an idea. The Pirates would surely not want to be caught in the middle with all the trade chips they have in the majors and/or all the depth in the minors they can trade from to get a player or two that can get this team over the top against the other wildcard teams. They also would hate to be caught in the middle to the point where they stand pat and regret doing nothing no matter how the season pans out, similarly to what happened in 2014.
This week could very well be the tipping point of this season for the Pirates. Where the season is going could be dependent on this week, and the Pirates aren’t the only team in that boat in fact. A terrible week could lead this front office to pack it up and put the “transition” stamp on this season. However, if they have a good or great week, this front office would definitely feel compelled to help this team contend for a playoff spot. A so-so week would lead to some serious decision making and a lot of head scratching for sure. It’ll be interesting to see how this week plays out for the Pirates. Expect a buyer or a seller to be made out of the Pirates based on it.