Deeming the requested returns too steep, the Pirates made no moves at the non-waiver trade deadline Wednesday and will take the field in the final two months of the season with more or less the team that brought them this far.
That includes an offense that ranks 11th in the National League with 3.92 runs per game and a .243 batting average. Despite the below-average offense, the Pirates entered their game Wednesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals with a 64-42 record, the best in baseball, and led the Cardinals by 1 1/2 games in the NL Central Division.
General manager Neal Huntington said he prioritized offensive players and acted aggressively, offering valuable prospects in return, but stopped short of completing a deal.
"There's no question that we forced the issue," Huntington said. "I made offers that made me incredibly uncomfortable."
Neither the Cardinals nor the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates' main division competition, made a significant trade. That, combined with the injury to Cardinals catcher and MVP candidate Yadier Molina, and the Pirates' record, presents the team with a good chance to make the postseason.
Exceptional pitching helped to offset the offense so far this season. The Pirates have a major league-best 3.03 ERA to go with their major league-best record. Huntington and the Pirates opted to roll with their current position players, hoping for improvement, rather than make a trade where they felt they would overpay.
"We're comfortable with the players we had," Huntington said. "We were comfortable with what we might be able to do to help them. We're comfortable with some of the signs that we're seeing."
The Pirates' inactivity mirrored the rest of the league, especially concerning offensive players. The only major hitter to move was Alfonso Soriano, who went from the Chicago Cubs to the New York Yankees. After Soriano, the market dropped off: Alberto Callaspo (Los Angeles Angels to Oakland), Justin Maxwell (Houston to Kansas City) and Jose Iglesias (Boston to Detroit) were the most notable hitters to change teams.
The Pirates had offers out that included trading talented minor leaguers, a source said, but teams for the most part weren't selling.
The trade deadline featured several moves for pitchers. Starters Jake Peavy (from Chicago White Sox to Boston Red Sox) and Bud Norris (from the Houston Astros to Baltimore Orioles) joined the AL East. The San Diego Padres added starter Ian Kennedy in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Several relievers changed teams as well.
"It was a very shallow market to begin with, not only the offensive market but the pitching market was arguably one of the shallowest I've seen in 20 years in the game," Huntington said.
The Pirates had interest in White Sox right fielder Alex Rios, but a trade for him was unlikely in the days before the deadline.
Media reports Wednesday linked the Pirates to Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau and Angels first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo, but talks never advanced. Huntington said he investigated relief pitchers after Jason Grilli's injury, but preferred the internal options.
Off-field issues caused many teams to hold their players, Huntington said, further diluting the player pool. Demands in return for trades were high around the league.
"There was a lot of teams that were looking for a lot of things that are in the same situation we are," he said. "They're going to have to look internally or they're going to hope that they can grab something come August. We're not alone."
The Pirates can still trade for players before the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, but those players will have to clear waivers first. Having the best record in baseball, though, means the Pirates will have a waiver priority near the bottom of the league.
"This day and age, teams ahead of us are quite frequently aggressive with claims and blocks," Huntington said.
In fact, the Pirates made a minor trade Wednesday night, receiving infielder Robert Andino from Seattle's organization for a player to be named later. Andino was not on the Mariners' 40-man roster, so the deal was not subject to the 4 p.m. trade deadline.
The Pirates have 55 games remaining. The streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons appears all but broken.
Despite the playoff push, Huntington said the front office did not want to jeopardize the future by trading prospects.
"We were willing to do something stupid," Huntington said. "We just didn't want to do something insane."pirates
Bill Brink: email@example.com or Twitter @BrinkPG.