Pirates acquire Marlon Byrd, John Buck from Mets

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Almost a month after the non-waiver trade deadline, the Pirates finally got their power-hitting outfielder.

The Pirates added Marlon Byrd from the New York Mets Tuesday, reeling in a player who is hitting .285 with 21 home runs this season.

"We're not looking for him to be the savior, but we're looking for him to be better in that spot than what we've been doing so far," general manager Neal Huntington said.

The Pirates also acquired backup catcher John Buck, sending infield prospect Dilson Herrera and a player to be named to New York. The Mets also will send cash to help cover the $1.25 million still owed to both players over the final month of the season.

The Pirates' right fielders rank last in the National League in On-Base Plus Slugging (.675), a measure of total offensive output. Byrd, 35, ranks third in the NL in OPS (.848) this season.

"We're a better team today than we were before," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Byrd and Buck will report today, he said. The Pirates designated minor leaguer Russ Canzler for assignment and recalled pitcher Kyle McPherson before placing him on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Byrd and Buck on the 40-man roster. McPherson underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year.

The Pirates must clear two spots on the 25-man roster.

The Pirates learned earlier Tuesday that outfielder Starling Marte will miss at least two weeks -- likely more -- with a sprain to a ligament in his right hand. That increased the need to bring in a bat.

Buck, 33, gives the Pirates some added depth at catcher, which has been a concern since Michael McKenry underwent season-ending surgery on a torn meniscus earlier this month.

"That's always helpful to have another brain on the team who knows hitters and knows how to conduct a pitching staff," catcher Russell Martin said.

Buck is hitting .215 this season, but his 15 home runs rank third in the NL among catchers.

Tony Sanchez, a first-round pick in 2009, is hitting .220 with one home run and four RBIs in 15 games. The Pirates signed catcher Kelly Shoppach to a minor-league deal two weeks ago with the intention of bringing him up when rosters expand next week.

The Pirates want to have three major-league capable catchers available for the final months of the season.

"No slight intended on Kelly Shoppach, but we felt like John Buck's a better acquisition," Huntington said. "How it plays out as we go through the month of September and October, time will tell. But we wanted to make sure we had three quality guys that we felt comfortable about."

The Mets placed Byrd and Buck on waivers earlier this week, and the Pirates -- who are low on the waiver priority list because of their good record -- claimed both. That gave them exclusive rights to negotiate a deal with the Mets, who demonstrated little interest in dealing either before the non-waiver deadline.

But the Pirates inquired about Byrd in July, and those discussions created a framework for the deal. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Byrd was not claimed by a team with a better waiver position than the Pirates, whether as a move to upgrade their roster or to prevent the Pirates from upgrading theirs.

"I try not to think for the other clubs," Huntington said. "I'm busy enough thinking for us. It's an unpredictable process."

After standing pat at the non-waiver deadline, the Pirates have been active, trying to upgrade an offense that ranks 24th in the majors in batting average (.244).

The Pirates have also expressed interest in Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau, but prying him from the Twins could be costlier because he has been a cornerstone of that franchise.

Any potential deal for Morneau will require a significant giveback on the Pirates' part. In Herrera, the Pirates parted with one of the top 15 minor leaguers in their system, but not one of their blue-chip prospects.

Herrera, 19, took part in the All-Star Futures Game this year and was hitting .265 with 11 home runs for low-Class A West Virginia.

"We've given up a very good young second baseman in Dilson Herrera," Huntington said. "We've given up a little bit of our future for a lot of our present."

Huntington indicated the second player in the deal will be chosen from a pool of already-determined players and could be a significant piece -- perhaps a current major leaguer.

"It's going to be a pretty good second piece," he said. "New York has done a nice job."

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published August 27, 2013 6:45 PM


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