The Pittsburgh Pirates have officially reasserted themselves in the playoff picture in the National League. Their road will be made difficult by the fact that they play in the ultra-competitive National League Central, but Clint Hurdle‘s squad has officially put themselves in a position where they can get serious about fortifying their roster for a playoff run.
One year ago the closer’s role was one of the best parts of the Pirates’ season. They saw the emergence of Jason Grilli in that role, watching him convert one save opportunity after the other while becoming a fan favorite. Unfortunately that story quickly fell apart in 2014 due to injuries and ineffectiveness, eventually motivating the team to send Grilli to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for another struggling reliever in Ernesto Frieri.
Frieri will contribute, even if he struggles to be consistent. Mark Melancon continues to pitch admirably. But the fact remains that the Pirates could still seriously benefit from an upgrade in their closer’s spot.
One possible bullpen target is San Diego Padres closer Huston Street, who has a 1.13 ERA, 23 saves and a 0.78 walks plus hits per innings pitched. Reinforcing the back end of the bullpen would send Melancon back into a setup role, where he has thrived.
Biertempfel notes that the Pirates will also keep their eyes on a couple arms in the Boston Red Sox bullpen.
Earlier this week, the Pirates had a scout in Boston watching the Red Sox-Chicago White Sox series. There are several players the Red Sox might consider dealing, including reliever Andrew Miller and reliever/starter Felix Doubront.
A deal for a guy like Milller or Doubront would not necessarily address the issues in the back end for the Pirates, but it would still help them build a solid bullpen for the stretch run. Either way it sounds like the Pirates will be shopping for relief help this month.