As baseball's trade deadline looms, Pirates looking forward to 'finality' of deals


In a week where their All-Star second baseman was traded during a game, a reliever was dealt during their day off and Tuesday’s scheduled starter was scratched hours before first pitch, it’s understandable that trade talk has stirred some unrest with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So it was no surprise when veteran outfielder Ben Gamel feigned ignorance late Thursday night, following a three-game series sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers that Friday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline was near.

“Is tomorrow the deadline?” Gamel said, with a grin. “I try to stay out of all that stuff. Hopefully, whoever is in that clubhouse (Friday night), we’re going to roll with, so that’s all I can say on that.”

The Pirates were expected to be so busy making deals this week that general manager Ben Cherington set up shop once again for the baseball operations staff in the Left Field Lounge, which served as their headquarters in the weeks leading up to the MLB Draft.

Cherington already traded Adam Frazier to the San Diego Padres on Sunday and Clay Holmes to the New York Yankees on Monday. Lefty Tyler Anderson was scratched before Tuesday’s start, when it appeared the Pirates had a deal to send him to the Philadelphia Phillies. When that deal fell through, Anderson threw a bullpen session and remained in the dugout during the game. Around midnight, he was shipped to Seattle.

So it’s no wonder that when AT&T SportsNet showed Cherington on the phone in the fourth inning of their 12-0 loss to the Brewers on deadline eve, speculation swirled that another deal was about to go down.

“Just one of those things that you don’t have any control over,” Pirates starter Chad Kuhl said. “My job was to pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers tonight. That’s all my focus was on.”

The Pirates are expected to keep rookie third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and All-Star center fielder Bryan Reynolds, but Cherington has indicated that anyone is available if the return is right. As blockbuster deals were made in the majors on Thursday, Kuhl and relievers David Bednar, Richard Rodriguez and Chris Stratton were rumored to be trade candidates.

“I haven’t heard anything. It’s really not my place to know,” Kuhl said. “If it happens, Ben or Shelty will let me know, and we’ll go from there.”

That has left Pirates players and their families wondering who will be the next to go. The tension got to Stratton’s wife, Martha Kate Stratton, who tweeted that he was “about to give me a heart attack” when he called from the field “48 hours before the trade deadline” — to remind her to keep their kids hydrated amid warnings of a high heat index.

48 hours before the trade deadline and my husband calls me from the field to remind me to drink water and keep the kids hydrated because he saw the heat index was high. Forget the heat stroke, he’s about to give me a heart attack.

— Martha Kate Stratton (@mk_stratton) July 28, 2021

That Cherington was no longer on the phone after Stratton replaced Kuhl and allowed four runs on four hits and one walk in 1 1/3 innings had Twitter wondering whether the outing killed his trade value.

The rumor mill continued when Rodriguez warmed up to pitch the ninth inning but Pirates manager Derek Shelton put a position player, first baseman John Nogowski, on the mound instead.

Afterward, Shelton said he was concerned about rust being a factor, given the struggles Stratton and Austin Davis had after four-day layoffs. Plus, the Pirates were trailing by nine runs, so it wasn’t a save situation.

Shelton did allow that he’s looking forward to the “finality” of trade season, even calling it a “big word for me.”

“You do get some finality to it, and I think once we get through it, kind of regroup, that’s important,” Shelton said. “Because the trade deadline is difficult for any team, and I think throughout baseball, there’s a lot of stuff going on. But I think it will be nice to have some finality to it and to know who is going to be on our club for the next 60 games.”

That was Kuhl’s focus in the postgame, that there is going to be an opportunity for the young players in the system over the final two months of the season. The Pirates ran into a hot team, as the Brewers have won seven of their past 10 games to build a seven-game cushion over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central Division race.

“I don’t really think those correlate, but it gives an opportunity for a lot of young guys to come up and have an opportunity at the big league level,” Kuhl said. “Like a lot of things in baseball, it’s out of your control. You can make jokes about it or however we all handle that. But enjoy the time with the people who are in that room while you have those guys in the room.”

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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