The middle of September isn't exactly prime territory for trade talks, but that's not stopping the Pirates. Sitting at just 2.5 games back in the National League wild card race, the long-struggling Pittsburgh team is leaving no stone unturned in their quest to return to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. According to Nick Cafardo, the Pirates are out for two weeks of bullpen help, and they've got their eyes on the Red Sox.
It's no surprise that the Pirates should turn to the Sox for help in this area. If there's one part of the roster that has really been a positive surprise this year, it's the bullpen. Despite the fact that many of the guys expected to form the core of the unit--Mark Melancon, Andrew Bailey, Alfredo Aceves--have been injured or awful, the Sox have gotten some good stuff from their relief corps.
Sure, they sit at a 3.59 ERA on the year--pretty middle ground, but with a volume of talent that promises better for the future when the team knows what to do with it from the get go. Five players have contributed at least 30 innings with an ERA under 3.30: Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, Clayton Mortensen, Scott Atchison, and Junichi Tazawa.
Not included in that list: Rich Hill, Craig Breslow, and Andrew Bailey, who could be a 7-8-9 combination in their own right. Beyond those names, you've got wild cards in Daniel Bard, Chris Carpenter, Jose De La Torre, and Pedro Beato. Frankly, "deep" doesn't even begin to cover it.
So the Pirates want some help, but do the Sox want to offer it? If the Pirates are interested in Alfredo Aceves or Vicente Padilla, they're welcome to them. Aceves is likely going to be non-tendered given his poor results and controversial behavior in the last month, and the Sox likely won't be in any rush to bring Padilla back either.
Any of the others, though, and the team has to treat this like it's the offseason. All will be under team control for 2013, and for most beyond that as well. The Sox certainly have holes to fill for 2013, and chances are they'll be trading at least some of their pen talent in hopes of filling them.
The difficulty here will be reconciling perception with reality. For the Pirates, it's going to be hard to sell any real deal as more than a two-week rental, even if they get the player for another season or more beyond that. But for the Red Sox they've got no reason to make the move now if the Pirates look at it as anything else.
Chances are this either ends up a bargain-bin move for one of the underperforming assets not long for this team, or just doesn't happen at all.