Do the Pirates need to add a starter at the deadline?
Their starting pitching depth is the reason they are in 1st place and own the best record in baseball. But, now that it is possible both James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez could be done for the season, that depth is depleted.
Yes, they still have AJ Burnett returning somewhat soon which will either push Jeanmar Gomez to the bullpen or Gerritt Cole back to Indianapolis. But, after that, the only depth they’ll have out of the rotation will be Gomez/Cole and Brandon Cumptom.
They could add other AAA starters to the 40-man roster: Stolmy Pimentel, Andy Oliver, or Kris Johnson. I watched Pimentel pitch in Norfolk and I think he could hold his own for a spell. Johnson might be a decent emergency option. Oliver is not ready.
But, if the Pirates need to use Crumptom, Pimentel, and/or Johnson for the remainder of the season in the rotation, then the Bucs can likely forget about winning the division and hope to hold on to a wild card spot. Perhaps they could be proactive and send down Justin Wilson to begin stretching him out just in case it comes to that.
This is all speculative that Wandy’s arm trouble is as bad as it is starting to seem. He’s already been out longer than I expected and now is receiving treatments that many see as a precursor to Tommy John surgery. The fact is, Charlie Morton is recovering from surgery, AJ Burnett is no spring chicken, and Gerritt Cole will need to start watching his total innings (see Jonathan Strasburg after seeing Mark Prior). Gomez and Jeff Locke have been great, but nobody dreams they’ll remain consistently this great through the remainder of the season.
It is not a given the Pirates will need a starter, but I’m not sure they can afford to roll the dice on going without adding another one. I do not believe they should make a high profile acquisition that depletes the farm, but if they can make a trade much like they did when the got Wandy, then I think they need to do so.
It takes two, though.