With all of the excitement and attention the Pirates have created while contending for first place in the NL Central, fans have been screaming for the team to make a move and bring in a big bat. While I agree, to an extent, some of the players being thrown around in trade rumors are, quite frankly, too expensive.

No, not in a monetary way as Bob Nutting has admitted he will add salary at the deadline, but in terms of talent. Since the Houston Astros are the worst team in baseball, with one of the worst farm systems in the league (26th by Baseball America), they are aggressively shopping Hunter Pence in an attempt to rebuild from the ground up. The asking price for Pence, a 28 year old All-Star outfielder, is obviously quite high. Pence has a line of .315/.356/.478 and a .834 OPS with the Astros this season. He has decent power with a good arm for right field and make no mistake if he was a Pirate, he would definitely improve the lineup. However, acquiring his services would probably mean giving Houston a combination of Starling Marte, Brad Lincoln, Stetson Allie and Tony Sanchez.

Maybe more.

There is a rumor the Astros asked for Jameson Taillon in a straight up trade for Pence. Yeah right. Many may argue that the time to win is NOW and that the Pirates should sell the future for a chance to win a pennant. While that may sound convenient let's remember the Pirates got to this point by acquiring prospects and developing from within. The plan is to win for more than just one or two years; to create sustainability by flooding the system with talented prospects, much like the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays made zero trade moves at the deadline in 2008 and they were playing in a much better division than the NL Central. Meanwhile, the Brewers traded away eight total prospects like Matt Laporta, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorzzio for the likes of CC Sabathia and Zach Greinke. Now, the Brewers have the worst farm system in baseball (30th) and will lose All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder after this year to free agency. If they do not win the NL Central, their investments over the last five years will go up in flames.

With that in mind, I hear people on the radio call in and say things like, "I'm not saying give up some of our big prospects but I wouldn't mind seeing them trade Marte and Sanchez for Carlos Beltran." Hate to break it to you, but Starling Marte is a big prospect. I know some may disagree and say he's nothing more than an above average outfielder who strikes out too much in AA. But keep in mind, Marte is faster than Andrew McCutchen (yes, there is such a player; shocking isn't it?) with similar tools to McCutchen at the plate and in the field. When Marte settles in Pittsburgh, he'll push McCutchen to left field which will allow 'Cutch to focus more on hitting while also keeping him from wearing down. Baseball America used this quote to describe Marte, "One club official unflinchingly calls Marte the best player in the system."

As for the strikeouts?

Marte is 22 years old, playing for the Altoona Curve. In 85 games, he's struck out 71 times. The beloved Hunter Pence struck out 109 times in 136 games. The numbers are comparable and while Marte lacks the power of Hunter Pence, he makes up for it in speed and defensive ability. Add into the mix a strong defensive catcher in Sanchez, as well as a teenage pitcher who throws in the triple digits, at the trade seems a bit absurd. Also, keep in mind this is all speculation, the real asking price could be even higher. The Pirates are trying to break 18 years of futility and since they are buyers, teams will do everything they can to take advantage.

Carlos Beltran is another player on the radar for Pirates fans. However, since the Mets have agreed to pay for his contract in an effort to retain big prospects, the Pirates are faced with the same dilemma as Pence in Houston. Keep in mind, if the Pirates dealt blue chip prospects for Beltran and he didn't lead them to the promise land, they would have given up success in the future for NOTHING. Also, at the age of 34, Beltran is definitely a risk for injury. He has not played over 100 games since 2008 and if injured, his acquisition could make this season go up in smoke as he is a free agent after this year.

Carlos Pena would be the best acquisition for Pittsburgh. The Chicago Cub crushes right-handed pitching with a .893 OPS and would fill a major hole at first base. He won a gold glove in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Rays, a silver slugger in 2007 and he's allegedly a great teammate in the clubhouse. His struggles against lefties could be remedied with Steve Pearce who has a .300 average against left handers this year. Pena's contract is worth five million dollars, although the Pirates would be a little less to acquire him. Shipping off a decent prospect such as Jeff Locke or Gorkys Hernandez would probably be enough.

Remember Pirates fans, this team is competitive due to overachieving pitching, timely hitting and a little luck. This team's best years are still ahead of them if they stay on the right path. With Pedro Alvarez, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Doumit, Steve Pearce and Jose Tabata all returning, the Pirates have a chance to add a few bats without giving up a single dime or prospect. That may be their best choice of all if the aforementioned players, particularly Alvarez, come back slugging. After all, the Pirates got in this whole first-place mess using the players within their system.

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