HOW THE PIRATES GOT TO WHERE THEY ARE
In a nutshell? They were terrible for many years. Then they traded all their (inadequate) players. And now they're even more terrible, and no one lives happily ever after.
BUYER OR SELLER?
Team president Frank Coonelly recently implied that the Bucs could be buyers at the deadline. Obviously, that's ridiculous. A last-place team in the middle of a rebuild has no business buying, at least not in the conventional sense.
So they should be sellers. But, with the caveat that general manager Neal Huntington often makes surprising moves, there really isn't much to sell, either. And after dealing most of the team's veterans in the summers of 2008 and 2009, Huntington suggested that he'd had enough, and that there would probably be few major trades going forward.
Theoretically, no one is untouchable, but the Pirates will probably have to be blown away to make major moves. If such a move were to occur, one obvious candidate to depart is catcher Ryan Doumit, who the Bucs have quixotically been playing at first base, perhaps in an attempt to showcase him to potential trade partners. (Doumit has done the Pirates no favors by playing terribly at the position.) As a catcher who can hit, Doumit should have some value, but he's a frustrating player, since he isn't much of a defender at catcher either - any ball thrown in the dirt is an adventure.
Other trade candidates include starting pitchers Paul Maholm and Zach Duke, but they seem even more unlikely. For one thing, Duke is on the disabled list with elbow trouble. And, perhaps more importantly, the Pirates really need these guys. Maholm, in particular, has been pretty much the only competent arm in an otherwise disastrous rotation. He's also under contract for 2011 with a reasonable club option for 2012, so there's no rush to deal him.
There's also the possibility that the Pirates could trade one of their veteran relievers, such as Octavio Dotel, D.J. Carrasco or Javier Lopez. But really, there's very little for the Pirates to trade. They control most of their top performers in 2010 (such as Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Evan Meek and Maholm) for several more years, and most of the rest of their players have been so bad that no one would want them anyway. If history is any guide, Huntington won't hesitate to pull the trigger on a trade if he gets an offer he likes, but it's doubtful he gets many he will be happy with.