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July 27, 2013

Pirates shopping for trades

MIAMI — For the third straight season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are approaching baseball’s trade deadline as buyers.

And they’re finding that they’re not alone.

With Wednesday’s deadline inching closer, the Pirates are trying to get someone who can help their already-looking-good odds of making the playoffs – and finishing with a winning record, for that matter – for the first time since 1992.

But in Pirates manager Clint Hurdle’s eyes, the second wild-card spot is making plenty of other teams who might have been sellers a couple years ago think that they’re still in the postseason race.

“This extra wild-card has really become challenging,” Hurdle said Saturday afternoon in Miami, where his club was facing the Marlins.

“As much benefit comes with it, it’s also a time of year where there are some problems that can come from it because you’re not out. The general manager, the team president, somebody’s making a call ... that’s a tough position to be in right now.”

Hurdle and General Manager Neal Huntington were exchanging emails Saturday on a number of topics, and the manager has even ranked a list of targets that the team believes might be available on the trade market.

So far, no moves. Then again, the Pirates might not need much, either. They entered Saturday with 60 wins, tied for fourth-most in baseball, and entered the day with a seven-game cushion against falling out of the two NL wild-card spots.

“I don’t get caught up in what I think the club needs, because I’ve got players out there that are still playing,” Hurdle said. “It doesn’t make much sense from my perspective to say ‘We need X, Y and Z’ and I’ve got X, Y, and Z out there regardless of the situation. I think after watching 101 games, I think we have a good feel on what we’ve done well, where we’ve been consistent and some areas that we could use some help.”

The second wild-card was supposed to bring added intrigue to postseason races, and Marlins manager Mike Redmond thinks it’s working.

“You really have five or six, four or five teams in it all the way into September,” Redmond said. “And that creates excitement. That creates excitement maybe for markets that haven’t been successful in the past and that’s good. That’s good for baseball. I think it’s great and it makes teams realize, ‘Hey, you know, we’re not that far out.”’

In the American League, Boston and Baltimore entered Saturday as the holders of the two wild-card spots, and there were three teams all within four games of finding their way into that mix.

There’s a bit more space in the NL race, where outside of the three division leaders, only Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Arizona are currently over .500.

Still, the Pirates probably don’t want to leave much to chance.

They made deals in 2011 and again last year, then fell apart both times. They went 18-38 after Aug. 1 in 2011, 20-39 after Aug. 1 a year ago.

“We’ve gone the way of the rental player. We’ve gone controllable players,” Hurdle said.

“So we’re going to keep our options open and stay involved with discussions, multiple discussions. We could take this thing right down to the wire, from my understanding.”

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