PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' pursuit to upgrade in advance of the July 31 Trade Deadline appears to have the club eyeing two areas of need much more fervently than any other. Multiple sources have told MLB.com that the Pirates' inquiries thus far have centered on acquiring a right-handed bat and bullpen help.
The club ranks in the bottom half of the National League in most offensive categories, which makes it no surprise the organization is trying to bolster its offense for a run at a division title. The production the Pirates have gotten recently from Lyle Overbay might lessen the Pirates' attempt to upgrade at first base, but an impact bat to slot into a corner outfield sport or at third base would make sense for the club.
One source said the Pirates are going to "kick the tires" on Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, though Beltran would have to waive the no-trade clause in his contract before any deal could be made. He is making $18.5 million in the final season of a seven-year deal. If a team is willing to take on the remaining salary Beltran is due, the Mets would likely not ask for that much in return.
Relievers could be found in a number of places, though the Pirates were known to have a scout watching the Rockies over the weekend. Colorado, which sits 9 1/2 games behind the Giants in the NL West, would likely be willing to listen to offers on relievers Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle.
With the Pirates unsure of how strong an eighth-inning option Evan Meek might be when he returns from a right shoulder injury, the club could use another late-inning reliever to serve as a stable bridge to closer Joel Hanrahan.
The Pirates' position in the NL Central could become clearer after playing three games against both the Reds and Cardinals over the next seven days. Additionally, the team is poised to have as many as four players come off the disabled list in the next two weeks. How much of an upgrade the Pirates feel those players will provide will have a direct effect on the club's urgency to add from the outside.
"Right now, our front office is making connections everywhere they can to see if there's interest," manager Clint Hurdle said, refusing to identify what he sees as the team's biggest area of need. "I think it's a hot topic outside the clubhouse. I think everybody's got an opinion. And even what we really identify our need to be, finding somebody to play ball along those lines is the other challenge that goes with that."
Players' opinions appear to be mixed when it comes to the idea of making significant moves over the next two weeks, only because of the unknown impact that might have inside the clubhouse walls. While Hurdle has adamantly said the club won't bring in anyone that will damage team chemistry, subtracting players from this group can have an adverse effect, as well.
"I feel like we've done so well that we don't want to get rid of anybody," Garrett Jones said, echoing thoughts shared by some of his other teammates. "Maybe bring in one or two guys, but I hate to see any guy go that's on the team. Everybody that has been on this team has contributed tremendously. We just have that good team chemistry to where we're behind each other and pulling for each other."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.