Week ahead may impact Deadline strategy

Pirates facing division-rival Brewers in four-game set before heading west to take on Rockies

Week ahead may impact Deadline strategy

PITTSBURGH -- The July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is two weeks from Monday, and the Pirates are on the outside looking in. After Sunday's 4-3 walk-off win over the Cardinals, the Pirates sit seven games behind the National League Central-leading Brewers and eight games out of the second NL Wild Card spot.

Pittsburgh has a chance to surge back into the standings over the next week. On Monday, the Bucs begin a four-game series against the Brewers at PNC Park. Next weekend, they'll head west to face the Rockies at Coors Field. By the time that series is over, the Deadline will be a week away.

How important is this stretch, particularly the Milwaukee series, for the front office to determine its Trade Deadline strategy?

"We don't want to undersell -- we also don't want to oversell -- what this four-game series with the Brewers means," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Not only between now and the Deadline, but as we get beyond the Deadline, every game matters.

"Obviously, an 0-4 [series] changes the dynamic pretty significantly. We go 4-0, it changes the dynamic in a much more positive direction."

Last year, the Pirates bought and sold at the Deadline despite being within reach of the second NL Wild Card spot. This year may be different, however, as a division title would ensure the Bucs a full postseason series.

While Pittsburgh's clubhouse is optimistic, the front office must be pragmatic. Even with a shot at the division and suspended left fielder Starling Marte set to return soon, the Pirates are a sub-.500 team that would have to dramatically outplay the Brewers and Cubs the rest of the way.

"We still need to be realistic about our evaluation of this club, about our opportunities moving forward, about roles where we can get better," Huntington said. "Where are some of our flaws that we're still going to be challenged by? What are our chances?"

Huntington said the Pirates aren't waiting to see where they stand before making a move, however.

"If we had the right move tomorrow, we'd make it," Huntington said. "If the right move is there, outstanding. If it's not, we'll continue to work through our process and work to make the right move that we think will help this organization."

Around the horn
• Marte is expected to work out Monday at PNC Park after finishing his Minor League rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Indianapolis. He will be activated from his suspension before Tuesday's game.

• Huntington said top prospect Austin Meadows (hamstring) is "progressing very well" in his injury rehabilitation, but he is not yet playing in games. Meadows has not played since June 21.

• Huntington said he could only offer "more of the same" regarding the status of Jung Ho Kang, who remains on the restricted list while awaiting a work visa in South Korea following an offseason arrest for his third DUI since 2009.

"Unfortunately, the calendar is simply working against us for him to have an impact this year. As we plan for next year, it's still more unknown," Huntington said. "As we work through the process, maybe round two brings us different results. If it doesn't, we're going to have to play without him."

Adam Frazier will see more time at second base and shortstop after Marte returns, manager Clint Hurdle said. Frazier has been Marte's primary replacement in left field. He could start at shortstop to spell Jordy Mercer, and he may receive time at second base when Josh Harrison starts at third on David Freese's days off.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.