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Pittsburgh Pirates' Acquisition of John Buck and Marlon Byrd Shows Future Is Now

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COMMENTARY | The Pittsburgh Pirates have been looking to the future for the past 20 years.

Since Sid Bream slid home in 1992, the modus operandi for the Pittsburgh Pirates has been a focus on that hazy, indefinable, never-quite-there future. In that time, the Pirates have had four different general managers, five if you count the 18-day stint that Brian Graham had in the weeks before Neal Huntington was hired. And each of them had a plan, an idea, a rebuilding process to restore the Pittsburgh Baseball Club to its historical prominence.

Today, less than 24 hours since the St. Louis Cardinals took sole possession of first place, the Pirates showed that the future was now when they traded minor league infielder Dilson Herrera to the New York Mets for catcher John Buck and right fielder Marlon Byrd.

Said Neal Huntington, "We've given up a little bit of our future for a lot of our present."

The move was smart, considered, and absolutely worth it, regardless of what Dilson Herrera goes on to do with his career. After two consecutive late-season collapses, the Pirates cannot afford another limping, stumbling fall to the end of the season. As the Washington Nationals proved this year, you can't always count on the next season, and even the best laid plans can be destroyed by injury, bad luck or karmic indifference.

So while Mets fans will be arriving at Citi Field tonight, wondering what they should do with their "Let it Fly" Marlon Byrd T-shirts, Clint Hurdle will be in Pittsburgh, wondering where he should pencil in Byrd's .285/.330/.518 bat in the lineup. While it's unlikely that Byrd, at 35, will continue hitting so far beyond his career averages, whatever he brings will be a big step up over the .232/.297/.369 line that Pirates right fielders have posted this year. With only a month left of the season, even just one well-timed hit could be the difference between the Pirates having to play in a one-game wild-card playoff or winning the division and getting a five-game series.

And while Matt Harvey will be left without his battery mate to comfort him, the Pirates will be welcoming John Buck and his power behind the plate. Already this season, Buck has 15 home runs, averaging 16 a year since 2010. Assuming Russell Martin doesn't hit four more this year to reach that number, the last Pirates catcher to hit that many was Ryan Doumit in 2008 when the team went 67-95.

Yes, Dilson Herrera may go on to become a star in the majors. Or, like many other highly touted prospects, he might not. Major league history is littered with 19-year-old prospects that never panned out.

Fernando Martinez, then a Mets farmhand, was the 20th-best prospect in baseball in 2008. Five years later, and he's hit .206/.269/.362 in 310 major league plate appearances and he was just suspended 50 games for using performance enhancing drugs. Four years from now, sure, Herrera could be playing in the middle of the infield for the Mets or he could stall out in the minor leagues. Just as four years from now, the Pirates' window to win may have closed.

After 20 years without any October baseball to look forward to, it was time for Neal Huntington to seize the future and make two significant upgrades to a team that has thrust itself into the thick of the postseason field. While the playoffs may be a crapshoot, the Pirates have given themselves their best chance to win. And that's a victory, no matter how this year, next year, or five years from now plays out.

Michael Clair writes the news and humor blog, Old Time Family Baseball, and contributes to the Platoon Advantage. Follow him on Twitter @clairbearattack.

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