The surprising Pirates are said to be among the teams seeking to acquire White Sox outfielder Alex Rios, and people familiar with Pittsburgh's thinking suggest they wouldn't be surprised if the Pirates expand the talks to include Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, as well.
The Pirates, who enter the second half a shocking 19 games over .500, are looking to improve their lineup and bench, and an acquisition of either or both White Sox players could accomplish that.
Pittsburgh has done a superb job pitching but scouts question whether its offense will be enough to sustain a playoff run. "They definitely need a right fielder," one National League scout said. As for shortstop, rookie Jordy Mercer is currently manning that key position for the Pirates.
Rios, who could also draw interest from the Rangers, Yankees and perhaps the Giants, looks to be the top all-around outfielder on the trading block, as he has speed and power, and he plays all three outfield positions. Ramirez appears to be the top shortstop, as he has excellent range and a good bat.
Rios, who has 11 home runs and 19 stolen bases to go with a .270 batting average, has about $18 million guaranteed through next season with a $12.5 million yearly salary and option for 2015. Ramirez, who's hitting .286 with 20 stolen bases, has $23 million to go through '15, counting the buyout on a '16 option.
While those deals aren't unreasonable, they would ordinarily be steep for the Pirates. This isn't an ordinary season for them, though, as they seem all but assured of posting their first winning record since 1992 and have an excellent chance at the playoffs.