Time for Pirates fans to panic yet?

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It’s been a great ride for the Pirates thus far, but as of late it’s getting a little bumpy.

The Pirates have lost five of six and are 16-15 since the break. Part of this? The starting pitching has faltered a bit. James McDonald has gotten noticed for his bumpy second half, but the rotation overall has had its issues.

More troubling is the offense, which has helped carry them after a slow start from the non-McCutchen components. Since the break the team OBP is .309.  The Pirates were frisky when McCutchen was carrying the team by himself, but they began to look like serious contenders only when others began to contribute. They need that overall contribution to resume to stay above water.

I’m not declaring the Pirates dead or anything. It’s merely been a bad week. But right now the Giants/Dodgers duo and the Cardinals look like threats. And given our lack of data on how this Pirates team responds when pushed, they’re definitely worth watching.

Dodgers acquire Matt Kemp in five-player trade with Braves

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The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.

Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.

Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.