The Method To Pirates GM Neal Huntington’s Team Building Strategy
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Tuesday March 12, 2013
Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer): Follow @BernieOlshansky
There is no question that the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone through their fair share of struggles. They have not had a winning season since 1992, and the closest the team has come to a .500 season was last year, when they went 79 – 83. It looks, though, as if there is light at the end of the tunnel for Pirates fans.
General Manager Neal Huntington has made some nice moves to strengthen the team since he was named in 2007.
He immediately went to work, hiring a new manager and making major trades up to the 2008 trading deadline. One of two major trades included sending Xavier Nady to the Yankees for pitchers, notably Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, and Outfielder Jose Tabata.
The second major trade was sending Jason Bay to the Red Sox for Brandon Moss, Andy Laroche, and others. Although these deals never really came to fruition, Huntington made it clear that he would not stand idly by and let his team suffer.
Pittsburgh Pirates Highlights – Mature Lyrics so Parental Guidance is advised:
One of the qualities that makes Neal Huntington such a good GM is his creativity. The Pirates are never a major contender on a big Free Agent. Knowing this, Huntington went after Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett when they still had a year left on their contracts. This year, the Pirates will have both pitchers due to the crafty trade Huntington made in 2012.
Another large part of this deal was the fact that Rodriguez and Burnett’s former teams eat their contracts. Making these trades is a cheap way for Huntington to improve the team without having to make a major play on a Free Agent.
Now they did take a flyer on veteran Francisco Liriano, however that is contingent on the Left – Hander staying off of the DL with his wonky arm. The base salary for 2013 is only a $1 MIL. If they can get the 2010 or 2006 version of the former Twins Pitcher, this deal will make him look even that much better.
The Pirates might have enough money to sign one major Free Agent. But, if they did this, they most likely would not have the money in the future to resign Outfielder Andrew McCutchen (whom they signed to a 6 YR / $51.5 Million deal through 2017). Also, coming up in the near future to the big club is highly regarded prospect Gerrit Cole.
The team has threatened for the NL Central Division lead during the 1st 4 months of the last 2 campaigns. This is quite normal for a young club. Playing in a pennant race can take its toll on young inexperienced clubs. Huntington went out and signed a veteran leader in Russell Martin for the immediate future.
This may prove to be a great signing on and off of the field. One of these years, the club will overcome their August and September and transcend the hurdles ( no pun intended to the skipper) – to make the Post Season for the 1st time since the 1992 NLCS. Huntington signed the veteran Catcher to a 2 YR/$15 MIL deal.
The Pirates selected Cole with their first overall pick in the 2011 draft. Huntington did a great job on selecting Cole, as the Pirates have recently been weak when it comes to pitching. Cole will be a front-of-the-rotation starter for the years to come. He finished 2012 in Triple-A after playing in High-A and Double-A. In his first professional season, Cole carried a 9 – 7 record – with a 2.80 ERA in 132 Innings
One of Huntington’s recent deals consisted of acquiring outfielder Travis Snider for pitcher Brad Lincoln. This could prove to be a great deal if Snider produces. The struggling Outfielder was traded from the Blue Jays to the Pirates for Brad Lincoln on July 30. The Jays never really had a place on their for Snider, as he was in competition with Eric Thames. Huntington should continue to follow the Billy Beane mindset of Pitchers.
Hopefully for the former Blue Jay, the change of scenery in Pittsburgh will rejuvenate his career and will send him in the right direction. The Pirates would benefit greatly from a productive Snider at the top of the lineup.
The future looks bright for the Pirates. They have come close to breaking the .500 barrier in 2011 and 2012, so it looks as if 2013 is the year to do so. This year, the Pirates are starting with two veteran starters at the top of their rotation, so they should get off to a good start.
Andrew McCutchen is coming off of the best year of his young career (and, age-wise, he has not yet entered his prime). Pedro Alvarez seems that he has come into his own, and the offense will produce. It looks like Neal Huntington will finally have something to show for his hard work over the past few years. In 2013, I predict that the Pirates will have their first winning season in over two decades.
***The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com or their partners***
Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer Bernie Olshansky. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Bernie on Twitter. Follow @BernieOlshansky
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Posted on March 12, 2013, in MLB Payroll and Contracts, MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged 1992 NLCS, @bernieolshansky, Andrew McCutchen, andy la roche, baseball, bernie olshansky, billy beane, blue jays, brad lincoln, brandon moss, draft, eric thames, francisco liriano, general manager, gerrit cole, jason bay, jeff karstens, Jose Tabata, mlb, Neal Huntington, NL Central, pedro alvarez, pirates, pirates management, pirates-awareness-day, pittsburgh pirates, pnc park, ross ohlendorf, russell martin, trades, travis snider, wandy rodriguez, xavier nady, yankees. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.