Follow me on Twitter @jim_krug (Opening image Gaby Sanchez, credit cbssports)
I’ve been very critical of Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington in the past, going so far as to believe he’d be fired by October of this year. Given the Pirates’ success to date, that clearly isn’t happening, so I was dead wrong there. While Huntington’s record as General Manager is still very questionable in multiple areas, I think he had a very good trade deadline, by far his strongest effort to date.
This was his 2nd straight year in the position of a “buyer”, and unlike 2011, Pirates’ fans did not have to content themselves with disappointing over-the-hill veteran retread acquisitions, which showed the team wasn’t serious about contending down the stretch.
First, the quick hit positives from late July, and then, a grade for each player acquired.
1. Huntington was able to upgrade the team in multiple areas without losing any of the Pirates’ top 7 prospects. To do that during a time of year when sellers have the leverage to demand quality minor leaguers for almost any veteran of value is impressive.
2. As deadline rumors begin to leak, it appears that the Pirates were in on discussions for nearly every marquee arm/bat available, but determined that the costs were so prohibitive that they couldn’t make deals. Had the Pirates done nothing at all, I believe this could’ve been a huge negative against Huntington. Instead, he adjusted his strategy accordingly, and still found meaningful acquisitions at far lower prospect costs.
3. Unlike the Pirates of old, whom fans often sensed inquired about big name trade chips or free agents just to show that they did, it appears there was serious motivation on the Pirates’ end to bring a marquee player to Pittsburgh. Their negotiations with the Phillies to ship OF Hunter Pence across the state appeared to have come the closest. (Why the Phillies then turned around and gave Pence away to the San Francisco Giants for such a middling return is beyond me.)
4. I would’ve pegged Huntington as the type to target a rental player like OF Shane Victorino, who, beyond the name recognition, offered no statistical 2012 upgrade over internal options, and would be gone by October. Instead, I believe the Pirates’ GM accomplished something many GMs struggle to do: He not only upgraded in the short-term, but 3 of the 4 players acquired are potential multi-year improvements as well. At least 1 of them has a chance to be part of the Pirates’ long-term core heading into the future.
5. The Pirates dealt early in acquiring their two most meaningful acquisitions- SP Wandy Rodriguez and OF Travis Snider. Waiting until the 11th hour of the 4:00PM July 31st deadline often affords selling teams an extra dose of leverage. While teams were still jockeying over SP Ryan Dempster and OF Pence, the Pirates already had their guys.
Part 2- A graded review of each of the 4 players acquired by Huntington- is available here. Thanks for reading.