First Pitch: Putting Neal Huntington’s Amazing Off-Season in Perspective

Francisco Liriano Pitching

Francisco Liriano has been the biggest free agent value this year. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

There was a lot of talk today about the big off-season moves the Pittsburgh Pirates made. Most of that discussion probably stemmed from a question by David Todd on Twitter, asking people to rank the big three off-season additions. It was only after David asked this that I got a few similar questions. I’m not going to discuss tonight my feelings on who was the better addition out of Mark Melancon (for 4 years), Francisco Liriano (2 years), or Russell Martin (2 years). You can look at this so many different ways and split so many hairs to come up with your choice, but it all boils down to the fact that all three have been outstanding moves.

After thinking about those moves today, and thinking about the situation surrounding the Pirates prior to the season, I have to give credit to Neal Huntington for his approach over the off-season.

The Situation (Not to be confused with a character on a horrible MTV show)

The Pirates front office was not in a comfortable situation this past off-season. The team just finished their second straight collapse, and this one was historically bad. That was capped off by a mess of a story involving Navy SEALs training (which wasn’t bad, and is something a lot of sports teams do), the Hoka Hey story (continuing the Navy SEALs atmosphere outside of the three day training, which wasn’t good), and small things that had nothing to do with the on-field product like crazy sounding motivational e-mails and weird motivational signs.

If all of that stuff came out this year — with the Pirates having the best record in the league and one of the best farm systems in the game — you’d hear about how innovative it was, and how other teams were also adopting that strategy.

But that wasn’t the case. The Pirates just lost for the 20th year in a row. They lost in the worst possible way ever. The only worse way is if this year’s Pirates bullpen took the “Shark Tank” thing a little too far, went swimming in an actual shark tank, and had all of their pitching arms bitten off, thus sending the season into a third straight collapse. But that’s unlikely.

You combined last year’s collapse, the long losing streak, the complaints about the off-season training, the complaints about valid concerns like drafting and development, and the result was that people were calling for the Pirates management group to be fired. It’s a mixed outcome when the owner has to come out and say that everyone will be retained. In one hand, no one is losing their job. In the other hand, the fact that the owner had to make that public announcement means no one’s job is safe.

And that’s the situation the Pirates were in this off-season. The management group basically had one year. They couldn’t afford another losing season, and definitely not another collapse.

The Approach (To my friend Robert, who is a Royals fan: If you’re reading, you might want to skip this part)

Usually when General Managers have poor job security, they start to get desperate. They go for the “guaranteed” additions, rather than gambling on upside. They trade the future to win now, because why care about the future if a losing season means you’ll only be around for one more year?

Look at the approach the Kansas City Royals and Dayton Moore took this off-season. They traded for Ervin Santana, which wasn’t a bad risk to take, and they didn’t give up much. They signed 34-year-old Jeremy Guthrie to a three year, $25 M deal. That’s pricey, but Guthrie hasn’t been horrible this year. As for ages 35 and 36, that might be more of a concern. But then…

A friend of mine is a Royals fan. The first conversation I ever had with him, he talked about how he was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. How no matter how good the Royals were doing, he was always waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under him. How things got so bad that you could only laugh and joke about it, and talk about how horrible the team was, yet if anyone else said the same thing you would be furious. Basically with everything he said, you could have replaced “Royals” with “Pirates”, and it would sound like any Pirates fan over the previous 20 years.

That same friend will not go to a Rays game because of one Wil Myers. If Dayton Moore would have just gone with Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie, the off-season probably wouldn’t have been that bad. But he didn’t stop there. He traded top prospect Wil Myers, along with Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, and Patrick Leonard to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis.

Shields has been good in the rotation. Davis hasn’t, and that was a big key to the deal since Shields was only under control through the 2014 season. Meanwhile, Myers is a rookie of the year candidate in the AL, and the Rays have him for six more years. Odorizzi has pitched in the majors this year, and it probably wouldn’t have been a bad move to gamble on him instead of gambling on Davis. Basically this deal boils down to 6+ years of a top hitter in Myers for 2 years of Shields. That’s never a deal that a team like the Royals should make, and as my friend notes, it’s not like the Royals were going to contend this year with Shields. They are currently 4.5 games out of the Wild Card, but they would have to pass three other teams to get a spot.

Huntington was in a situation where he could have easily taken a similar approach. People were calling for his job. Every move over the off-season was analyzed in a “this won’t be enough to save his job” way. Even if there was any hope that the Pirates could contend, it was met with the irrational fear that the season didn’t matter until August, and that fear only seemed rational because of the previous collapses. The Pirates had a top farm system over the off-season. They could have traded prospects away to get an instant upgrade. They could have gone for safe bets, rather than giving Jeff Locke a chance to show what he could do in the rotation. Instead, they went the opposite way. They gambled. We talked all off-season about high-beta players, who had a ton of possible outcomes including boom or bust.

Most of the time when General Managers have poor job security, they play it safe. They draft a college left-handed reliever who is perceived as close to the majors, rather than a top catching prospect. They trade for Matt Morris. They trade Wil Myers away. They don’t take a risk on playing young players. Huntington went a different route. He took some huge risks, and they are paying off this year.

High Risks (That have led to high rewards)

Let’s review some of those moves where Huntington acted like he had all of the job security in the world, and could afford to hold his job through another losing season.

The Pirates gambled that Mark Melancon would bounce back, and he did. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Pirates gambled that Mark Melancon would bounce back, and he did. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Joel Hanrahan trade and other bullpen moves

How easy would it have been for Huntington to keep a “Proven Closer”, rather than trading for a guy coming off a horrible season? The Hanrahan trade was basically a swap of Hanrahan for Melancon, hoping that Melancon could bounce back like Hanrahan bounced back when he was acquired. The three prospects added in the deal — Jerry Sands, Stolmy Pimentel, and Ivan De Jesus — were the bonus. If Melancon worked out, the Pirates traded one year of a strong reliever for four years of a strong reliever and won the trade. If one of the other prospects worked out, it would be a huge boost.

This move also allowed the Pirates to make Jason Grilli the closer, despite the fact that he had never served in that role before, and was a year and a half removed from being a mid-30s Triple-A reliever. Huntington has always taken this approach with the bullpen, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he dealt Hanrahan, bought low on Melancon, went with a top reliever without regard for the ability to pitch in the 9th inning, and then filled out the rest of the bullpen with guys like Vin Mazzaro, Justin Wilson, and other unproven pitchers.

Francisco Liriano

After a lot of drama surrounding the move, the Pirates signed Francisco Liriano, who didn’t exactly look like a slam dunk. Right now he looks like the biggest value signing in the off-season. After the move was originally made (before all of the delays), I wrote that Liriano was a good gamble to take, and could be this year’s version of A.J. Burnett. That ended up being right, but it wasn’t really a guarantee at the time. And when your biggest addition to the rotation is a guy with an ERA over 5.00 and a horrible walk rate in the previous two years, that doesn’t add a lot of comfort. Liriano had a lot of upside, but he also had a ton of risk.

Russell Martin blocks pate

Russell Martin has been a huge addition for the Pirates this year. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Russell Martin

The Russell Martin signing was heavily criticized at the time of the deal. If you’re interested in reading some of the criticism that was written, and that is now clearly wrong, take a look at my article where I wrote over 2000 words on why the Pirates shouldn’t have signed Russell Martin. Here were my concerns with Martin, and how he has performed this year.

**I thought Martin would see a drop in power outside of Yankee Stadium. He has seen a slight drop in power, going from a .170-.192 ISO in the previous two years to a .152 ISO. But it’s not like Rod Barajas just seeing his power disappear.

**I was concerned that Martin’s average had declined every year since 2007, and his on-base percentage was dropping at the same time. Both bounced back this year, which has made up for the lack of power.

**Martin only threw out 24% of runners last year, and I was concerned that would continue to decline. Instead he is throwing out 47% this year, which is insanely good.

**Overall I felt the Pirates could get the same value from Tony Sanchez and Michael McKenry at a much cheaper price. No. I don’t even need to review why this was wrong.

At the time of the deal, signing Russell Martin as your big move didn’t really add a lot of confidence. It was met with “they’re going to need a lot more than this if they want to have a shot next year”. They did add more, but the reality was that Martin has been a huge boost for the Pirates, and very few people saw it coming.

The Results

The Pirates took some gambles over the off-season, and they’ve pretty much all paid off. Even the smaller moves, like trading Quincy Latimore for Jeanmar Gomez or two DSL pitchers for Vin Mazzaro have been huge. It’s almost like a curse was lifted. In previous years, Latimore would have finally tapped into his raw power and would have hit 20 homers in the majors, while Gomez would be DFAd by May. The DSL pitchers would both immediately become top prospects. Russell Martin would become the next all-defense, no bat free agent signing. Francisco Liriano would struggle with his control, showing occasional flashes of success that gave you just enough hope to tear you down the next time he walked the bases loaded and gave up a grand slam in the first inning. Mark Melancon would have…well, Mark Melancon would have worked. Even in the bad years, Huntington was getting the bullpen right.

What goes unsaid about the off-season moves is that the Pirates have Jeff Locke in the rotation, rather than adding someone proven for that spot. They still have every top prospect in the system, which means Gerrit Cole is in Pittsburgh this year, and possibly Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, and/or Nick Kingham next year. They went for an extremely hard to sign draft pick last year, who could have been on the fast track to the majors, and didn’t give up future picks to sign him. That resulted in a top prep outfielder this year who is 4-5 years at least away from the majors, along with the four picks that were saved. That’s definitely not a short-sighted move.

It would have been so easy for Huntington to go into job protection mode, play it safe, make some desperation moves by adding “proven” talent, refuse to play rookies, and trade away the future. But he didn’t. He went for moves that could very well have led to another losing season, and which would have almost certainly cost him his job. Those moves came with that high risk, but they also came with the potential for high rewards. Those rewards are all we’ve been seeing this year. The Pirates have the best record in baseball today, and a four game lead in the NL Central because of that approach.

If Huntington would have taken the “Dayton Moore Job Preservation” approach, we could be sitting here today with the Pirates sitting a few games back from the second Wild Card, barely over .500, while watching Gerrit Cole pitch in the majors for another team.

Links and Notes

**Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 15: Recapping the Slow Deadline; The Pirates Are Legit Playoff Contenders. We’re pushing the next show back to Saturday instead of going up tomorrow morning.

**Here is the newest episode of Pirates Roundtable Live: VIDEO: Pirates Roundtable Live — Episode 4.

Prospects

**Prospect Watch: Minor League Starters Combine For Impressive 1.45 ERA Tonight.

**Luis Heredia Has a Strong Start a Few Days Before His 19th Birthday.

**Minor League Schedule: Pimentel Looks to Recover From Poor Outing.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Beat Rockies In Extras, Rain Halts Pitchers’ Duel.

Pirates

**Pirates Complete Third Straight Comeback Win to Sweep Marlins 5-4.

**The Fixes That Will Help Jeff Locke Avoid the Dreaded Regression.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • TonyPenaforHOF

    As one of the people calling for Neil to be fired I have to say I was wrong. Your article is dead on. He showed his character in the face of tremendous pressure and is reaping the rewards. Great article!

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      Tony…as one of the few NH supporters, I remember our ‘battles’.

      ;) ;)

      Foo

    • Ron Zorn

      Tony, glad you are one of the few with the stones to at least come out and admit it. Which leads to my point.

      Tim, one of the reasons I read your articles religiously is you are one of the few writers/commentators I read that will actually review their comments/opinions. Your opinions are usually strong and well reasoned, but you aren’t afraid to say or point out when you were wrong. Which makes it entirely palatable when you also point out you were right. You did both in the article above.

      My main gripe is with the talk shows on our local all-sports radio station. I specifically remember comments that I won’t go into endlessly, saying how terrible all the above moves were, and I mean terrible. Slam, slam, slam. Now it’s love-a-palooza, but don’t hear alot about how wrong anybody was!

      I had a long rant planned, but don’t have time. Suffice to say I may not be listening to the station any longer after yesterday. An irate fan called in and said they didn’t understand Hurdle’s moves at all, why wouldn’t he pinch bunt for Alvarez in the ninth? (My comment is too full of expletive’s to print)

      All that said, keep up the great work and the balanced approach, it is really appreciated.

      • TonyPenaforHOF

        It took real guts for NH to follow through on the long term plan without selling out for the short term job security. Neil had to know his job was on the line and he didn’t blink – he still did what he felt was right for the long term success of the organization.

        • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

          Tony…and THAT’S why I have supported him from the ‘get-go’. He’s more concerned about the Bucs than his job….which has helped him KEEP his job.

          :)

          • TonyPenaforHOF

            I hear ya Lee but even you have to admit it didn’t look like Neil completely understand how to put a winning team together until this year.

            He always made some good moves but too many of his risks were failures.

            I still think better planning and acquisitions would have prevented The Collapse II last year. But I give him credit: He learned from his mistakes and didn’t repeat them.

            To be a NH fan in the beginning ignores his shortcomings from years past. To denigrate his accomplishments this year ignores all he has learned and applied to his job.

            Just glad to see he is figuring it out and making it happen. I’m so happy with this team and the promising future all I can do is smile :)

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Excellent article. The Royals continue to be the Royals and the Pirates broke the mold. They have made decisions on young pitching/ballplayers that is paying huge dividends in the Prospect Listings – 5 in J. Mayo’s Top 100 and that 5 does not even include Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, or Reese McGuire. While achieving the best record in baseball in the first 104 games of 2013, they have not mortgaged the future by using prospects to chase “possible” short-term gains. And how will this help? Much better attendance, much better attitude about the Pirates, and the bottom line is that the value of the franchise will increase greatly, thereby rewarding the Nutting Family for putting the money up to build a first class organization. Only add I would have made is the deal that brought Gaby Sanchez to the Pirates for very little. He has made a very big difference in 2013.

    • emjayinTN

      Sorry, let’s make that the best record through the first 114 games of 2013.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Sanchez was at the deadline last year. I could have mentioned him, but that would have been before all of the heat on the front office came out over the off-season.

      • emjayinTN

        That heat never ends – had the Bucs not posted 9-2 since the last week of July, those same folks would have been all over NH for not making a trade at the deadline.

  • https://profiles.google.com/113824087346904673399 Dom DiDominic

    NH’s best move of the year, may have been at the past trade deadline. For the Rios/Stanton/Schierholtz of the world, seemed like each one’s asking price was way, way too high. Standing pat may prove to be the best move to have been made.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    I love NH, but I am wondering why we didn’t put a claim in on Michael Young. Would’ve been a nice RH stick and Pedro platoon partner.

    Plus….it woulda been nice to have a Young on the team again.
    :)

    Foo

    • Andrew

      Neal Huntington next great move is not putting a waiver claim on someone who falls all the way through, Mark Reynolds, (Pirates currently have Mark Reynolds plus), or Michael Young. The idea of a platoon for Pedro is good, Michael Young ( 0.3 WAR, no glove) is not.

      But it is a moot point, the 30th position, or there about combined with Huntington’s decision making will prevent this.

      • BostonsCommon

        Young is also a 1.4 oWAR player, meaning his bat still plays above average, even if he defense no longer does.

        I agree with Lee here. While the hell would you not have claimed him? The worst thing he is going to do is upgrade your bench, and add some play off experience to the roster.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Young has said he would only accept a deal to the Texas Rangers. That’s probably why no team put in a claim.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        EVERYONE wants to play for the Buccos!! We’ll just have AJ or Russell call him!!!!!

        :) :) :)

  • rburgh

    Tim,

    This article also explains a couple of other things.

    Last summer, Scott Boras perceived NH as a GM in danger of losing his job, and assumed that therefore he would do whatever it took to get Appel signed, even if it meant mortgaging the franchise’s future.

    This past trading deadline, the rival GM’s assumed that NH would mortgage the farm to improve playoff / division title chances, because that’s what they would have done.

    NH deserves enormous credit for acting as the steward of the franchise, being willing to make high risk moves for the long term good of the franchise, even if it meant that he would lose his job. Ultimately, that’s how every executive in every company in the country should act. Very few do.

    • Ron Zorn

      Very well said, especially the Boras point, hadn’t occurred to me.

  • Blue Bomber

    I believe that when NH signed Liriano I posted it was an attempt to catch lighnting in a bottle and save his job. Seems to have worked. Liriano is pitching the way everyone always thought he was capable of. Nice sign by NH, good work from Liriano, and good job by the staff. As an aside, when do other teams start trying to hire Ray Searage? Great work with the bullpen, young pitchers, and he essentially took two guys of the scrap heap (Burnett and Liriano) and turned them into frontline starters.

    Also cannot say enought about Russel Martin. To me, he’s the MVP of the Pirates. He makes you realize how bad the catching has been for the Pirates over the last decade. Every game I watch he does something behind the plate that helps the Pirates win. Huge upgrade and makes you realize why catcher is the most important position on the field.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      I thought the Liriano signing was folly. I thought the AJ signing was folly.

      Shows what *I* know.

      Foo

      .

      • piratemike

        You know what all of us armchair GM’s know… diddly….I’m reminded everytime the Pirates win and I wonder “how the hell did that just happen”.
        .
        I’ll be honest I don’t know if Huntington is just lucky or good or both.
        We shall see. I’m hoping for the latter.

  • NorCal Buc

    I believe that Mr Nutting would NEVER cut ties with this F/O, ever since this team saw improvement in wins during the past three years (Clint Hurdle’s reign).

    Only in the land of “the squabbling heads” were these jobs endangered.

    I’ve been a “homer” for NH ever since he traded away the soon-to-be-free-agents Bay, Nady, WIlson, Freddie. I soon became a cheer-leader for The Young Core (Tabata, Cutch, Walker and Pedro), and was continuously ripped on the CBS Sportsline site because I was such a believer in NH.

    I also KNEW it would take a lot of TIME and PATIENCE. The Young Core needed time to mature. NH needed time to augment from outside the system.

    We HAD to loose > 100 games, because it meant we were playing the young guys.

    NH was simply following the plan set out by MINN, OAK, TB, CIN, MIL and even MIA and WASH (parallel to our improvement now). If it worked there, it would work here.

    Now, I say it again, it is imperative that we allow Tabata and Snider more time to allow their performance to match their skill set.

    As Mickey Dolan sang during my youth,

    “And now I saw ‘his’ face, and now I’m a Believer – - – not a trace of doubt in my mind …. ohh YEAH !”

    • BostonsCommon

      You had me up until Snider…

    • emjayinTN

      But, you were just NoCal on that CBS Site, and now you have added an rrrrrrrr to that to become NorCal. Folks supporting NH on that site took a verbal beating every day. jalcorn was also on that site – j was the person who recommended this site and I have been here ever since. I agree that the Pirates had a few other team patterns to watch, but they went well beyond anything that had ever been done before, and re-built our minors in record time. Because of their aggressiveness, MLB changed the rules, so that pattern can never be implemented by any other team. But, the GM for TB is still the best – he has traded Scott Kazmir in 2010, Matt Garza before the 2011 season, and James Shields and Wade Davis before the 2013 season – all for key prospects who keep the machine running.

  • steve19981

    I think people were and are presupposing that this was the last straw for NH. “If the team struggled again, he would be fired” is what I’m hearing, but I don’t think I’ve heard anything from upper management to make it seem like a pressure situation. What I heard was a semi endorsement from Nutting that was then twisted by the local sports media to mean that he was on the hot seat, because the endorsement wasn’t strong enough.

    I have no doubt that heads would have rolled at the end of this season if the Pirates struggled again. Stark, Smith and a hand full of scouts would have gotten axed, but I really believe that NH behaved like there was no pressure on his job because the perceived pressure on his job was mostly artificial.

  • MaineBucs

    About 2 months ago I made a long post on another message board about how NH should be the clear favorite to be selected GM of the year because so many of his decisions this past off-season are paying huge dividends to the Pirates.

    Farm system has both top end talent and depth, including players who have helped this year, who will be available to help next year, and in the years to come.

    His free agent signings of Martin and Liriano may become legendary if the Pirates continue to win.

    His larger trade acquisitions in the past 1.5 years have paid real dividends; Burnett and Melancon in particular, and also Sanchez, Rodriguez and lesser deals for players like Mazarro and Gomez.

    He built a pitching staff that could not only sustain but prosper despite needing to dig as deep as your number 13 starter through the first 70 games of the season.

    I am glad to see that NH is now getting props. Good for him. But more importantly, good for the state of the Pirate franchise. We are now not only on the verge of the first winning season since 92, but our first play-off appearance in the same span. It doesn’t appear that the team is going to limp into a 4 win gain over last year (after the collapse) and finish with a slightly better record and beating the misery of sub-500; the Pirates are going to finish with a very stellar record.

    And now, NH, perhaps your final lesson. Since you have arrived you have had an almost maniacal fascination with old underperforming reserve infielders who you believe will actually add value to the team. There have been so many of them I can’t even remember them all. This year it was McDonald and Inge. In the past it was players like Crosby and Vasquez. You horded them like gold and you were reluctant to part with any of them.

    NH — Mercer has been a real asset this year and could have been a better used asset last year. Similarly, while Harrison has weaknesses, he has much greater value than either an Inge or McDonald. Further, Dejesus who you picked up as a throw-in in the Hanrahan deal likely has greater value at the major league level than either McDonald or Inge

    So NH — I will be watching every game the remainder of this season and enjoying the team that you have helped to create. Thank you.

    But, I also will be watching this off-season to see if you have finally exorcised the demon from your playbook that states you need a veteran infielder who can’t hit and who really can’t play defense as well as they used to as part of the team, and in some cases, wanting even two of them on the same team.

    I enjoyed the runs in 2011 and 2012, but 2013 looks like it is going to be really special.

    • http://www.facebook.com/adrian.carnelutti Adrian Carnelutti

      If the only mistakes NH makes in the future are with the 24, 25 men on roster I will be more than happy. As it was shown this year these mistakes are easy and cheap to get rid off, unlike the 10yr $200 million flops of other general mangers which hang around to weigh down their teams for years.
      I also think that we need to sign this years coaches on for a 2-3 yr contacts. I believe the coaching improved the team both pitching and fielding and wonder how long a wealthy looks at the work that Ray Searage has down with the pitchers and decides to poach him away.
      A big away series coming up. Go BUCS

  • leadoff

    IMO, Huntington has a plan, no I do not believe he is following anybody’s model, I don’t even believe he is following the plan he and the rest of the Pirate management originally set up. I believe the change in the draft has him changing his direction a little bit, I believe their financial situation has him changing his plan a little bit, they have adjusted the plan as they have gone along and that to me is where they have done a fabulous job. The Royals have also changed their plan a little and it will work for them if they stick to it, just might take a little longer than the Pirates, but it will work.
    In 2009 the Pirates don’t make a deal for Burnett, that team was not ready for that type of deal, timing on the Pirate moves has also been amazing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

      NH’s original plan was to gut the MLB roster and then stock up on amateur talent in the minors. This was his plan from day one: access the MLB talent then purge those who are not part of the long term plan, which was pretty much everyone. NH knew, and we all knew, that the Pirates would struggle initially. Since the bottoming out the whole franchise has risen slowly from laughing stock to contender… slow and steady, the way it should be.
      .
      The Royals, however, tried the same thing and have failed. Not because of the plan, but because the the stellar talent they aquired just didnt pan out. This is why Moore traded for Shields; they had absolutely no pitching. Nearly all of the Royals’ “cant miss” talent missed. As much as Royals fans would love Myers in their outfield, I really dont blame Moore for the trade. Shields is very very good.

  • stickyweb

    Great article Tim.

    Who could have imagined that one of the best running gags for the last few years, “The Best Management Team in Baseball” would actually become true, at least for a while. Let’s hope NH can keep the mojo going for years to come.

  • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

    Heartsick as I was about the second collapse, I felt Huntington should have been given this year and should not have been sacked last year. Anyone who looked realistically at our pitching improvement from 2011 to 2012, could see the difference, not to mention the guys bubbling beneath the surface.

  • Nickmid13

    I don’t want to take anything away from what NH has done, and I might be misremembering this, but didn’t the Pirates hire some sort of front office consultant/advisor a couple years ago? I wonder what his impact has been since arriving IF I didn’t just make him up.

  • NorCal Buc

    emjayi ~ ~ You remember the days when ” jlesh” and “dadioman” would excoriate you and I and others who could see the light through the dark; meaning, we saw a method in the madness.

    Now, we are in the light, baby ! !

    NH and FC have methodically rebuilt this entire franchise, from the GCL to Cutch and Crew. And, you are right, “MJ”, that the TB GM is a shinning example of the process that NH might follow when the contracts near their end (Pedro? ?), and a slew of talent may be had in a trade.

  • CalipariFan506

    I have always been a pretty staunch NH supporter and it’s great to see the plan really taking off.

    Hurdle has been the guy that has felt my wrath in recent years. But IMO NH has given him so many quality options in the bullpen that his mismanagement doesn’t matter like it has the past two seasons.

    • CalipariFan506

      To elaborate a little bit on this, late last season during the free fall guys like Wilson and Morris were ready to roll. But Hurdle stubbornly stuck with Hughes and Grilli to cost us numerous games.

      Also Hurdle has stuck with the strict Jones platoon for once. I don’t even think he has 20 AB vs lefties when in years past he was always around 100 or so. Things like that he deserves some credit for.

  • IC Bob

    What a love fest for NH. I have always liked the plan I have not always liked the execution. No doubt this year the plan has come together. NH will and should be executive of the year. I would have like a new bat at the deadline and would have loved getting Rios (gone to Texas today for a bag of balls). That said when everything is going right it would be foolish for more to question the deals that didn’t get done.

    I do wonder though what are we going to do with the additional salary money that will be available to the team next year through the new TV contract. I am hearing the Bucs will have an additional 20-25 million to spend and really other then Pedro and AJ nothing to spend it on internally. Who is the big FA the Bucs pick up in the off season (or what trade do they make)?

  • Still City Kid

    I can honestly say that I’ve supported NH from the very beginning.I loved the Nate McClouth trade at the time, and remember listening to everybody back then acting like we were SO close to contending and they just traded Barry Bonds for a bag of balls, because he was an “All Star”. Cam Bonifay and Dave LIttlefield left this orginazation in such disarray that only way to fix it was to start from the ground up, and when you’re a small market team that hasn’t been competitive in decades, trying to compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox, that is your only option. I watched the Devil Rays turn into Rays, and they gave me hope and showed what the blueprint was. We had to be patient and that patience is now finally paying off as the team is now built on it’s draft picks, Littlefield’s pick of Cutch (every squirrel finds a nut right?) and shrewd moves by NH in free agency in trades. All of sudden, in what is a relatively very short period of time, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in the majors and the top farm system in baseball. You can’t fix things like this over night, and when you try you compromise the future. I say bravo to NH for following the plan no matter the pressure coming from the outside.

  • Still City Kid

    I’d also like to point as a staunch supporter of the rebuilding process that I, and I’m sure everybody else reading this, have come across a lot of Pirates “fans” who seemed to want to see the front office fail more than they wanted to see the team succeed, and incredibly there are still “fans” out there in denial to this day. So on behalf of all the real fans out there I’d like to give all those people a big F- YOU!

  • CalipariFan506

    What the Pirates can do with the additional money is to continue paying down the enormous debt the franchise has been under since the 1990s.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

      I believe the FO has already gotten the Bucs “in the black”.

  • CalipariFan506

    White Angus, nobody knows the real answer to that. But as of 2010 the franchise was $120 million in debt. In the black on a year to year basis just helps curb that huge debt so the Pirates stay ahead of the MLB debt cap. That’s why Ramirez was traded in 2003. McClatchy/Nutting were going to lose the team to MLB like Montreal did.

    • IC Bob

      Why are you focused on the debt the Pirates have? They made more money over the last 5 years then more then 1/2 the franchises. The franchise is very profitable and the value of the team has soared. Its time to roll some of the money back in thus maintaining the value. Lets see if this ownership does that.

  • CalipariFan506

    Because all it takes is a MLB financial collapse to make a giant mess. We don’t have the market size or local tv revenue to make it up.