Bob Nutting on the 2014 Pirates, TV Deals, Prospects and Trade Deadline

Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting met with the team and coaches today, discussing his expectations. After the meeting he met with the media to discuss his conversation with the players, along with other topics.

“It is different this year,” Nutting said on the team meeting. “As we’re talking about the level of expectation…we’ve achieved so much as an organization, we’re in a stronger place than we’ve been, but we need to be moving forward. We need to get better. We can’t be satisfied. Every team in the league, every team in baseball is now aware of us and pushing forward, and I think this is a group that understands that and is ready to move forward.”

Nutting also added that he shared with the players the importance of having appreciation and respect for the fans of the city of Pittsburgh.

“The response the city had to the players and to the team last summer really reemphasized to me our responsibility and the player’s responsibility to perform, and to give every day, every inning, every at-bat,” Nutting said.

The National TV deal has been a big topic this off-season, with new revenues coming to each team. The numbers have been mixed, depending on what source you turn to. The Pirates haven’t seen a big increase in spending this off-season, despite the new revenues.

“What we’re doing, as we always have done and will do, is we’re going to focus on building the team the right way,” Nutting said. “We’re going to focus on the resources that we know that we have, and we’re going to make sure that we’re focused on total dollars, but how do we really invest effectively so that we’re getting the right mix of our development system. The right mix of talent coming into the organization, and a real commitment to make sure that the 2014 team knows they’re our top priority and we need to perform when in Pittsburgh.”

Nutting did add that MLB is holding back some of the reported revenues to allocate that to other places, such as streaming rights. This has been reported by other outlets as well, which means teams won’t be getting close to the $25-27 M each year.

He was asked about whether he was satisfied with the off-season, but focused on the positives that came out of the off-season in regards to the strength of the farm system.

“I think one of the most exciting things that came out of the off-season, depending on who you look at, Baseball America, the ranking of anywhere from number one to number three in farm systems,” Nutting said. “Depth of talent inside the organization. And that’s really the source of talent that’s going to sustain and build on, and continue to allow us to improve as Pittsburgh Pirates.”

The focus on internal development and the farm system was a common theme in the meeting with the media. Nutting noted that the team needed to respect the process that has gotten them to this point. He also noted that a first round draft pick is a meaningful source of talent for a team like the Pirates, which means they would be cautious in giving that up for a free agent like Kendrys Morales, who would require compensation.

“I am very enthusiastic about the team that we have to put on the field,” Nutting said. “Very enthusiastic about the rotation. Were there some areas where we talked about being able to build and supplement, whether it’s right field or first base? Absolutely. Are we in a strong position to go out and put a team that I have faith is not only going to compete, but can excel in 2014? Absolutely. I hope we’re never satisfied, but I’m very enthusiastic about where we are.”

Nutting did mention that they would continue to seek deals at the trade deadline, and said that the team would prefer to give up cash, rather than prospects, which is an approach they’ve taken in the past.

“There’s no question that it is easier, and more impactful, especially at the trading deadline, to write an extra check, rather than give up prospects,” Nutting said

When asked about whether there was any movement toward an extension for Clint Hurdle or Neal Huntington — both are under team control through the 2015 season — Nutting said that he hopes both will be with the organization for a long time, but didn’t say that there were any discussions on a deal at this point.

“I think what’s important to me is that they understand, and the organization understands that they’ve been critical pieces in getting us here, and my expectation is they’re going to be critically important pieces as we move forward to the future,” Nutting said on Hurdle and Huntington.

Nutting’s message was heavy on needing to build from within. He gave positive reviews on the 2014 team, which is something you’d expect him to say. As for the overall message, he said that the “single-minded focus” was bringing a championship to Pittsburgh.

“We’re committed to improving upon a great year last year, but moving beyond that for 2014 and on in the future,” Nutting said. “We expect, and the fans deserve for us to bring a championship to Pittsburgh. That’s what we’ve been working on for years, and that’s what continues to be the single-minded focus.”


  • Bucco Boyd 1979
    February 19, 2014 4:48 pm

    Brian, I agree wholeheartedly with you. While I admire and agree with the scout, draft, sign, and develop plan that Bob Nutting, Frank Coonley, and Neal Huntington have implemented, and I am exceedingly enthused at the potential of the organization at this point, at some juncture, ownership is going to have to pony up the money to retain the homegrown talent so that the team can attain and maintain long-term, competitive staying power. Otherwise, the whole plan is for naught.

    I am fervently hoping that the Pirates not retaining A.J., Byrd, and Morneau, not signing James Loney, as well as some other free agents from recent years past, will be a sign that they will be able to appropriate that money to retain Marte, along with Cole, Taillon, and Polanco, provided they pan out as advertised, along with the many other prospects that are currently in the system and ready to burst onto the M.L.B. scene.

    • I’m not so sure I agree about the need to extend our current stars and, to some extent, I think not doing so could be the answer to the dilemma of trying to rebuild an increasingly successful with correspondingly lower draft picks.

      Was extending Cutch once a good idea? Absolutely, because he was still young enough to assure he’d remain a Pirate as the replacement talent worked its way through the pipeline. It was a win-win situation because we keep the face of the franchise around long enough to play a key role in the first few years of the dynasty we think we’re building but he’s still able to declare free agency in his year-30 season, with enough good years ahead of him to still deserve the blockbuster contract someone else will surely give him.

      And just before that day arrives, the Pirates can trade him for a king’s ransom of young prospects. Ditto for Pedro, who wants to be a Yankee and whose agent, Mr. Boras, would never let him sign an extension anyway.

      Who’s next after that? Marte? Cole? That’s how Tampa handles its players. Sign ’em young if you can, but if you can’t, trade ’em for prospects. Keep the conga line moving.

      Like it or not, the Pirates will never have enough money to keep its stars in Pittsburgh for their entire careers. But in some ways, that’s a good thing because it forces the team to trade them for the next generation of superstars.

      You’re right, years of picking at the end of the draft will inevitably thin out your talent supply. But we’ll be supplementing those picks with more prospects we acquire in exchange for our departing superstars.

      Add to that the few gems you uncover in Latin America and by executing a few judicious trades and under-the-radar free agent signings like Liriano, and it’s theoretically possible to keep the talent pool filled indefinitely.

    • Bucco Boyd 1979, articulate comment but I disagree with your basic premise. The heart of a baseball team is their 8 position player starters, the 5 starting pitchers and top two relievers, a total of fifteen players. The span of control without contract extension is six years. So when the players service start times are evenly distributed you need to replace 2.5 players per year to maintain your quality of play without extending anyone. So what you need is for your #1 draft choice to work out, and your top International signing to work out each year and one other player to emerge every other year. That isn’t an unreasonable expectation to make. Sure some 1’s won’t work out but you’ll find “surprises” like a Kingham or a Glasnow from lower rounds who will step up. Plus if you trade your aging stars for a high return of multiple promising farmhands from other systems your chances of sustainable success improve even more.

      It’s not as if the other 10 players don’t matter, but you could expect to find capable bench players from your #2 draftees or international signings.

      Of course “holes” will emerge from year to year, but that is where the depth of the farm system bails you out. You can trade a Dilson Herrera for a Marlon Byrd when needed. The Pirates aren’t where they need to be with the depth of their farm system yet. But if they stay true to their present course in about two to three years they will be. The only thing that could stop them is if they panic and adopt your philosophy. I am encouraged that Nutting seems like a sensible guy. He may have the fortitude to stick by his guns and create a dynasty of Pirate performance based on young talent emerging from the farm system. Let’s hope so!

  • Was there any discussion about selling a ski slope and putting the proceeds into the Pirates payroll?

  • The Masked robshelb
    February 19, 2014 2:59 pm


    Sounds like basic boiler-plate. Which is okay, I guess.

    Did anyone bring up the topic of an over-crowded bullpen with lots of good RP’s, many of whom are running out of options (if they haven’t already).

    Instead of “What do you expect of the team this year ??”

    “I expect them to get better.”

    (Well, duh . . .)

    It would have been more newsworthy if Mr. Nutting had been asked, and had responded to, more of the specific situations currently facing the ball club.

    Then again, otoh, he may not be prepared right now to discuss those items in public.

    Can we all spell “Pretty-Much-A-Non-Event” ??

    • Ironically, the relief pitcher question was asked to Hurdle today, and he didn’t answer, saying it’s too early to be talking about that.

      Basically this is a question for Hurdle, and not Nutting.

      • The Masked robshelb
        February 19, 2014 7:08 pm


        Mr. Williams,

        You know what ‘they’ always say —

        You can never have too much pitching . . . Until you have too much pitching.

        I know in some quarters (e.g. Tom Smith) there’s talk, or at least a possible suggestion, to trade one of two of our RP’s for a young, talented prospect (from somewhere).

        (And I might add, or for Ike Davis ??)

        In either case, that sure doesn’t sound like an outlandish proposition, especially for a team that’s in a use-’em-or-lose-’em mode.

        It’s interesting to know that Mr. Hurdle is currently dodging the question. That’s excellent sports reporting !!

        Something may be afoot ??? Or do you think he’s just waiting to see if anyone really flubs up in ST. (Which doesn’t seem to be a wise course of action, because their trade value would consequently be diminished.)


  • I’d like to think that most of us would be realistic in that only building a team through the draft is unlikely to be sustainable.
    Success in itself hurts your position to do just that, and rules are becoming more strict for international talent, and other leagues are now producing and selling talent to the highest bidder (Korea and Japan). I expect this to continue and possibly become an industry to itself.
    Nutting at some point must address the ability to sign those developed internally at least to longer term deals. The McCutchen deal was a lucky situation. Wait one year too long and he would have been likely unaffordable and other teams are now locking up their young players (Freeman ex) to huge deals. You know the young players we have are watching.
    A financial reckoning will occur and Nutting has to speak to that at some point.

    • Brian, I’d like to think that everybody would realize that this team and “the process” is a combination of drafting/international signings, free agents and trade acquisitions. As a matter of fact, many would be surprised how few on the expected 25 man roster were actually drafted by the Bucs. Let’s take a look.

      DRAFTEES (7):
      Cole, Wilson, Watson, Pedro, Mercer, Walker, Cutch

      Jeanmar, Mazarro, Melancon, Morton, Pimentel, Wandy, Stewart, JHay, Gaby, Lambo, Snider, Tabata

      FREE AGENTS (5):
      Grilli, Liriano, Volquez, Martin, Barmes


      So it seems a little foolish to assume an entire team would be built through the draft when barely 1/4 of the current roster has been aquired that way, eactly 1/5 were signed as free agents and almost half were acquired in trades. Yes that draft % (and moreso the intl signing %) will go up in the next few years as some of the top prospects graduate, but many of those are top prospects in the entire game, so why exactly should it be a bad thing to add them? Especially when you consider free agency is the least efficient method to aquire talent.

      So let’s agree that sticking to “the process” involves key acquisitions via trades and low to medium cost free agents and just eliminate the allure of overspending for high priced free agents, no matter how much better one of those FA’s might make some fans feel in mid Feb.

      Kendrys isn’t worth a draft pick and big contract. Loney wasn’t worth any more than the Bucs offered. Many mourn the loss of AJ, but I still think the Pirates felt his routine got real old, real fast at the end of the season. And if there’s any place they have depth to cover, it’s in the rotation. Hell, I thought if they signed AJ, they should trade Liriano this off season. Remember how important those trade acquisitions can be!

      I agree completely that the Bucs should commit most of the future increase in payroll to their own internal candidiates. As you point out, that’s very difficult to time perfectly and many other teams are starting to think this is the best way to invest, so the prices are going up there too. And this is only worthwhile for a select few players (i.e. definitely Cutch, not Walker or Pedro, maybe Marte and Polanco)

    • Brian,while I agree with you in the main,other orginizations study one otherhighly successful organization more than any other. See how the Cardinals do it.

  • Loved the “heavy on needing to build from within”. Combine that with the “high payroll does not necessarily mean playoff team” and I am buying what he is selling!

    • If any of the critics of Nutting’s spending would read how the Angels are now trying to rebuild their organization’s developmental system, they might realize where a lot of those ” millions in profits ” were going the past 5 to 7 years.

    • r u aware that no team has won a world series with a payroll in the BOTTOM 1/3….

      • R U aware of just how barren this organization was when the current front office people came in ? Apparently not. And, it also apparent to me that you don’t have a clue as to how much money ANY organization has to spend to re-build their prospect roster to at least become competitive. Also,I do not need a lecture on payroll spending and its relationship to winning a World Series. When I do,I ‘ll give you a call Sanchez. But why do I need you when I only have to go to Smizik’s Blog to read that sort of stupidity ?

  • Nutting’s proclivity to ask and then answer a question to himself in one sentence makes me believe he’s got a photo of Donald Rumsfeld on his desk.

    • I come hear to read about baseball and the Pirates in particular not about your leftist bs.

      • Rumsfeld did do exactly that though, and did it frequently. So it’s a pretty humorous reference and well played, IMO.

        Now, onto Nutting…

        “Nutting noted that the team needed to respect the process that has gotten them to this point.”

        Reading between the lines on that comment would indicate to me that at least some of the players have asked why the Pirates didn’t do anything of import this offseason – and given Nutting’s precise wording, I’d imagine those players weren’t complimentary of the FOs stand-pat strategy.

      • Would it be indelicate to refer to the part about you reading as a bit of an upset?

    • Cato the Elder
      February 19, 2014 3:00 pm

      Comrade, I come here to read leftist propaganda – in particular the proletariat’s struggle to wrest control of the means of production – not about the evil capitalist Bob Nutting’s (ahem) proclivities. đŸ˜‰