This morning on MLB Network, Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington was a guest on Hot Stove and had some interesting comments on the Pirates off-season plans, including their back-up plan if catcher Russell Martin doesn’t re-sign with the club. Below are some excerpts from the interview, which focused on the plan of attack this winter. Huntington is currently in Arizona attending the GM meetings.

The biggest revelation might answer some of the speculation as to whether the Pirates would feel comfortable going with a Chris Stewart/Tony Sanchez combo behind the plate in 2015 if Martin doesn’t sign. Huntington had this to say about re-signing Martin and their plan if they don’t:

“We recognize his impact that [Martin] has had over the last two years. Premium defensive catcher, leader, energy everyday and this year he went out and swung the bat as well as he has in a long time in his career. He had earned the opportunity to get to free agency and see what is out there for him. We are going to do everything we can that makes sense. It’s not just about retaining one player, it’s about building a championship club and sometimes the small markets have to let players go and sometimes large markets let players go because other teams are willing to pay more. If that happens, we will regroup, we will go acquire the best available catcher we can and then reallocate those resources to try to make the rest of our club stronger and try to get back to the postseason in 2015.”

From the sound of that quote, it doesn’t seem like the Pirates are looking at a Stewart/Sanchez combo in 2015 if Martin signs elsewhere. It’s clear that Martin is plan A for the right price, but plan B is someone outside the organization. That plan B would likely be someone who possesses strong defensive qualities, based on the signing of Martin and the acquisition of Stewart, both of whom struggled offensively before joining the Pirates, but were known for their pitch framing skills and ability to control the running game.

Huntington also talked about the possibility of bringing back Francisco Liriano and/or Edison Volquez. Again it sounds like they will be signed if the price is right, but if they have to move on, the feel comfortable in their ability to find a player they can turn around like they did with Volquez, Liriano and A.J. Burnett. You could also throw Vance Worley in there to a lesser extent. Huntington obviously learned something from the negotiations with Burnett last year and how they played out, which he feels may have cost him a chance to add a bat during the off-season, instead of waiting until mid-April when they got Ike Davis.

“We have to make sure we pay players for what we think they are going to do. We look at their projections, we look at our scouting reports. How many years do we think this player is going to continue to be productive,and then ultimately preference them out. Hopefully they fall in our order and if they don’t we are going to have to make some tough decisions. When do we move on, even if we don’t know necessarily if a player is going to come back. We can’t play the waiting game, we don’t want to get caught waiting for a player or two and have that player decide to go somewhere else late and we missed alternatives. We did that a year ago with A.J., we really wanted to keep A.J. around. He was not in a position to make a commitment to us in December, we went and got Edison Volquez. We wanted to spend some money at first base and right field, that never came about.”

The three free agents are all in play still, but it sounds like the Pirates aren’t relying on any of them to sign, which is obviously a smart plan. You don’t want to wait on anyone and lose your fallback plans in the process as well. If they go elsewhere, the money will be reallocated elsewhere (something he said twice during the interview) and while the catching might not be as strong without Martin, or the rotation with starters other than Volquez, and/or Liriano, the plan is to improve multiple areas to make the team stronger. Obviously, their direction will play out in the next couple months.

IMPORTANT: You will need to update your password after the switch to the new server in order to log in and comment. Go to the Password Reset Page to change your password.

46 COMMENTS

  1. I think the Cubs will want to fleece the Pirates for Castillo – if the Cubs signed Martin. If the Cubs don’t sign Martin, Castillo isn’t going anywhere.

    How about Gattis from the Braves? Is he just a power hitter, or is he also a good defensive catcher? Braves have Betancourt, so Gattis may be available if the price is right. As for free agent catchers, Hundley may be best available.

    I shudder to think we would have a combination of Stewart and Sanchez – I was hoping the team would actually give Diaz a real shot at the job.

  2. There are those who do not like huntington, I am not one of them. I think he has done a great job as the pirates gm given the constraints placed on him by ownership as well as mlb bias towards the big market teams. Either way like him or not, the fact that the pirates have been a playoff team the last two years speaks for itself. For those of us that lived through 20 years of losing to finally be a winning organization is a welcome relief. Here’s to 20 years of competitive winning baseball ( I hope)

  3. How far away is Diaz? And what else does he need to work on??
    I guess that’s the real question. Is he a mid-season call-up or not until September.

    This is why I love the idea of picking up, you guessed it!!, Geovany Soto. He won’t cost a lot. A Soto/Stewart combo makes me feel a lot better than a Stewart/Sanchez.

    And the beauty of it, if Soto shows he’s healthy for a whole half year (I know, big question mark), then you deal him (a healthy Soto would probably fetch at least something near the trade deadline to a team that has lost its catcher or has a struggling one) when Diaz is ready and go with a Diaz/Stewart combo. If Soto’s injuries continue to haunt him, you cut him loose when Sanchez or Diaz are ready.

    He’s a good, cheap, short-term addition to the team, allowing it to go after addressing 1B starter/3B back-up/SP needs.

    • His glove is ready. Baseball America said he had the best catcher defense in the loaded Eastern League. Then he’s been getting rave reviews from all the AFL scouts on his defense and handling of pitchers.

      The key is if he’s ready on offense. He’s still pretty young too.

    • Making deals at the deadline is far harder than many make it seem. i get the logic, but the reality is even if Soto does play well finding a team with a need that is interested in tough, and thats before being able to come to terms with a price that both sides like. I like Soto, but not with the idea that we trade him mid year and give the spot to a rookie with 0 experience. That doesnt seem like a team really going for a division title.

  4. Could we see Neal making offers sooner rather than later? He cannot let this drag out and miss on other opportunities, Hank Conger has already changed teams. We may get an idea if he makes a move at catcher before Martin is officially signed elsewhere. Same with Frankie and Eddie. I hope he is proactive and not reactive.

  5. Couple of things look like they are going to happen sooner rather than later.
    1.The Pirates will go outside the organization for a catcher if Martin signs with some else.
    2.The Pirates will address their 1st base problem sooner rather than later.
    3.The Pirates will address their pitching needs sooner rather than later.
    The question is how long do they wait for these guys, Martin could drag this out for a long time, same with Volquez or Liriano.

    It would appear to me that everything they do has to do with whether and how fast they the moves with Martin, Volquez and Liriano happen, even the 1st base situation is on hold.

    • I agree they need to move with a purpose this year. MH seemed to have learned from last year with AJ. I’ve been in favor of going to Martin and saying “look this is the very best we can do for you” whatever that is. Either he takes it or he doesn’t. then move on. Someone is going to give him a McCann type deal. There are enough teams out there that want him for that to happen. Get your 1st baseman, talk to Liriano (forget Volquez) And then get yourself another starter in FA. Find your D only catcher and make sure you make up for his offense in you 1st baseman. But get moving on it.

  6. If projections are correct I am all for signing Liriano for three years and 36 million. Much more so then EV for 3 years and 32 million. Also I would love a trade of Alvarez for a starter. That said I am not sure what good starters anyone would give us. As for replacing Martin, its not going to happen. He was to valuable to us. So I certainly would expect to see a major upgrade at 1B.

    • I think the only reason Eddy’s projection is up w Freddie’s is the draft pick… 75 is more than 36 , but I say again the word is value… No clue what we could expect from Freddie and thats if we assume he stays healthy. Russ will not lose the ability to frame , call or handle.. Not even at age 50. $36m will give us so much wammy protection… big money big money.. STOP… One or 2 of the low risk fliers WILL hit , such is the track record now in Pitt.

  7. Options

    If the Dodgers sign Martin, we go get A.J. Ellis from them. Should be doable for a reliever or a promising arm.

    If the Cubs sign Martin, we go get Wellington Castillo – again, should be doable.

    I am also in favor of investigating Yasmani Grandal from the Padres, Susac from the Giants, J.R. Murphy or even Cervelli from the Yankees.

    But I have not given up hope. After all we can still sign Russell and trade hm down the road when one of the young C’s is ready but before his contract becomes an albatross. Maybe front-load the contract a little – $18, $16.5, $15, $13.5, $12 million to make that more palatable to future trade partners.

    • I agree about Murphy.. The Yankees have a mental illness that prevents them from waiting for a player to develop, so he may be had. I also hold hope for Russ… However, there is no easy soft way there. The rest of the leagues GM’s are pretty smart too. We will simply need to be willing to conceded offensive production on the back half of Russ’ deal.

    • Doesn’t really make sense for Tampa Bay to pick up a potentially expensive slugger without a position and only 2 years remaining on their deal. I’d love to get Hellickson though.

  8. Could we pry Christian Walker away from Baltimore? They have Chris Davis and Steve Pearce.
    What about Andrew Susac from the Giants? They have, ya know, Buster Posey.

    • The Giants do have Buster Posey, but he only caught about 3/4 of the time this season with talk of eventually moving him off the position in the future.

      I think a more likely target would be Brandon Belt.

        • Everyone of those names sounds like giving something up to trade our dice for a pair that looks shinier at the next crap table…

            • Maybe not the headiest analogy on my part …. lol… Our dice are Pedro and Ike….Forget Gaby , Snake Eyes… The others are , yes , Belt.. Yonder Alonso ? Really? He is the lefty Gaby.. How can we salvage something that never floated? As far as Belt or the Oriole prospect… You nailed it.. I doubt the Giants are looking to part with Belt. I dont thing Pearce is going back to Baltimore this year and they are not betting on resigning Boras client Davis either. I feel like its unlikely that one of our lefties (Pedro , Ike ) don’t put it all together very soon.

        • Only way they move Belt is if they plan on Posey being at least 50% 1B next year, which seems unlikely. Belt is needed for them until they fully move Posey.

    • NS: Andrew Susac/Elias Diaz – do you see Susac as a better Catcher? I do not know much about Susac, but they are both 24, and it looks like Diaz was the better through AA. Susac does have 60+ games experience at AAA, but nothing outstanding. Diaz did very well in Hi A the latter part of 2013, and even better this year for almost a full season at AA.

      Aside to NMR – Posey actually started 139 games this year at Catcher; Susac started 20 games

  9. Cue the haters preaching Nutting is cheap and Huntington is a fool.
    No way Pirates will, or should, pay 5/$75m for Martin. They have Diaz in AAA who very well could be the next Russell Martin and McGuire in a few years. Just need a short-term option to bridge gap for 2015.
    Now if Liriano signs elsewhere for 3/$36m or so, then I will be disappointed Pirates didn’t keep him.

    • SK: Since when do they need a cue? I agree 100% that 5/$75 is too much, and it would be better in the long run to just start looking now. However, Elias Diaz has not taken a backward step in the AFL defensively, and he is putting the ball in play. I too think he could be the next Russell Martin in the making, but does that mean he has to go to AAA to play in 2015? He is 24 now and had an excellent year at AA. Gambles are brought about by need – most often a gamble will fail, but almost just as often, a kid who proves himself at AAA may not be able to cut it in MLB. There are teams in the majors where this kid would already have been with the big club.

    • Dont be disappointed.. Buy in all the way… The word is “VALUE”… No way Frankie gets 3 healthy and productive seasons like the 2 we got.. Trust they will take those same funds and turn it into multiple equal successes and values as we got w Frankie and maybe even Volquez too.

  10. I watched the NH interview. I thought he said they would back fill the best they could at catcher. I don’t remember him saying they would acquire a catcher. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just watched it.

      • Earlier in the interview, he said “There is no question if we lose Russell Martin we are going to have to do the best we can to back-fill there and then reallocate the dollars we would have spent on him somewhere else to help the club grow and help the club continue to get better.” Then when asked specifically about Martin and not just free agents in general, he said the quote above in the article, which is word for word transcribed

        • As far as the FA market, I don’t see anyone worth having that can contribute more than a Stewart/Sanchez combo. I’m an advocate for “allocating those resources elsewhere”. I cannot help but wonder if he’ll listen to Cutch who sees the biggest need as an everyday 1B. That might be going full-bore toward LaRoche at FA… or making a trade.

          Who knows? if anything, Huntington has proven to be unpredictable.. but his decision-making has been solid.

          • I agree. I think Neil was saying he would search for a trade partner , but I think talk is cheap , and Neil believes just what you do. Less Sanchez… He is not a ML catcher.. Stewart/ Ross , or who ever next year…

          • JH

            Agree with you about Stewart/ Sanchez. I think that works and opens up a path for the younger catcher.

            Disagree with the free agent first base player. You don’t bring in LaRoche while you still have Alvarez, Davis and Gabby.

            Ike and Gabby have to go and Pedro has to play every day at first to rebuild his value. It is not like NH to just bail on such a high upside player as Pedro. When he’s on, he can be fierce. And – one day – he’s going to have to figure out a strategy against a lefty. It might as well be with us.

            I think if Pedro plays every day at first, he figures it out. And once the guy gets comfortable, he’ll be fine. Thing is, Pedro doesn’t have to over-swing to produce home runs. If he just gets a consistent contact approach, he will be everything and more that the Bucs have always needed at first.

            Anybody know Ike and Gabby’s contract status? Are they trade chips, arbitration eligible or options to be simply cut? I don’t see the latter. NH will try to get something for those guys.

            ——————————————–
            “Trout! Trout! Pretty little trout! Come on in and splash about! Splash about, ya all know how! Come on out with a big fat sow!”
            -Wabbit

            • Reply to self: seeing that Gaby and Ike are both arb eligible this season. Looks like we’re going to be in a trade situation…

              -BB

              • I was hearing about a month ago the Marlins were interested in Ike. I personally don’t see a place for Ike anymore with Lambo developing and the Pedro 1B experiment happening.

                I have a personal bias, indeed, and am over Pedro. Too many times I feel like he is “getting” it, then it’s like he forgets the strike zone again. He was hitting the ball to left-center more late in the season and not seeming to try to pull EVERYTHING. But the past couple of years, he’s had a good August and September — then comes back in April and looks like he’s made no progress at all. I would love to be wrong and have Pedro fulfill his potential.

                You’re probably right. They’ll open with Pedro at 1B, and a chance to play everyday there. I hope he finally hits his potential and that 2013 wasn’t a career year. Without going the FA or trade route, there doesn’t seem to be any help soon with an everyday guy there. Josh Bell certainly is doing nothing to fast-track himself to the big-league club at the position. Would love to have his switch-hitting with some power… but that’s not happening in the next year, at least.

        • I don’t necessarily take NH’s comments to mean that he will bring in an MLB starter. Could mean that he backfills with a AAA backup behind Diaz and will rely on Stewart and Sanchez at the MLB level. To bring in an MLB catcher if Stewart is already signed would be to essentially give up on Sanchez, since Diaz is most likely only a year away from MLB ready. I just don’t see NH giving up on Sanchez since he signed him as the #1 as a controversial stretch signing. It’s true that Sanchez’s 2014 was a rotten year, but does that ruin his career? Nah.

  11. It makes a lot of sense to have Sanchez as the 3rd catcher in AAA. Stewart is a fine part time starter or backup.

    Catching depth won us a lot of games the last two years and Elias needs to catch everyday and not be a ML backup if an injury would happen.

    • The only problem is that with Sanchez at AAA, Diaz wouldn’t catch every day. At least, I can’t imagine that Sanchez would be a backup in Indy. Could be wrong though.

      • I think it’s the opposite. If Diaz has truly passed Sanchez, I think that Diaz gets most of the playing time with Sanchez having to find places to play. Don’t forget with a lot of Indy’s games having a DH, plus Sanchez and Diaz both having a couple of games at 1B under their belts, they could find ways to get them both in the lineup, a good bit.

        • Good points. I didn’t factor in the DH possibility. I suppose it’s no different than any other level in the sense that the best prospect plays, without much regard to experience or age.

          • Well, but there is the situation that if Sanchez is sitting at AAA strictly to be ready as an injury replacement on the Bucs, but Diaz is the higher level prospect, then they have to make some tough decisions on playing time

      • Sanchez will play 1st so we can pretend he is even MLB potential. Perpetuate the sham of top 3 pick in the draft . The idea was he had A-1 defensive skills and would be taught to hit… They can just admit it was the last chance to stretch draft pool money and allocate funds toward H.S talent and pay over slot. He is abysmal on offense and a liability behind the plate , so now without a position … Jeesh !

  12. IF catcher Russell Martin doesn’t re-sign with the club?????????????

    More like when. Get on the phone NH. Same with EV and Frankie. They’re gone. Money talks in MLB.

Comments are closed.