Neal Huntington met with the media today at PirateFest, including our own Sean McCool, and discussed a lot of off-season topics, including today’s trade of Charlie Morton. The Pirates traded Morton for David Whitehead, who Huntington described as a big, physical right-hander who puts the ball on the ground and has the makings of a curveball and a changeup.

“Sounds a lot like the guy we just traded,” Huntington said. “Should be in our Double-A rotation this year, and we like the potential that he brings. A big part of the motivation was to free some dollars, to deepen the club, to reestablish our depth, assuming we are able to do that via trade or free agency.”

I don’t know if I’d make the comparison to Morton, because Whitehead’s curveball doesn’t sound as good from the reports I’ve received. It was pretty clear that this was about clearing money off the payroll for other moves, and Huntington didn’t deny this, saying that they’re hoping to move “sooner than later” and that the plan was for this to lead to several upcoming moves. He said that they’re looking at both free agents and trade options at first base.

As for the rotation, Huntington said they still liked Morton and thought he could be a solid MLB starter. They’ll have to replace him now, but it seems this was part of the plan.

“We wouldn’t have done this blindly,” Huntington said. “At the same time, you can’t line everything up perfectly. Some of our best laid plans have gone haywire. Some of our best laid plans have come together. We hope to add some depth to the club over the coming days and weeks.”

Huntington mentioned Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, and Chad Kuhl out of Triple-A as depth this year, while also adding Trevor Williams and Steven Brault as potential guys (the use of potentially before Williams and Brault may not have meant much, but I found it interesting). That said, none of those guys are ready to go out of Spring Training, which Huntington confirmed.

As for whether the new starter would be a left-hander or a right-hander, Huntington said they will go for the best pitcher, even if a lefty means they’ve got four of them in the rotation.

“I don’t know if we would love to have four left-handers in the rotation, but if the next pitcher that we add is the best pitcher, and he happens to be left-handed, then we go forward with that,” Huntington said.

The Mark Melancon Trade Market

Things were a bit awkward in the Q&A sessions at PirateFest, with a lot of people acting as if Mark Melancon will inevitably be traded. It seems like this is true, although Huntington’s public comments leaned towards them keeping Melancon.

“We’ve never had to trade Mark,” Huntington said. “It’s all been if we’re better with him with us, or if we think it’s a better move for the organization to move him elsewhere. That still applies.”

Huntington said Morton’s trade had no impact on their plans for Melancon. As for his further comments, it had the feel of public negotiating for other teams.

“We like the thought of Mark Melancon and Watson anchoring the back end of that bullpen,” Huntington said. “At the same time, if somebody steps up and gives us a return that’s sufficient enough to motivate us to get a little bit uncomfortable, then we’ll get a little uncomfortable.”

If I had to make a prediction, I’d say Melancon will be traded this off-season.

The Neil Walker Trade and Alen Hanson at Second Base

Huntington talked a bit about the Neil Walker trade, and mentioned many times that they really liked the option years in Jon Niese’s contract.

“We have three essentially one-year contracts with Jon Niese, at essentially the same money as Neil,” Huntington said. “We move a player that we like, that was hard to move for a number of reasons, and we add a starting pitcher that [would have been] very hard to add [the equivalent] on the starting pitching market.”

The move could potentially lead to the Pirates having a hole at second base at the start of the year, especially if Jung-ho Kang isn’t ready on Opening Day. Huntington said that Kang is making great progress, and that an April return is more likely than May, barring any setbacks. He said that it would be easier to fill that short-term hole than to add a guy like Niese for the price they got him at.

As for the replacements, Huntington mentioned Alen Hanson as a guy who could start the season in Pittsburgh, moving Josh Harrison over to third base. He also mentioned Pedro Florimon as a defensive option, and minor league free agent Cole Figueroa as an option who commands the strike zone, uses the whole field with his bat, and hasn’t gotten much of an MLB opportunity.

In regards to Hanson, they still like his long-term potential.

“Long-term, we’ve still got some work to do with Alen, but we love the dynamic offensive threat that he can be,” Huntington said. “We’ll still bounce him around, because it’s much easier to make a club when you can play more than one position. We see him as an option for us down the road.”

Hanson was playing third base last year, and has played shortstop in the past. There have also been some discussions about trying him out in left field. I think he’s the long-term option at second, but he will probably have an easier time breaking into the majors as a utility player, and it would be wise for the Pirates to take that approach with him since he starts slow at every level.

Jameson Taillon’s 2016 Expectations

Jameson Taillon missed the entire 2014 and 2015 seasons after Tommy John surgery, and then a hernia in late 2015. He pitched briefly in extended Spring Training, and threw a few innings during instructs at the end of the year. Huntington said that Taillon would be ready for Spring Training.

“Jameson is working out this off-season as a pitcher getting ready to come and compete for Spring Training,” Huntington said. “That’s one of the best things we’ve had to say for a while about Jameson Taillon.”

Even more encouraging was that Huntington thinks Taillon will have a shot at the majors this year, despite the two years of limited action. That won’t happen on Opening Day though.

“Completely unfair to ask him to go from essentially two years not pitching against upper level competition, to make our club out of Spring Training,” Huntington said. “That’s why we’re almost closing the door on that. But he’s a very smart, very hard-working, very driven young man. It would not shock me if he’s in position to help us at some point this season, earlier than later.”

As for whether there will be an innings limit, Huntington mentioned that sending Taillon to Triple-A would allow them to reduce innings early in the season, making it possible for him to pitch late in the year, if needed.

“We’ll be aware of it,” Huntington said on the innings. “That’s another reason why we send him to Triple-A, is we can very easily protect the innings in Triple-A to have him finish strong if all goes as expected, and we’re playing deep into the post-season, and we’ve got a good spot for him, we’ve got a need for him. At the same time, you don’t want to save too many innings, and now impact 2017. So it’s that delicate balance.”

Juan Nicasio’s Upside

One of the interesting moves the Pirates made this week was the addition of Juan Nicasio as a free agent. Nicasio is a hard throwing right-hander who had a good season in the Dodgers’ bullpen last year, has struggled in the Colorado rotation in previous years, and still has a lot of upside to either start or be a late inning relief option. Huntington mentioned that Nicasio could contend for either a rotation spot or a middle relief role with the Pirates.

“We’re talking about a guy that’s not too far removed from having Colorado skewed numbers that aren’t bad as a starter,” Huntington said. “As you talk about that 4-5 spot in your rotation, with the defense that we feel we put out there. With some adjustments that Ray [Searage] and [Euclides Rojas] and our staff have been able to make with some guys. With the outstanding work that our catchers do. We do think that we can get a little more out of him. We think there are things that we can help him with.”

I’d bank on Nicasio being a reliever with the Pirates, since they might not have enough time to work on improving him as a starter. They do have him under control for the 2017 season, so if he does well, that could be an option in the future. They already have some changes in mind for him to fix his control, which could be the biggest roadblock standing in his way of being a late inning guy or a starter.

“We do see some things that we can help from a mechanics and pitch selection standpoint that should allow the strikes to play a bit better.”

Jake Goebbert as Depth

The Pirates also signed Jake Goebbert to a major league deal earlier this off-season. Goebbert can play first base and all three outfield spots, but sounds like a depth option more than a guy who is a solution at first base.

“He’s going to battle, he’s going to work his tail off to give us a good quality at-bat,” Huntington said. “He’s going to use the whole field. He’s going to get on base. He’s going to drive the ball gap-to-gap. We essentially thought he was an upgrade over Jaff Decker, but also optionable in case he doesn’t make our club.”

I like Goebbert a lot better as a bench option and depth out of Triple-A than I do as someone who could play a big role at first base.

Competing With the Cubs and Cardinals

Huntington was asked a few times about how the team could contend with all of the moves the Cubs are making. One thing he pointed out was that they needed to find a way to perform better against Milwaukee and Cincinnati.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Huntington said. “We remind ourselves the best teams on paper rarely win the World Series. The Kansas City Royals weren’t the best team on paper. We certainly weren’t the second best team in baseball on paper, and that’s why we show up.”

There has been a lot of talk lately that the 2016 season could be a bridge year to 2017, which is a though that Huntington said the Pirates don’t have.

“I may have even set the tone for that by accident, by talking about we’ve got a very good core in place, we have a really good young core coming, and we’ve got to do what we can in trades and free agency to bridge that,” Huntington said. “My intent was bridge that to still put us in position to win the division. It wasn’t that we intend to take a step back. It was that we intend to add players that put us in a position to win this division.”

I don’t think you can expect the Pirates to punt one year at this point, with a future year in sight.

“Our goal isn’t just to be good for three years. Our goal is to be good for ’16, ideally ’17, ’18, and ’19.”

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.

137 COMMENTS

  1. At what point did your hip boots desert you and you found foul smelling “stuff” flowing in over the edges?

    What a BSer Huntington has become. Whether it was Walker, Morton, inability to move Pedro, etc. etc., he’s lost whatever credibility he had and he now is presiding over dumpster diving for pitchers and a 1B, but won’t admit it.

    How much more does BN have to make on his PBC investment before he just goes off into the West Virginia hills and lets a real baseball owner run this team?

    He should spend 100% of his time grooming slopes at Seven Springs or running Ogden Press.

  2. Crazy thought here. Why not go after Texiera on an AJ Burnett type deal. Yankees get to get the big contract off the books this year which let’s then redirect resources to pitching. Opens up a spot for Bird. We get one year of Tex (and hopefully stays health) with Morse as back up and to bat against tough lefties. Tex goes FA in 2017 and clears the way for Bell. No idea what it would take to get him.

  3. I’m most excited to see what Jameson Taillon does this year. With the adjustments they made last year by modifying his delivery by eliminating some of the drop in his push leg. I think he has a better feel for pitching than anyone in the organization. He’s got the power stuff but also the touch. If his secondary pitches become as good as they think they could be I could see him as a TOR starter., Would like to see him by mid June in the #3 spot of the rotation. I might be dreeaming but if Taillon and Glasnow take Locke and Morton’s old spots this team reaches a whole new level

  4. So, NH for the moment at least has 20 some million to spend, or maybe more if they trade Melancon.

    I do think they will be signing Latos. Seems the most likely. Maybe signs on a 1 year deal for 6-8 million.

    I think Moreland would be ideal, but I dont know if that trade is going to happen.

    Napoli and Morneau are interesting names, but I fear that both might be over the hill. Morneau has alot of health concerns, could be risky.

    I like the idea of targeting the two Koreans out there. Dae Ho Lee and Hyun Soo Kim. Lee is 33, Kim is around Kang’s age. Both are proven in their respective leagues. Lee has significant power, Kim has decent power as well. Both hit for high averages. Lee is right handed and has played 1b. Kim is a lefty and can play both outfield and 1b.

    Theyre both options that will be cheap and could have huge upside potential like Kang.

    The fact that NH saw first hand how good the results were with Kang and hasnt moved with one of these guys is surprising. He might, apparently there’s interest in Lee. Frankly to recover some of the power lost by trading Alvarez and Walker, I’d sign both. Both probably could be had at about what theyre paying Kang.

    Sign Kim at 4 years 16 million..4 mil per year
    Sign Lee at 2 years 10 million..5 mil per year

    You get two guys who could both play at first, Kim in the outfield on occasion to give Marte or Polanco a day off. They would likely be able to offer 10-20 homers each, maybe more.

    Between Latos, Kim, Lee…they would be spending only 15-16 million. Gives room to sign an additional bullpen arm and sign Sean Rodriguez as a utility player.

    The bench next year would then be comprised of:

    Srod
    Morse (w/ Lee starting)
    Kim
    Hanson
    Stewart

    I just dont know where they can get the type of production they would be seeking to replace from what they lost within the price points theyre seeking to pay. These options like the most likely to offer the most potential upside.

    • This team needs a backup SS badly.
      Personally, I see no reason for Srod if your 2 FAs are signed.
      Signing a 33 y.o. RH hitter to play 1st seems redundant with Morse on the roster.

  5. I have to say it: I’m glad Walkers finally gone. For years we have been hearing that he wasn’t going to extend any hometown discount and from his revelations he certainly didn’t. While Cutch and Marte and Harrison signed good deals that made them rich while extending our window of contention Neal just complained. His back is bad, his glove is limited and he always misses a month. Harrison is the better 2B right now.

    Good bye and good luck. I wouldn’t have felt compelled to say this if it weren’t for all the romantics rewriting Neals career and attitude.

    • I won’t go nearly as far as you have, but his constant trade deadline whining always rubbed me the wrong way.

      I have absolutely no problem standing up to management and expressing concerns, but that last thing I want from a player is him admitting that the team isn’t good enough and needs outside help down the stretch.

      Walker, himself, could’ve gone a long way to helping if he actually produced consistently in September.

      • The last thing you said most of all ^

        W many Yankee friends I always expected AJ would stink down the stretch and (except for this past Sept) he always did. I would tell my bronx buds that wins in April through August count just as much in getting to the playoffs because he NEVER had a bad thing to say about the club that was paying him a lot of money and the ball every five days. That was when no players were saying good things about this franchise. Knowing that oft injured Neal turned down $27M guaranteed before 2015 doesn’t make me feel sorry for him. Makes me sorry we sent Brock Holt to the Redsox.

  6. After reading the Trib article on Neil Walker I am even more shocked on how he was treated. They offered him a 3 year 27 Million dollar contract and the only problem he had with it was the 3rd year. You mean to tell me they couldn’t get something done because the Pirates weren’t willing to pay a million or two more? Pirates fans won’t forget that

    • Walker actually came off as whiney. They couldnt get a deal done for 3 years, so Walker counters with a 2 year deal that no team would agree to. They get hung up on the price of the 3rd year and PGH backs off because they can just go arb and deal with it in his last year of arb. Walker apparently found that enough to get pissy over.

      Walker basically wanted his arb years guaranteed so he didnt have to worry, and PGH wasnt about to pay him a guaranteed arb year contract each year. That happens so often its not even funny. So Walker is unhappy that PGH treated him like about a million good-not-great players get treated when it comes to arb vs buyout of arb years.

      I like Walker, but he easily didnt have to say what he said in the press. He could have felt that way and kept it to himself, rather than act like PGH treated him unfairly. They moved him to a spot to play him early in his career, never platooned him, and allowed his defense to look okay thanks to shifts. He was never a good extension candidate unless he took a friendly deal over his arb years.

      Much ado about nothing with Walker complaining about his time in PGH. Hope he does well in NY, hope he never struggles and has to see what the NY press and fans do when you nearly go 0-fer in a key playoff series.

      • He isn’t really whining at all. He’s just telling fans what really happened. In this situation the fans deserve to know how the organization treated him. They are going to lose more than his production. They are also going to lse the money he brought in being who he is. A large portion of the money he makes in Pittsburgh is paid for by who he is. I know Walker has about 2 -3 good seasons left. The Pirates could have justified paying him enough to remain a Pirate imo. He didn’t even ask for market value for what will be those 2-3 good seasons

        • He actually did ask for market value, in the sense that he asked for what he could get paid in arb up front. He asked for the team to guarantee his arb salary, thus shielding him from a crappy year maybe denting his price in any given year.

          Few teams are going to jump to buy the arb years at arb level rates on a good but not elite overall player. Its represents little upside unless he has 2-3 career years in a row.

          Walker is displeased, fine. It was a minor complaint, but still far from anything to get mad about. Its hilarious to act like you are acting, as if the team treated him like crap or that they refused to give him the money they should have.

          They had a solid 2Bmen at arb prices, decided not to guarantee those arb years, and never did anything to hurt his market value in FA. If Walker thinks that was poor on the teams part, wait until he has a cold stretch in New York. Heaven forbid it happens in the playoffs. PGH handled Walker like the vast majority of teams would have, but he’s local so fans side with him.

        • Chris… you have to get with the program. We are rebuilding our organizational depth. Get your Hanson jersey and start wearing it like all the local kids surely will. Hanson will light up all those kids in the hospitals just like Neil did. This is a cold hard business and statistic driven……you simply cannot become attached to a player because of where he grew up. “this was a baseball trade!” There is simply no room for fan favorites or local ties in this business model.
          No snow for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years…….the payroll is getting cut 5%.

          • This is something that FC and NH will never fully appreciate being transplants to Pittsburgh. People who grow up here have a lasting attachment to our town and it’s people that they will never own. To them the whole calculus is based on baseball value, and how they put the pieces together to improve the performance of the team as a whole. And I think they got that part right, but we won’t know for sure until the off season is done and we see all of the moves. Personally I hope Neil does really well in NY so they will give him a three year contract at salaries that the Pirates could never afford to pay. Then I hope he takes that extra dough, returns to Pittsburgh and buys a Ford dealership so I can buy a F150 from him.

          • got nothing wrong with the trade I have a problem with how everything went down. Could have been handled much better even if he didn’t sign. I’m not sure people know how much money Walker brings in. We have no first basemen we have no 2nd basemen that has a clue how to hit. Harrison’s contract will end up being a bad one. He had one lucky year. He swings at everything in sight He isn’t Starling Marte. he doesn’t have enough talent to use that kind of approach

            • I expect that by 2H2016 Hanson will be the full time 2nd baseman and Harrison will be the super utility guy with almost full time AB. That is a role for which he is well suited.

    • How dare he!!! The ungrateful worm!!! The only thing Neil Walker should be saying to the press now is how huge of an honor it was to have ever played for Baseball America’s Organization of the Year. I mean he’s from here. Besides which he sucked the whole time he was here! He really owed it to the Pirates to play for free. I mean his parents still live around here! It’s not like he needs a place to stay!!!

    • You’re off on the time line though Chris. It mentions the contention was the third year, his FIRST free agent year. That’s next year. That means that offer was BEFORE last year’s abritration. That’s a fair offer for NW’s last 2 arb tears and 1 free agent year. I think people are mistakenly thinking that was a recent offer. It wasn’t.

  7. Just heard Coonelly on the fan He is much more informative than Huntington and that could be for good reason. He said “there is a lot more moves coming”. He said that they are looking for at least 1 maybe 2 more starting pitchers at least one more bullpen arm, a left handed 1st basemen,and bench help. I’m starting to think they are going to wait as long as they can for the market to turn and spend on a starter.. I’m looking forward to what our team looks like by the time pitchers and catcher report to Bradenton

    • Hey Chris, did Smooth and Suave Frank actually say “there is” or “there are”
      His outline of what is needed is no surprise… the issue is quality and cost given the low budget. Record attendance and a very high valuation on the franchise and they are dumping salary.

  8. I have absolutely no idea what the Pieates are planning this off-season. I would have thought that they were going to go into the season with mostly the same team but with a few additions. As it is, The Pirates are re-creating themselves.

    I don’t really have a problem with the pieces they’ve removed. Other than Neil Walker, I think Neil Huntington has eliminated The players that he should’ve removed. Morton is tremendously inconsistent and Pedro is a very flawed player. I don’t even have a problem with the removal of Neil Walker, though, I don’t think he will be easily replaced.

    I’m anxious to see what additions are made, though. It can’t be just Niese. It might be that the plan was to go with rookie internal options all along. If so, they’ll take two steps back this year. But maybe, if that’s the plan, they’ll hopefully be better for 2017 and 2018.

    But I’ll tell you this, it makes me more bitter about 2015 then ever. The team they had last year was the best, deepest team that they have had since the 1990s at least. Maybe since the 1970s. In my opinion, they may have even been better than the Barry Bonds Doug Drabek teams. Too bad they didn’t win anything other than a best management team award.

  9. I Have to admit that at least NH answers the questions he’s asked and does not go all coaches speech with them. Good guy.

  10. Tomorrow will be my 4th Pirate Fest. In each of the first three, I’ve asked a somewhat “uncomfortable” question of specific interest to me. Not sure yet what I’m going to ask tomorrow since there are now so many choices.

    • I would ask either:

      How they plan to audition the influx of talent…i.e., Taillon, Glasnow, Bell, Hansen, and Diaz in such a strong division without ceding said division, and if they’re ready to accept that getting the new players acclimated may, in fact, make them hopefuls for a wild card slot and not challengers for the division title.

      Or,

      How they plan to challenge the Cubs who finished a game behind in 2015 but have added Zobrist, Lackey, and Heyward by countering with jettisoning Walker, Alvarez, and Morton but nabbing Niese.

      That should make things sufficiently awkward.

    • How about ticking off the following list of major league players lost or jettisoned off the roster:
      Walker, Alvarez, Happ, Burnett, Blanton, Soria, Bastardo, Morton, Ramirez.
      Kang rehabbing. Leadership and production lost and there is no denying it.
      Then ask why the fans and players should not conclude 2016 is a rebuilding year.
      By the way, today’s TRIB has a very illuminating interview with Walker….and he pulls no punches.

      • Of the 9 players you listed losing only 3 were in the roster at the end of the previous off-season, 2 were acquired during the off-season, and 4 were trade deadline pickups during the season. It’s December 13th. Do you really think their opening day roster is set much less the moves they have made to improve the team during the season? I didn’t like the Walker trade, I thought they could have gotten better value for him. I’m not a big fan of the move, in isolation, to dump Morton either. But it seems way to early to panic. Especially given the unexpected moves and player acquisitions this team has made the last few years, including numerous guys on your list.

      • He pulls no punches alright. He figured they owed him for doing what every MLB player does : grind it out through MiLB and then MLB at a better pay rate. When the Arb process didn’t go his way, he didn’t like it.

  11. Since we’re on a variety of topics… Dansby Swanson was traded for Shelby Miller. I thought players couldn’t be traded for one year after being drafted?

  12. On a different note, did anyone see that Mark Appel was shipped to the Phillies. I’m actually glad this guy didn’t sign with the Pirates.

  13. Don’t know if you all saw it, but Mark Appel was part of the trade that sent Giles from the Phillies to the Astros. How things change!

    • I did see this. I live in Philly so I’m trying to talk him up to my friends but as Tim said I’ll take Meadows and Moroff.

    • I did find it strange reading MLBTR about him. Doesn’t have a cut FB? Might have been the first thing Pittsburgh would have tweaked. Trouble finding the plate? Hallmark fix of Benedict/Searage.

      He may or may not have stunk so far. But I think he would be a different pitcher.

  14. One thing about Mr. Morton and correct me if I am wrong but he was always protecting the hitters if one of our guys got beamed. I liked him and again wish him well.

    • Mostly due to poor command, Morton was the one that usually got the Pirates into the bean ball wars in the first place. I couldn’t be happier with this move, Morton was always an inning away from imploding, and the worry of that situation was always firmly tattooed on his face.

  15. This offseason is really confusing and, fearfully, not setting us up for a great 2016…even though the roster could have more changes during the season…It would be really nice IF we could land Masterson on a bounce-back contract, Kazmir, move Locke to long relief, and land Matt Adams from the Cardinals after they sign Chris Davis.

  16. Well, on the plus side, this article did make me go look up Cole Figueroa. I guess we can hope he gives us a couple of weeks of Pedro Ciriaco-like excitement while we wait for the real thing. Josh Harrison was only 4 picks ahead of this guy (also same round as Robbie Grossman).

    • To me there is a lot to like about Figueroa. There is no way a guy with the bb:k numbers he has in the minors and versatility shouldn’t be on a roster somewhere in the majors. Maybe he can be a more contact oriented next version of Mark Belhorn.

      • Have you SEEN Figueroa play?? He is a AAA/quad A middle infielder.

        He could take the Florimon role as 25th man I guess.

        Looking at stats.. He has in 4 years of AAA a .730 OPS

        I do not know where you get “a lot to like”

        • …and the Pirates always have a defensive minded MI on the bench it seems rather than a guy that can get on base. I’m not saying he’s a stud and there has to be a reason he hasn’t cracked a lineup but he was in some good organizations, Yankees & Rays when they were pretty loaded. In a small sample he has played ok in the majors too. He controls the strike zone.

          • And as a bench player, being solid defensively and not being a void with the bat makes him useful. The strike zone control means he can avoid long stretches of total uselessness at the plate, so he could be a nice 25th man.

    • “according to team sources” the pirates will retrench in 2016 and expect to contend in 2017. Pretty damning statement. Perotto was a Pirate employee and let go as I recall. That said I have found his interviews and articles to be decent.

      • LOL. Pretty damning statement by a “source.” Give me a break. Read the GM transcript today from Fan Fest. Yeah, they are just going to mail it in because their #3 starter retired/ didn’t resign. Insanity.

        • No, I don’t think that was the point he was making…he was saying they’d be happy to play well and maybe contend but use this season getting guys like Bell, Taillon, Glasnow, and Hansen acclimated to the majors and hope those guys adjust well enough to be contenders in ’17.

          Interesting perspective.

    • I got about 2 minutes into that article and closed it. What stopped me was the “not going to resign any of the player and the same applies to Melancon.” Whoever that moron is should look at the quality bullpens that Huntington has built, and for cheap. The volatility of back of the bullpen arms means a small market team with a small payroll has to cash in on the opportunity to trade those assets when it can. God love Melancon, but the Pirates aren’t going to spend good cash on a closer, when they have a solid farm and solid scouts that can provide those arms for it.

    • Blaine: He is a BA Writer and probably stays involved as much as he does based entirely on that representation. I’d like to see BA drop him and put somebody more in touch with the club and the fans as the writer for the Pirates feeding info to BA. I still have a membership to BA because I like their annual Almanac, and their insight into the Amateur Draft, but P2 has much more current info regarding the Pirates.

    • Same reputation 99% of the Pittsburgh area media. Start out as negative as you can to hook the yinzers in and go from there. ” Team sources ” is a favorite of all of them, though I am not sure if they all use the same ones. One guy will have trouble for a while since his favorite source is now gone.

  17. Niese is a definite upgrade over Morton. There’s speculation they’ll use the money to land Kazmir, which would make the rotation awesome to say the least. Happ is a huge risk at the money he signed for – there’s better options in the FA market with less risk and nicer value. Happ was lights out down the stretch, but has never pitched like that earlier in his career. Harrison is an upgrade defensively at second; offensively we’ll say it’s a downgrade with the caveat that we still aren’t totally sure what we have with him offensively. If he has full, injury-free season being more relaxed and not trying to justify his contract, he may surprise; but that’s speculation, so we’ll call it a downgrade, even though he’ll still be productive at least. The first baseman will obviously be an upgade over Pedro defensively…so i think the plan is pretty clear: assemble a formidable pitching staff and win like they did in 2013 – with defense.

  18. Wow. Now shipping out Morton without having to eat his salary is cause for panic. Two days ago these same people were saying we should just cut Morton and Locke and sign Cueto.

    Get your feet on the ground people

    • I’ll be happy to eat my words the moment Cueto is inked 😛
      Sorry Mitch, this move is simply a precursor to us signing another dumpster dive – Juan Nicasio + Matt Latos, welcome to the newest 2016 bucco starters

      • Would Mat Latos be a dumpster dive? Maybe he forgot how to get left-handers out, but his strike out and walk number really weren’t very far off his career norms.

        • Yes, Latos is a dumpster dive compared to Lackey….these peeps that get caught up in the whole “i am a GM and i need to stay within my budget garbage” DO NOT BUY TICKETS! I am a season ticket holder x4 since pnc opened (actually purchased seat licenses)…I was lied to than about the ownership commitment and stuck with the ‘plan’ for 12 years until we finally started to turn a corner….im not going to wait another 12 after another ‘plan’

          • Why are you comparing 12 years ago (adding the winning seasons-15) and not enjoying the 3-5 years of competing and winning. 2nd best record in baseball last year… With the same amazing outfield and top 2 starters and all star catcher coming back, plus two plus plus infielders in kang and Harrison- enjoy what’s in front of you 81 games a year… And don’t miss it by being so angry.

            • We have lost 2 almost everyday players (3 if you count Aram) and 2 starting pitchers from last year’s 98 win team – that is nothing to sneeze at

              • 2 of those 3 players combined for 0.0 WAR. Aram -0.2, Alvarez 0.2. That is nothing to panic over. Especially on December 13th. Hell people are screaming about losing midseason acquisitions, that weren’t even on the roster until JULY.

          • Pitcher: FIP – / xFIP – / ERA –
            Lackey: 93 / 97 / 72
            Latos: 98 / 93 / 128

            Lackey stranded 82.6% of runners, 2nd best in baseball and 10 percentage points above his career average. Latos stranded 63.4% of runners 2nd worst in baseball and 9 percentage points below his career average. Stranding runners is much of a skill, the year to year correlation is around .2.

            Yes there are concerns about Latos health, and make up, but a dumpster dive. Lackey has also just passed the 600 innings mark since his elbow reconstruction.

  19. Loser talk:
    “My intent was bridge that to still put us in position to win the
    division. It wasn’t that we intend to take a step back. It was that we
    intend to add players that put us in a position to win this division.”

    -Win this division? This is where we are after a 98 win season…to simply win the division? That is our goal?? No talk of a World Championship?? This Sucks!!
    ==============================================
    “Our goal isn’t just to be good for three years. Our goal is to be good for ’16, ideally ’17, ’18, and ’19.”

    -What god damn “good team” ever wins it all??!!! Please tell me? Please remind the last time a great team didn’t win it all??!!

    This is bull$h!t

    • An argument could be made that simply good teams won each of the past two World Series titles. So, you know, there’s that.

        • Odds go up with more talent. There are three strategies to this end to get a championship:

          1) Load up a team with supreme talent for one year to give yourself the best odds that year.
          2) Build a system which continually cycles in talent to give yourself nonzero odds in as many seasons as possible.
          3) Do both.

          3) tends to be really expensive. The Marlins like 1). The Pirates seem to be electing for 2), That’s probably wise.

    • 1960 when the Pirates beats the Yanks, as just one of many examples when a ‘good’ team beat a ‘great time,’ or as Darkstone42 said, the last two years. Unless of course your definition of ‘great’ is that the team wins the world series, in which case you are correct, only ‘great’ teams have ever won it all.

      • The 1960 Pirates didn’t even belong on the field with the Yankees. The 3 best Pirate starters might not even have had a job with the Yankees that season.

    • This seems like a stretch. He never even said the word “goal”. Just said they wanted to be in position to win the division. And I’d think that would give them the best chance to win it all.

      This was also said in context to competing in the division, with the Cubs showing a lot of improvements this off-season, and the talk about how that could lead to the Pirates wanting to take a step back. So he would be talking about the division here.

        • It depends on the scale. Is this pass/fail where you’re talking about good and bad teams? Or are we talking a hyperbolic scale, where “good” means you’re actually a horrible team, “great” means somewhere around average, “amazing” could contend for the playoffs, and “They’re so awesome that I just lost all control of my bowels thinking about them” would be someone who can win the division?

          • I can’t remember what we were talking about but I was defending Tim’s comments I think. Haha!. I use the same scale for good bad average as I would describing a pitchers control or a hitter’s power. Wait, what were we talking about?

          • Last offseason the Nats were by far the most talented team. Hell, they ended up with the NL MVP. They were a “great” team.

            Except for that whole not making the playoffs thing.

      • Tim, i thoroughly respect your opinion, but, it has been thoroughly etched in my mind about the whole “we aren’t interested in finishing above .500” talk….they were so dismissive of how important that “goal” was, yet, now, we are supposed to be happy about just trying to win the division (isn’t that also a stepping stone as was finishing above .500)? On paper or in reality we have not done ANYTHING to bring us closer to a championship goal and the mere fact that I was there and saw Cutch’s eyes when he heard about Morton and shook his head….not good from your franchise player

        • But again, no one ever said any of what you’re saying. He was asked about the Cubs and Cardinals, and how it’s going to be tough to compete with the off-season they’re having. And he responded that they’ll still try to win the division.

          If he was asked about winning it all, and he said “we’re going to try to win the division”, then your argument would be valid.

  20. Ok, I really try to be positive on here, but here is my comment:

    “Win 98 games and the next thing you know we have a rebuilding year.”

    Does this all make sense?

  21. “Reestablish our depth.” …by adding a soon to be 24 year old AA pitcher who showed no dominance as a 23 year old in A ball and subtracting an mlb 4-5 starter. I’m not trashing the deal, just pointing out how ridiculous that sounds.

    • This is one case where it really is about the dollars. 8-9 million buys a couple bench guys or helps fund a starter. I like the deal for that reason, will be interesting to see how Melancon plays into things

    • You don’t trade for a guy and then say, “He sucks, but we had to get a body thrown in so we don’t get in trouble with the Commissioner’s office.” Which is what almost certainly happened.

  22. The scariest line in the column was “A big part of the motivation was to free some dollars, to deepen the club, to reestablish our depth, assuming we are able to do that via trade or free agency.”
    …assuming we are able? He better have a plan in place or he just left us with 4 MLB ready starters on opening day.

      • The reality is that we are approaching a time when the only players over approximately 30 years old or beyond 5 years of control that remain on the club will be superstars. Walker and Morton don’t qualify.

        • Well their current or projected replacements (BACKFILL) are a stretch to give the same or better value. Advanced or traditional stats.

          Don’t forget Happ, Burnett and ARam factor in here too.

          • 2 of those guys were here for 2 months. The Pirates were already a very good team before the trade deadline hence the reason why they acquired Happ, Soria, Blanton and Aram…it was also due to injuries.

            Burnett and Happ pitched probably a few weeks in the same rotation together.

            That’s why I always find it interesting when we talk about losing these guys in particular. If the 2016 Pirates are in contention there will be new deadline additions, that’s how it works. Deadline additions are exactly that. They help contribute for a couple months of the season and hopefully into the playoffs, but the base of the team was already good.

            • Sorry Mallorie. But this “retooling” has given me a greater appreciation for WAR and some advanced metrics.

              They lost a shit ton of production any way you want to slice it.

    • Keep in mind that this is the same guy who said that Neil Walker could help the 2016 Pirates when asked about the deal a few minutes before the trade was made official (it was known about the trade at the time, but he wouldn’t comment until official). I wouldn’t worry about this comment. He just doesn’t want to say what they will do and what they have planned.

      • I will say this about Huntington, he keeps things very tight to the vest. Nothing wrong with that, but much of the speculation and inside information from many local writers have recently shared has proven to be wrong so far. That’s not a criticism of them, I just think NH keeps his plans very low profile and its hard for anybody to really make out what he intends to do.

        • Probably an excellent poker player – and your last sentence is why he scares the crap out of other GM’s. His organization tends to find players who come in and do well for the Pirates, therefore a positive reflection on him and a negative to the other GM.

    • Do you think NH is a moron? Of course he has a plan to fill Morton’s spot. And contingencies on the plan, too. Same w Alvarez and Walker’s position, too.

      In the words of that noted poet, Aaron Rodgers, R-E-L-A-X! Let the pieces fall into place.

  23. I understand the need to shed salary, but I’ve read two articles now that said the Phillies could flip Morton at the trade deadline for prospects. Morton may have been slightly overpaid, but with the ridiculous value of starting pitching on the trade market, was there really no way to get a better prospect in return?

    • That depends on Morton performing well enough for someone to want him. The reason he didn’t get much right now is because he was coming off a long, brutal stretch to end the season, and he’s a 32-year-old pitcher with a peak of effective and useful but never dominant, who has had two hip surgeries and a Tommy John. That’s a lot of red flags with very little offsetting upside.

      If he pitches well, great for the Phillies. But that’s a pretty big question at this point in his career.

      • Good points. I was hoping for another contract year blitz by Charlie as he did in the second half of 2013, but I think the Pirates are looking more long term for a mature middle of the Rotation SP, and Charlie was not in their plans beyond 2016. As such, they made a prudent decision to possibly use that “extra $9 mil” to help offset the first year salary of possibly a better and more consistent SP.

        I like that NH is high on Alen Hanson, and I hope to see him and Gregory Polanco batting 1, 2 in the lineup sometime soon. Sooner or later the Bucs will have to try to compete in the FA market, and the ability to rely upon 5, 6, or more years of control from guys puts the Pirates in a better position.

    • There should be no need to shed salary. Get out of baseball Nutting, if you can’t afford to have a middle of the road payroll.

Comments are closed.