Neal Huntington on the Trade Deadline: “We plan to add.”

WASHINGTON — The Boston Red Sox made the first big pitching move of the 2016 trade deadline season, grabbing Drew Pomeranz from the San Diego Padres for Anderson Espinoza, who was rated by Baseball America as the 15th best prospect in baseball.

It was a steep price to pay for a player that didn’t even spend 2015 as a full-time starting pitcher, and it got the attention of the rest of the market, including Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.

“[Pomeranz] had a very good first half as a starter and San Diego did a terrific job of turning that into someone that some feel is a top-20 prospect in the game,” Huntington said. “It reminds us that it’s a seller’s market and that the acquisition costs are going to be steep. Years of control matter. That’s part of the reason they were able to secure such a quality prospect in our minds, was the multiple years of control that Pomeranz brings with him. It also reminds us that it’s really important to build with pitching.”

But just because the costs for quality starting pitching are expected to be high, that doesn’t mean the Pirates won’t be players in that market.

“We will continue to do our due diligence to see if there is something external that we can add,” Huntington said. “We may be in a situation where we add to the present, but we also subtract from the present by adding to the future because of the depth and because of the options that we have internally. We plan to add. You don’t want to plan to sell. You plan to add. We feel that this is a playoff-caliber club and we’re looking forward to proving that as accurate. We may have some situation where we do have some depth that we can move to add a little to future as well as adding to the present.”

Huntington did seem to think that if the Pirates do make a big-splash move, it would be to add pitching.

“We’re going to do our due diligence on all fronts, but the pitching group is the group that seems to me to need the most help at this point in time, unless we’re willing to go with what we have internally,” he said. “Again, we’re getting [Francisco] Cervelli healthy, getting [Gerrit] Cole healthy, if we get Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Liriano on the right track, we get Kang back swinging the bat the way he’s capable of, those are five pretty good additions to our group.”

Huntington went on to describe the team’s internal options for the rotation and how they affect his decision-making process about whether or not to make a move.

“You build the rotation around Gerrit Cole and if we can get Francisco Liriano back to what he’s been for us for three years, that’s a really good addition,” Huntington said.” You’ve seen signs of that. [There’s the] young arms that we have coming, with Taillon and what he’s shown and Glasnow, what he’s shown us the ability to do at the minor-league level. Jeff Locke, in two-third to three-quarters of his starts, it’s a sub-3.00 ERA.

“That’s not easy to acquire on the trade market. One of the other young arms, does Niese go back in, does Vogelsong get a shot? We’ve got some options as we go forward. So you continue to look externally, but your bar is set very high as far as what the acquisition needs to be.”

As the Pomeranz trade showed, any outside additions might come with a high cost.

“That acquisition comes with an extreme acquisition cost and so we will weigh if we’re better going with our own guys or if there is something that makes sense from the outside and that will play out of the next couple of weeks.”


Francisco Cervelli has been rehabbing from his hamate bone surgery with Triple-A Indianapolis, might also be ready to join the team as they return to Pittsburgh, but Huntington seems a bit more cautious with Cervelli’s prognosis.

“We’ll see. Obviously, [he’s had] two good offense games,” Huntington said. “He’s handled the staff well. He’s moved well. We want to have a conversation with him to see where he feels he is at the time offensively, defensively and where his legs are. … We’ll have a conversation with him. He’ll play in Indy [Sunday night] and then [go] back to Pittsburgh and we’ll see where he is in his own mind and where our staff feels he is.”

Huntington reiterated that a return to the majors won’t necessarily mean that Cervelli is ready to return to his usual full-time role.

“We’re fully aware that we’re going to have to protect him a little bit with the fatigue factor that will be present with the month down,” Huntington said. “He worked really hard. It’s very different catching nine innings as opposed to nine simulated innings.”


Gregory Polanco sat out on Sunday, missing the entire three-game series in Washington, D.C. while he continues to nurse a left hamstring injury.

Polanco hasn’t played in a game since July 8th. Still, general manager Neal Huntington defended keeping Polanco on the roster and giving him the chance to make a speedy recovery.

“It had been bothering him for a while,” Huntington said Sunday. “We wanted to see how he progressed coming out of the all-star break with the weekend off before the all-star break. We felt like he made great progress, but wasn’t quite ready to go out there. We still are within the window that we can back-date [him to the disabled list].”

Because the Pirates were carrying an extra position player at the end of the first half and through Friday’s game against the Nationals, Huntington said the team was able to give Polanco more time than they would usually have otherwise.

“We didn’t feel that playing short for Saturday and Sunday was incredibly hurtful to us,” he said. “It always handcuffs a manager when you’re a position player short, but we thought the upside of getting Gregory back on Tuesday as opposed to losing him for the rest of the DL period was worth that chance to take. We are optimistic that Gregory will be able to go on Tuesday.”


Huntington recently made a comment during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh that he wishes would have come out little bit differently.

While discussing the Neil Walker-for-Jon Niese trade, Huntington suggested that a pair of low-level prospects might have been a better return. After a bit of backlash, Huntington acknowledged that his words were a bit unfair towards Niese.

“It came across much more harsh than intended it,” Huntington said. “The intent was to answer a question that I was asked and the results haven’t been what I’m sure Jon expected and what we expected. It’s easy for those that write about or report about it to say that in hindsight, there might have been a better alternative. Again, sometimes candor gets you in trouble. Maybe I’ll learn a lesson and be a little bit more filtered from this point forward.”


There has been no update on the status of third baseman Jung Ho Kang or on that status of the ongoing Chicago Police investigation that first revealed there was an alleged sexual assault incident involving Kang on July 5.

Huntington said the Pirates won’t act on the matter until both the Chicago PD and Major League Baseball have done so.

“It’s a situation that the Chicago Police is working through their process, Major League Baseball will work through their progress, and we’ll take it from there,” he said.

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I was surprised when Neal said he wished he had gone with 2 mid level prospects. I wonder if their was deal that Neal had in the table.
Also based on what see, it sounds like the Pirates aren’t going to make a splash, but trade our struggling pitchers for someone elses struggling pitchers and hoping we get a different result.

David N

I think Tim nailed it the other day when he wrote that the team we should be trading with is Indianapolis.


Yes and my thought on trading with Indianapolis they could win the AAA world series 🙂


Budget and NH will never vastly overpay for a player. But options that weaken the bench or trade a secondary young arm would probably be it. There just isn’t the pitching out there to make a really good deal.


I’ve been thinking about this a lot for the past couple weeks and I really think they should move Melancon and capitalize on his value. He’s not re-signing after this season and he doesn’t make this team win a world series this year. The Rangers and Giants will be shopping for bullpen help and Mark would cost less than Andrew Miller/ Chapman.


I think you’re right Malancon isn’t going to be the difference maker for the Bucs this year. So trading him is not giving up on this year. They could trade for a current set up guy with closing potential and a prospect as a topper. To a team like the Rangers Maloncon could be a big help.


I’m glad you get it. Love melancon, but he pitches one inning at the most 4/5 times a week and he’s only valuable if you’re up in the 9th inning. After this season they lose Melancon/ Feliz/Nicasio in the bullpen. You’re not giving up on this season because Watson can be as effective (a drop off but he can close) you’re just trying to build after this season while still competing for a wild card spot.


Is this even in discussion? The problem with today is fans are OBSESSED w trade returns. THE BEST TRADE IS NO TRADE!!


Soon enough fans will realize that baseball players are not shares of stock. You don’t get any credit for having the deepest amount of talent total in your organization, you get credit for using it to win games, the playoffs, and the world series. If your goal of making a trade is to add more talent to your organization, and not to win games, then you are still rebiulding and not a contending team. We (the fans) are still are in the mindset of the bottom half.


I absolutely disagree. Trading Melancon would be giving up on the season. And what would we get in return, a B prospect? Have plenty of those already.


You aren’t giving up on the season, they’re arguably the 4th best team in the NL behind San Fran, Wash, and Chicago. Is Mark Melancon going to put you over the top of those teams this year? If you get a B prospect that might be another #4 or #5 arm in the rotation next season.


Who is going to close if you trade Melancon? Those teams ahead of the Pirates will definitely be better if we give away our closer. And we already have Kuhl, Brault and Williams as potential #4 or #5 starters for next year. And that doesn’t count Kimgham who will be in the mix next year. Just no reason to trade Melancon.

Bruce Humbert

The bigger issue is who will close next year – time to find a guy you can trust not just for the rest of this year – but for 2017..


valid point


Tony Watson. They’re already better because they can pitch whether Melancon is on this team or not. If you’re down because you can’t pitch in innings 1-7 what’s the point of a lights out closer for two more months? 2 more months of Melancon or multiple years of someone else (That B prospect you mentioned). There’s not a starting pitcher on the market to trade for that’s going to make that much of an impact on the Wild Card race. Liriano and Cole have to be better, Taillon/Glasnow aren’t going to be pressured into filling those roles as #1 and #2 starters this season. Melancon pitches maybe 3/4 times a week for one inning at a time. There’s no way they offer him a qualifying offer of 16 million after this season.


Your argument is dumb. I don’t mean that to be mean, but you are not going to get fans for a team that has a reasonable shot at a wildcard birth- to agree to give away one of the most important ingredients on a winning team- the back end of the bullpen. Watson has not been good this year and you think sticking him out there in the 9th will work? Horrible idea, especially after the struggles our bullpen had seen and is now just getting past. This team is at least better than it played the first half, you don’t go selling pieces of it just because you want to get something back- at the cost of giving up a potential playoff birth- it’s just plain dumb, even if we don’t have a reasonable chance of winning the world series, all we need to do is win a wildcard game and the value of going back to a divisional series would absolutely be way bigger than the value of a midtier prospect that quite frankly………..we don’t need at this time.


Completely agree that the back end of the bullpen is vital to a winning team, but how is it more valuable going to a division series rather than making the team better going forward after this season? With the state of the rotation I think we all can agree that the World Series is more than likely out of the question. Also to say Watson hasn’t been good this year is wrong, he had a few hiccups, but he has a 2.93 era and the lowest h/9 of his career. He is more than likely going to close next season. This trade is obviously hypothetical so we don’t know who the return would be, all I’m saying is (if you could get back a 22 year 23 year starting pitching prospect) he would be more valuable for 6 years for this club going forward rather than 2 months of MM.


Young kids took the Mets from mediocre to lights out last year, meaning it could happen. Sure its not likely, but that isn’t the point. No team, any year, has a 50% or more change of winning the national league or even their division, you are always overcoming odds to win, and often times it is overcoming LONG odds. It’s just the nature of the game. Trading Melancon will not give us any talent that is likely to give us any better chance of winning next year or the year after (which truly represent our best chance to win a championship realistically), so there is no point. Keep him and hope for the best.


As I said, you’re giving up on the season.


Since we don’t have an in game tread on this site, I need to vent! Why do we keep pitching left handed hitters low and in!!!!!!!!


The funny thing is the last couple times Melancon blew a save we still won the game. Thank god but I feel ya!


Murphy gets a curtain call after his homer ties it up, but then the Bucs still end up on top. SUCK IT!!!

Matthew R

The New York Post headline following Huntington’s comments was pretty amusing: “Pirates GM: Should’ve taken Mets junk instead of Jon Niese”


I agree – at least the junk wouldn’t waste $8-10m in payroll….


In a time like this, its scary to me that Neal thinks he’s going to add….I could see him trading 2-3 very good prospects for an older starting pitcher who will do little to improve the team. If he would just turn the rotation over to the young starters, plus either Locke or Liriano, he would see significant improvement. That, plus replacing Jaso with Bell – and getting Diaz and Cervelli up to replace Kratz and Fryer. Those moves alone would make significant improvements, and not cost the team one good prospect.
But, he will do something dumb like trade Meadows, McGuire, and Ramirez for Archer.


That’s just ridiculous. He doesnt have the track record of trading very good prospects. His record is holding on to them.


Hey Buccosfan. For once we agree on something. Only thing I want to see this trade deadline is some relief help, and opportunities for the kids.


I wish you were the GM instead of Neal! Never a knee jerk, over the top, strawman, non factual reaction from you.

Doug W

When has he ever traded multiple very good prospects for a marginal addition?


Never said that he did, but I don’t trust him in trade situations – especially when he thinks he can make a trade or two and turn this team back into a division contender. He still prefers to trade for vets, then trusting his own prospects. Its always been that way with him.
He made a few good trades (Cervelli, Burnett, Happ, Melancon, etc), but also some real duds like Ike Davis and Niese.


You give 2 examples of bad trades….What about his deadline last July? He did pretty well. It’s not like Davis was a total bust either and we gave up marginal talent for him.


I already gave you two – Ike Davis and Niese.
The fact you ask that, tell me you missed my point. When teams are in the Pirates situation – were supposed to be contenders and season is slipping away – they sometimes make foolish short-term minded trades that prove to be bad ones, if not disastrous. I don’t trust many GMs, mush less NH, to make smart trades and resist trying to fix 6-9 months of poor personnel decision making in 1-2 trades. He can upgrade this team significantly, without making a single trade and giving up a single prospect.


How can you say you don’t trust him in trade situations?


Bc he doesn’t trust anyone except himself.


stupid response Joshuatree – you can do better than that.


It’s not stupid if I got your attention. You think too much! I think it’s time to have faith in the man that’s running the show. He proved to me a while ago he can handle the job. He makes up for his mistakes and lately he has been quite vocal about it. That takes balls and bc of that i respect him more. Give NH a chance for once. Hes about to lead us to a 4th consecutive winning season. I don’t think he needs you’re badgering over a couple below average trades.


We really have to end this having faith in NH. This in not a religion. If it is the baseball gods are playing with their Demigod. He’s not about splashes he’s about value. Most Pirate fans are very content with not having a losing season.


If NH made a splash, the world would end!

J Nader

He’s made some questionable Trades, but very rarely has he made those trades and given up a whole heck of a lot. Additionally, a guy like Archer who would be our #2 , has plenty of years of control. So a move for him wouldn’t be a shot just for this year, it would be about the future as well


meadows is going nowhere. ramirez, garcia, hanson, kuhl…..on the other hand….. even one of the young shortstops, definitely could go in a trade like that…..and it would be fine


Kuhl was our best starter in the Washington series, and it wasn’t close…who are we going to get as a starting pitcher who will be better than Kuhl, Taillon, or Glasnow? Who is it that is likely available and that we could get in a trade?


I didn’t include Taillon or Glasnow in my list of players we’d trade- only Kuhl.




Maybe the Pirates can trade Liriano for a good prospect and then trade a prospect or 2 for a pitcher who might project to be better in the future. But I think we have young starters who have better potential than what might be available for the price.

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