Felipe Rivero and Neal Huntington Discuss the Extension

The Pirates made Felipe Rivero’s extension official today, announcing that they’ve signed him to a four-year deal with two option years. The deal pays him a guaranteed $22 M, and can be worth up to $41 M over six years if his options are picked up.

Rivero and Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington talked with the media via conference call after the announcement. Here were the highlights:

**When there’s an extension, the discussion always comes up about the player leaving more money on the table by not going year-to-year. This ignores the risk that the player could get injured or have poor performance reduce his value. Rivero didn’t seem to care either way, as he wasn’t looking for the most money possible, but ultimately signed due to his comfort with the team.

“It’s not about the money. It’s not about getting more,” Rivero said. “It’s if you feel comfortable with the team. That’s what made me accept this deal.”

**There were some questions after the Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen trades on how Rivero would handle the deals, especially after he tweeted a few reactions to the McCutchen trade. Rivero said that it was tough for him to see McCutchen and Cole leaving.

“I was a little surprised because they said they were going to keep them, and then that came out,” Rivero said. “We have more guys in the clubhouse that can help the team, and we’re just trying to move forward.”

Huntington said that Rivero didn’t express any concerns to him in regards to the extension.

“None that were expressed to me,” Huntington said. “We’ve talked about his future, his role, his teammates, and some of the additions we’ve made. There’s a lot of misinformation, and a lot of false narrative out there about when we are looking to compete again. We’re looking to compete again this year. We believe this club is a lot closer to the ’11, ’12, and ’13 Pirates than we were to the ’07, ’08, and ’09 Pirates. There was enough talent at the Major League level, on the verge of the Major League level. We’ve added to that group. And Felipe, as one of the best young closers in the game, gives us some certainty in the back of the bullpen, and will continue to be an important pitcher for us going forward.”

I’ll be discussing more about the contending comments in an upcoming column.

**Huntington talked about the additions of Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick as “power arms with ceiling” that could potentially be added to Rivero in the back of the bullpen. He also said that potentially some of their young starters can play a meaningful role out of the bullpen until a rotation opportunity opens up, which is what happened with Trevor Williams last year.

**Rivero said that his sister and his agent worked to negotiate the deal. This is interesting, as he added Scott Boras as his agent last May, then dropped Boras in November. You’d have to wonder if the change was in order to try and work towards an extension, since Boras typically advises his clients against these types of deals.

**A year ago, Rivero was six months removed from being acquired by the Pirates, and was seen as a potential impact reliever. He’s now one of the best relievers in the game, and getting this extension.

“When I was traded, I did not expect something like this to happen in my life,” Rivero said of the quick ascension.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Harry S

NH said this team will be closer to the ’11-’12 Pirates than ’07-’09. I see them as way closer to the ’18 Marlins than the Cubs, Cards or Brewers.


how many wins do you think this team was going to win with Cole/Cutch? how many do you think they’ll win now?

Scott K

You, I, and even NH, can see this team however we want, but ultimately it’s the players who play the 162 games who dictate what the team is and isn’t. It’s sports, where literally anything can and does happen quite regularly.

Who had Jacksonville playing NE this weekend for a berth in the Super Bowl last June?


Cmon Harold


Some observations:

We all know that Rivero isn’t going to spend the next 6 years in a Pirate uniform. Let’s hope they can keep the closer trade chain going.

Do they continue to use him in 2018/2019 like they did in 2017 or save his arm for 2020/2021 when they are more likely to contend?

The structure of the deal. Why not front load it, $7.5M in 2018 and $5.25 in 2019 when payroll is likely to be lower? I know that contracts are never written this way but by front loading they would have $4.75M extra to spend in 2021 when they are more likely to contend. Front loading also works for the player because of the time value of money.


If they are contending in the later years, revenues will be higher making the contract affordable at that time. If not, he will be in another uniform by then and the $ wont be an issue.


$ are always an issue with team. Regardless of the revenue in 2021, front loading would allow for almost $5M extra for payroll..

michael t

Under current revenue results Cole, Harrison and Cutch were all “affordable” this year. In the Nutting model, they all go or will go before the higher comp final years of control. In the Nutting model control equates to trades, salary dumps, and marginal minimum salary prospects rather than pay even the discounted salaries of the final years of the contract.
He publicly admitted as much in response to a direct question this week.
To retain his profits, he directs his minions to make the later years of the contract somebody else’s issue, even if the players remain productive. That’s why they are celebrating in Houston and San Francisco. Check out their press conferences and compare them to those of the Pirates.
It’s working for Bob…….but poor Neal must be hearing it about his inability to dump Cervelli.l


“I was a little surprised because they said they were going to keep
them, and then that came out,”

I’m usually one of the more understanding and forgiving of Huntington, but if he actually lied to Rivero to help the extension happen, then that is absolute garbage.

now… i can’t believe Huntington wouldve ever given a straight up “we WILL keep them” answer, but if he did, that’s trash.


Players read MLBTR and other outlets just like us fans do and my guess is that Rivero was referring to the public statements that Huntington had made (or at least that were reported in the media) that they were planning to keep Cole and Cutch to give it one last run before Cutch left. I don’t think GM’s like the idea of sharing their actual plans with players–that would open up a real can of worms.


i dont remember Huntington ever committing one way or another publicly. this has to be a private thing.


And another regarding Cole:

Thinking ahead about the Pirates’ starting rotation in 2018, manager Clint Hurdle listed the group from top to bottom. The club believes Gerrit Cole will be the ace, joined atop the rotation by Ivan Nova and Jameson Taillon.


So do you think he is going to say he doesn’t believe Coke will be the ace? That’s what was true at that moment


Here’s one quote from October 1:

“We believe our best club in 2018 has Andrew in center field,” Huntington said Sunday before the Pirates’ season finale. “He’s worked hard to be the best defensive center fielder he can be.”


That’s not a promise to keep him


Plus, Rivero isn’t going to base signing a 6-year extension on who the team is planning to keep in year 1.


do we know when he signed? I believe Cole was already gone by the time this was announced.

michael t

Of course the trade was finalized before this extension was announced………but negotiations between the Pirates and Rivero did not begin and successfully conclude in 48 hours.


As a reliever, I think the seriousness of a competitive roster could completely affect his livelihood in the next few years (say 100 less save opportunities?)


when else would “they” [Rivero’s word] have said to him that they were going to keep Cutch and Cole? I can’t imagine they just like… announced “we plan on keeping Cutch and Cole” to the team or anything. and that would be bad form too.

I dunno. I’d imagine that 98% of contract negotiations are about money and term, but at least a little discussion about the short term team would happen, right?

i just dont know when else “they” would have given him the impression that they were going to keep those guys. Regardless of *when* they told him that, it’s not a good look >_>

regardless, i’d be interested in hearing more from Rivero on what he meant there. but that probably won’t happen.


that’s possible. It just seems unlike Neal to speak in absolutes like that.

IC Bob

My guess he read it or heard it on the radio. I doubt he was just told they will not be traded. Anyways I can’t imagine any GM telling his players we will be trading this guy or that guy or really even inferring.


give it up please, there is a lot happens behind the scenes that we as fans will never be privy to, and that’s how it should be


I’d have to expect there would have been a grievance filed if it did happen during the extension talks, or at any point when it could have significantly affected the negotiation. My guess is they said they were keeping the two much earlier–in season or shortly after, before the team had picked this direction–and he just never asked again.


i’m not saying it wouldve had a big effect. because that would be dumb on Rivero’s part.

i’m just saying that it would be garbage to lie to your players like that. that’s all.


I certainly hope all the stars align and the team is ready to compete in 2018. My name is not PollyAnna, I think 2020 is the realistic (and still premature) date.

Scott K

Call me PollyAnna, but I refuse to throw the towel in on a season in January!

I personally hope the players use all of this negative energy from the fans, and what appears to be a certain level of angst towards BN & NH in the clubhouse, to fuel their fire this season!

Let’s Go Bucs!


I agree and I am not ready to think we will be less than what we were in 2017. Too many absences by starters for a multitude of reasons last year.

The Rotation will add 3 or 4 possibilities (Musgrove, Brault, Kingham, Glasnow) to replace Gerrit Cole, and the Bullpen has added a ton of help – much stronger than last year.

Colin Moran at 3B supported by Freese could be a huge upgrade if Moran can hit – not looking for power just yet, but he has to hit. We should get a lot more in 2018 from Marte and Polanco. Bell, Mercer, and Frazier were solid last year and I expect Newman to be solid at 2B and Leadoff. Osuna, Luplow, and Moroff will help.

I expect and hope that Harrison and Rodriguez to be traded before the season begins (save about $16 mil), and I expect Newman to be solid at 2B and leadoff. Losing ‘Cutch and JHay will hurt initially.


“I agree and I am not ready to think we will be less than what we were in
2017. Too many absences by starters for a multitude of reasons last

You cannot find a pundit nationally or locally that would agree with you on that. Also, i believe our starters actually had the least missed starts of any other team last year…

“The Rotation will add 3 or 4 possibilities (Musgrove, Brault, Kingham,
Glasnow) to replace Gerrit Cole, and the Bullpen has added a ton of help
– much stronger than last year.”

NONE of those mentioned are as talented as Gerrit Cole – plain and simple.

“Colin Moran at 3B supported by Freese could be a huge upgrade if Moran
can hit – not looking for power just yet, but he has to hit.”

He has to first actually make the opening day roster….

” We should get a lot more in 2018 from Marte and Polanco”

Why? Marte was most likely using performance enhancers his entire career (and finally got caught) and Polanco? he has enough of a MLB track record now to project that he will be a avg to sub-avg RF

“I expect and hope that Harrison and Rodriguez to be traded before the season begins (save about $16 mil)”

That comment may as well be Nutting-Porn – I have never witnessed so many fans become aroused at the joy of Nutting saving some more money?

“Losing ‘Cutch and JHay will hurt initially.”

First thing you said that I definitely agree with, only difference is the term “initially” means “for many many years” to me


Marte played in only 77 games, Polanco 108 games, Cervelli 81 games, Harrison 128 games. That’s half the starting lineup. Taillon missed 7 starts, and still came back a little too soon.

Cole’s 12-12 4.26 ERA giving up 31 HR in 2017 was less than expected for a No. 1/2, but he did make 33 starts/203 IP. That followed a 2016 season of injury where he was 7-10, 3.88 ERA in only 21 starts. The 4 listed who will try to take his place do not have the individual talent that Cole possessed, but Cole struggled trying to get that No. 1/2 talent to show up. If any of those 4 can give us No. 3 talent, we are not missing much.

We have Harrison for 4 months at best (Apr thru Jul) and paying almost $8 mil to Atlanta to buy Rodriguez back was the dumbest move of the 2017 season. Since trading Cole and ‘Cutch, these two are completely expendable.

If you look back you will see I was the guy suggesting the Pirates negotiate a long term extension for ‘Cutch. He put this Franchise back on the map, putting that money in their pockets and deserved better. His negotiations were poorly handled. The money is a minor part of all of this.

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