Huntington On Free Agency, Burnett, First Base

In a Q&A yesterday with several bloggers, including Charlie Wilmoth of Bucs Dugout (and, of course, MLBTR), Pirates GM Neal Huntington tackled a series of transactional issues. You'll want to give a read to Charlie's writeup to get the full picture, but here are some key takeaways:

  • Huntington addressed previous comments in which he reportedly said if A.J. Burnett "or others want a market-value deal, they'll sign elsewhere." He did not deny the quote, but said it did not capture what he meant to convey. "What I certainly intended was that top-tier free agents, if they're looking for top-tier dollars, they're going to play somewhere else," said Huntington. "And that's not just Pittsburgh. That's probably half to maybe two-thirds of the markets in baseball." Huntington pointed to last year's signing of Russell Martin as an instance of the franchise topping the market for a player it valued highly; "so, it's not that we won't pay market value when it's appropriate."
  • Huntington added for the "right player, right contract, we'll absolutely go three years. We can go to four years if we need to. But it's got to be the right player for the right contract. It's just the margin for error is a little easier with some of the bigger-market clubs."
  • Burnett is still an option for the Pirates. "We're working to be as patient as we can with A.J.," Huntington said. "A.J. would be our biggest free-agent acquisition if he chooses to come back, so we've tried to keep that door open as long as we can."
  • Huntington denied the signing of Edinson Volquez will affect the team's pursuit of Burnett. "If A.J. decides to come back and we can make it work, we'll figure something out."
  • Huntington said there is a reason why the Pirates haven't been linked to many free agents. "We don't promote what we're doing. I don't call this reporter and say, 'Can you get our name in this mix?' We don't want some people to know what we're doing. We like to work in the background. I like nothing more than to surprise some people with a move, because we don't need to announce what we're doing."
  • Huntington said the front office hasn't been on the sidelines and is working hard, but admits, as compared to last offseason, he hasn't "felt this huge sense of urgency." Filling the Pirates' need at first base is a prime example. "The first base market is evolving. There's some guys that have gone off the board that we liked, but not for a cost that we felt was appropriate for us."

Edward Creech contributed to this post.

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