Marino Salas Rumors

GM Initiation: Neal Huntington

Neal Huntington took over as GM of the Pirates on September 25th, 2007.  He was active on the waiver wire out of the gate, but his first trade didn't come until December 7th.  Huntington struck a deal with the Brewers, sending reliever Salomon Torres to Milwaukee for pitching prospects Marino Salas and Kevin Roberts.

Huntington kindly answered a few questions for MLBTR about his first trade.

MLB Trade Rumors: Torres dropped his grievance before you took over as Pirates GM.  Did his request to be traded still stand?  If so, did it limit your leverage?

Neal Huntington: The reality was that we had very little to no leverage because we had a disgruntled 36-year-old relief pitcher coming off an injury-plagued and disappointing performance season that was due to make over $3MM. Despite acknowledging the lack of leverage and lack of quality market, we made the decision it was time to move beyond the player, work to re-allocate the dollars and get the best return we could for him. Obviously we dealt from weakness and it did not turn out the way we would have preferred.

MLBTR: What kind of relationship did you have with Brewers GM Doug Melvin prior to the deal?

Huntington: I knew Doug through baseball circles but did not have much of a relationship with him beyond a cursory level.

MLBTR: Torres considered retirement after learning he was traded to the Brewers.  Had he retired, would you have considered reversing the trade or compensating the Brewers somehow?

Huntington: Fortunately we did not have to work through an alternative scenario, but ethically we would have been compelled to consider alternatives.

MLBTR: What did you see in Salas and Roberts, the two relief prospects acquired for Torres?  In hindsight, were better players available?

Huntington: The scouting reports indicated both pitchers had good arms with potential major league caliber breaking balls but both were on the small side of ideal and had some command issues. A quick review of the list of players available at the time confirms that despite our efforts to ask for more, it was a limited selection pool due to the issues surrounding the player and our lack of leverage.

MLBTR: In your two full seasons as Pirates' GM, the team's relief ERAs have been at or near the bottom of the NL.  Revamping the pen by bringing in veteran free agents Octavio Dotel, Brendan Donnelly, D.J. Carrasco, Javier Lopez, and others this winter – did that represent a change in bullpen-building philosophy for you?

Huntington: The philosophy remained the basically the same but we had fewer internal options with which to build the 2010 bullpen. We believe building a bullpen is the most unpredictable and the most difficult part of a ball club to put in place. The inconsistency in the year to year performance of the large percentage of major league relievers makes it difficult to for a club with our resources to invest significant dollars or years into relievers. As a result, we look for subjective and objective indicators of potential bounce-back candidates and/or look to provide ourselves with different complimentary attributes (power arm (K’s) / ground ball guys / arm slots / etc.) to provide numerous options for our manager to utilize in the various leverage situations.

In 2008 we had a solid back end with Capps, Grabow, Marte and Yates but our middle relievers really struggled. In 2009 we had a few solid pieces but we had our struggles throughout all portions of the game. As we prepared for 2010 we wanted to add depth and complimentary options. We felt that Dotel could give us similar performance level for similar dollars and contractual control as Capps (despite the age difference). We liked what each of the free agents brought to the table as we constructed our bullpen and we felt that the addition of some veterans in the bullpen would help our young relievers mature into reliable high leverage relievers as well as provide us with much needed depth.

Thanks to Neal Huntington for his time.  Be sure to check out the other entries on the GM Initiation series: Jon Daniels and Josh Byrnes.

Brewers Acquire Torres

UPDATE, 12-10-07 at 10:08pm: No more Torres drama…he’ll join the Brewers for the 2008 season.

UPDATE, 12-8-07 at 12:06pm: Seems this story isn’t over.  Torres is contemplating retirement, in which case the Brewers would probably lose the two prospects for nothing.  Torres will talk it over with his family and take a few days to decide.

FROM 12-7-07 at 2:16pm:

According to Tom Haudricourt, the Brewers have acquired reliever Salomon Torres for minor league relievers Marino Salas and Kevin Roberts.

Torres turns 36 in March.  He threw a monstrous 280 innings in relief over 2004-2006, so it’s no surprise his elbow started barking in 2007.  His strikeout rate in ’07 was actually a career high, but his groundball rate decreased and he allowed a lot more home runs and hits than usual.  Torres makes $3.2MM in ’08 and has a $3.75MM club option for ’09.

Haudricourt actually wrote the Brewers’ top ten prospect list for Baseball America, so believe him when he says Salas and Roberts are good arms.

Will the Pirates keep dealing?  It’s known that relievers Damaso Marte and John Grabow are on the block.