Neal Huntington 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.


GM Trade Histories: NL Central

Brendan Bianowicz continues to update the GM Trade History series, covering the NL Central today.  Click below to download Excel spreadsheets chronicling trades, free agent signings, and top draft picks for each GM.


Neal Huntington – GM Trade History

We've got a new entry in the GM Trade History series, courtesy of Jesse Behr of The 'Burgh Blues.  Click here to download an Excel spreadsheet of Neal Huntington's work for the Pirates.



Pirates Talk: Payroll, Offseason Plans

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the latest on the Pirates, in articles found here and here.

  • Kovacevic says the Pirates "do not plan to pursue a starting pitcher through free agency or trade this offseason."  The Bucs figure to enter Spring Training next year with four rotation spots decided and many options for the last spot.
  • As hot stove junkies, we love when GMs are revealing about offseason plans and payroll space.  However, it's often not in the best interest of the team for the GM to disclose that information.  With that in mind, Huntington is staying mum on free agent targets and the team's 2010 payroll.
  • Pirates president Frank Coonelly admitted next year's payroll will exceed the current $28MM projection, but wouldn't provide more detail.  Coonelly added, "This is a relatively weak free-agent class. Nevertheless, there are several players who would be of interest to us if they become free agents."  A few weeks ago, Kovacevic suggested Rick Ankiel and John Grabow are possible free agent targets for the Pirates.
  • The Pirates fell below their draft and international budgets this year, and Coonelly says that money will roll over to the corresponding budgets in 2010.
  • Huntington and manager John Russell are signed through next year.  Coonelly expects both to remain with the team beyond 2010.
  • In a Pirates 2010 outlook for MLB.com, Jenifer Langosch names Denny Bautista and Tyler Yates as non-tender candidates.

Miguel Angel Sano To Sign With Twins

WEDNESDAY: Kovacevic has details on the breakdown in communication between the Pirates and Plummer.  MLB.com's Jen Langosch has a statement from Huntington; here's the money quote:

"Miguel Sano has apparently agreed to terms with another organization without his agent engaging the Pirates in legitimate negotiations."

TUESDAY: Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that the Twins will sign Dominican shortstop Miguel Angel Sano. Sano will receive a bonus of $3.15MM, the largest for an international amateur player given this summer. Sano's would be the second largest Latin American signing bonus ever behind only Dominican pitcher Michael Ynoa, who signed with the A's for $4.25MM last year, says Baseball America. It's the second largest in Twins history behind Joe Mauer's $5.15MM.

Last May, Kovacevic said Sano's bonus could reach $3MM. The deal will be signed tomorrow; however, Jorge Arangure of ESPN the Magazine adds via Twitter that "this deal isn't completed until Sano gets a visa to play in the U.S. And that's no given." While his age remains unconfirmed, Sano's saying he's 16.

The signing comes as a surprise. As many as 8-10 teams were reportedly interested in Sano, but it was the Pirates that had intensely pursued him. Kovacevic notes a breakdown between Sano's agent, Rob Plummer, and the Pirates:

"Plummer made clear that his relationship with the Pirates, particularly general manager Neal Huntington and Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo, became frayed during the process. The Pirates were the most aggressive team once the July 2 international signing period began, making offers of $2 million at the time and $2.6 million a month ago — the latter payment to be split in three parts — but talks were minimal in the past three weeks… each side expressed strong distrust in the other."

According to Kovacevic, Plummer says Huntington never believed other teams were interested in Sano and was overly concerned he was bidding against himself.

Tim Dierkes also contributed to this post.


Mientkiewicz Believes Return To Pirates Unlikely

WEDNESDAY: Dejan Kovacevic talked to Huntington, who "blamed Mientkiewicz’s lingering frustration with the team’s lack of communication on Mientkiewicz’s now-former agent."  Huntington said the door remains open for Minky.

MONDAY: First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that he doubts he’ll return to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization this season.

According to Mientkiewicz, the Pirates have not made an offer or any attempts to get in touch with him as the offseason has progressed. He has not spoken with general manager Neal Huntington or manager John Russell, a close friend of Mientkiewicz’s, since the season ended, Langosch wrote.

Mientkiewicz, 35 in June, hit .277 with 30 RBI in 125 games. As a Pirate, he played some third base for the first time in his career.


Odds and Ends: Lane, Dodgers, Huntington

A collection of links to browse on this fine Monday.


Odds And Ends: Duncan, Mather, Huntington, Trachsel, Rusch

A few notes to wrap up what I’ve come across this Saturday:

  • The Hardball Times has an interview with Pirates GM Neal Huntington. It’s plenty long. He talks about the dynamics in dealing with his former team, the Cleveland Indians.
  • Steve Trachsel might be on his way out with the Orioles. Tough to argue against that move. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the O’s are in the cellar, and might not climb out for the rest of 2008.
  • Chris Duncan down, Joe Mather up. Could Mather be the piece that rounds out a powerful outfield? Or could he be trade bait to bring back, say, a second baseman?
  • Glendon Rusch is back in the majors, having been recalled by the Rockies.

Posted by Joe Pawlikowski, who writes for River Ave. Blues, a Yankees blog, and can be reached here.


Neal Huntington To Helm Pirates

According to John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times, the Pirates are likely to hire Neal Huntington as their next GM.  Huntington is currently a special assistant to Mark Shapiro in Cleveland.  Perrotto believes Huntington could be announced Monday.

Cory Humes of Pittsburgh Lumber Co. has been Googling his heart out to dig up more info on Huntington, so I refer you to him.

Huntington appears to love the scouting aspect of the game.  There’s a lot of good info and quotes from this 2005 Jerry Crasnick article, though it’s behind the ESPN Insider wall.  Paid content is dying…I’m waiting for ESPN to go the way of the New York Times and knock down the wall.  No one is going to subscribe to ESPN to read this Huntington article, but if it was freely available they’d get a ton of traffic and make money off ads on it.  And while I’m on my soapbox: pay-for-subscription websites shouldn’t show ads to its subscribers.



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