Pirates chairman and principal owner Bob Nutting discussed several topics as part of a wide-ranging Q&A with Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (part one, part two). Here are some of the highlights…
- Nutting believes his team can compete in the NL Central next year, though when asked if the Pirates will be buyers or sellers this winter, the owner said “it’s my belief we need to do both.” Strictly focusing on either avenue “hurts our ability to make the best deal on the marketplace. The most important thing for the organization long-term is that every one of those deals we optimize every bit of advantage we have.” Nutting said that Pirates GM Neal Huntington “has a wide-open slate” within which to operate, as “there are more paths and opportunities open right now for the Pirates than we’ve had in any particular window I can think of.”
- Back in September, Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle both had their contracts extended through the 2021 season, a clear sign of commitment from ownership despite the Bucs’ struggles in 2017. “I certainly have a bias towards stability,” Nutting said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t make changes….We’re not stubborn, but I do believe we have the right people leading the organization now.”
- Though Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Francisco Cervelli, and Josh Harrison all haven’t lived up to expectations after signing extensions with the team, Nutting “would do all of those (contracts) again,” though the Pirates will be re-evaluating their training methods to see if injuries can be avoided. Extensions are “not a precise science. You need to make the very best decision you can with the information you have at the time,” the owner said. “Frankly, my role then is to make sure Neal and his team know that if they make the best decision they can, we’re not going to second-guess it three months or six months or two years later based on something that was unforeseen.”
- The Pirates didn’t make any significant in-season acquisitions to fill the voids left by Marte (suspension), Polanco (multiple DL stints) and Jung Ho Kang (restricted list), though Nutting said that the team’s lack of activity wasn’t due to a lack of financial resources. Rather, the Bucs simply didn’t count Polanco getting hurt again, or that Marte would be so rusty in the wake of his 80-game PED suspension. For Kang, however, Nutting admitted that “if we knew then what we know now, we would have done something different with Jung Ho. We had no idea — maybe we should have — that it would be an entire season (without him). We all live in an imperfect world with imperfect information.” Kang was unable to obtain a work visa to return to the United States after receiving a two-year suspended sentence for a DUI offense (his third) in his native South Korea.
- Nutting has “no interest in selling the team,” with Biertempfel noting that Nutting has previously stated that he may pass the Pirates down to his three daughters rather than explore a sale. Reports from earlier this fall indicated that film producer and businessman Thomas Tull could be exploring a $1 billion bid to buy the Pirates, though Nutting said “no one has approached us (about selling). I haven’t heard any rumor. I haven’t had any discussion. I’m not aware of any buyer.”