Results tagged ‘ Neal Huntington ’
Last season, Neal Huntington didn’t drop the ball as much as think a little too conservatively for the Pirates. Acquiring cheap veterans Derek Lee and Ryan Ludwig blew up in the GM’s face, leaving the Pirates in free fall until they landed at 90 losses. This season, the Pirates have continued to struggle post All Star Break, but Neal Huntington acted quickly and made some great moves to ensure that the Pirates upgraded their roster. What is even better, is that Huntington has also apparently upgraded with the future in mind as well.
The first move to come through the deadline was Wandy Rodriguez, a deal that sures up the back end of the rotation. With guaranteed control through next season and a good shot at controlling Wandy the season after, the Pirates ensured that the veteran will be able to contribute to the team for awhile. Secondly, the Pirates received Travis Snider for Brad Lincoln. This deal has left many experts divided as some see the cost of Lincoln too high for a player who hasn’t produced like Snider while others draw comparisons to Colon for Giles. I think the deal will lie somewhere in the middle. Trading a reliever for a position player is ALWAYS a smart move, especially when you are looking at a gaping hole that said player can fill right away. Huntington has had major success building a cheap bullpen from leftover parts, something I don’t see him magically forgetting at the trade deadline. This move led the way for the final Pirates deal, Gaby Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska for Gorkys Hernandez and the 33rd overall pick the Pirates won in the competitive balance lottery. This deal is about swapping around depth. The Marlins desperately need someone to fill the outfield and the Bucs wanted an extra body at first base in case Alvarez and Jones sit out of the lineup. Sanchez will probably stay in AAA for now but could contribute later in the season while Kaminska is a AA reliever with some work needed.
So let’s recap: The Pirates added a back end starter who’s an upgrade over Erik Bedard and Kevin Correia and is comparable to Jeff Karstens, their third starter. They upgraded their corner outfield with a player who has some power potential and now makes their outfield all 25 and under with tons of room for growth. They then traded an extra outfield piece for a project/platoon aid at first base. Oh and all of these players are controlled through at least next season. None of these guys broke the Pirates’ bank.
Some fans will moan that the Pirates didn’t get that one big piece to put them over the top. Well guess what: the Reds right now are the best team in baseball by a mile WITHOUT their MVP candidate in the lineup and just improved the best back end bullpen in baseball. The Cardinals have the best lineup in baseball and are under performing due to injuries that may heal very soon. The Pirates aren’t winning the NL Central. They can compete for the one game Wild Card game and anyone who thinks trading away the future for that is an idiot. Huntington made moves that can help the team this year and next while keeping all of the major parts necessary for long term Bucs’ success.
How is that not an A+ job?
UPDATE: Chad Quails (RHP) was swapped for Casey McGehee. The Yanks needed a third baseman and now Sanchez will platoon with Jones over at first. Quails will be used in the pen to replace Lincoln.
Brad Lincoln’s name had been thrown out there as a potential trading partner for Shane Victorino, but Neal Huntington found a more attractive option for the Pirates in acquiring the recently recalled Travis Snider from the Blue Jays. The 24 year old tore up the PCL this season with a .335 BA and over 30 XBH and 57 RBI. So far at the MLB level, Snider is batting .250 with 3 HR and 8RBI in just 10 games.
At face value, this is a deal where both teams see different potentials with their team. The Blue Jays were a team I though Kevin Correia could be dealt to if the right cards came up due to their lack of pitching. The Jays are snatching up Lincoln in hopes that he can continue to be a force in the bullpen, but also make spot starts for their shattered rotation. From what we Pirates’ fans have seen, Lincoln is not comfortable taking the ball as a starter…yet. Toronto may hope that they can change that.
Meanwhile, Snider is a former #1 pick who has tore up minor league baseball as of late. A left handed bat, the Pirates are hoping he can develop into a consistent bat with some pop. As of now, Snider still needs work against left handed pitchers and smart pitchers will jam him inside, but the ceiling is high for this guy. From what little information we know about Snider right now, he could potentially hit 3 or 5. I like the move because it keeps Marte at the top of the lineup, Walker can now hit second with the middle of the lineup looking like murder’s row for a right handed pitcher.
There’s not a whole lot not to like from the Pirates’ perspective. No, the Pirates didn’t get a proven bat with years of postseason experience, but they did not overpay for a player who is producing about the same as any available veteran outfielders. Further more, the Bucs are obviously banking that Snider has room to grow and will be a late bloomer, much like Garrett Jones, who by the way can move back to first. It was a deal where both teams desperately needed what the other had and both are banking just as much on potential as they are on current production.
So Neal Huntington and I are the same page. Yay! The Pirates acquired Wandy Rodriguez and now control him for the next year at least. He is due $10 million this year, $13 million next year and has a player option for a third year for $14 million. Definitely an investment, but the initial reports had Houston kicking in “cash” would I assume is a decent chunk of his paycheck so the Pirates only pay $8 million each of the next two seasons.
So the Pirates addressed one glaring need, but what does that mean for the other glaring need: a corner leadoff or power bat preferably from the right side of the plate? As I wrote the other day, it’s not as if the Pirates haven’t been connected to potential deals. There are plenty of hitters that teams will be willing to part with who fill one of those Bucco needs. And it’s not as if the Pirates don’t have more chips to deal. The Pirates still have Allen Hanson as a kicker, Starling Marte to dangle, and Luis Heredia before the names of Cole and Tallion even come up. While that may not be enough to land Upton, it may be enough for everyone else.
Now here is the only snafu. Rodriguez is an overpay in every sense of the word unless Houston kicks in significant cash or he makes a Jeff Karstens like transformation with his ground ball effectiveness. With the Pirates now on the hook for $13 million next year and potentially $14 million the year after if Wandy doesn’t want to leave, there is now little room for wasted cash. Therefore, a rental player is probably the best bet for the front office if they don’t want to have much more long term commitments over $10 million. (Because remember, a guy named Neil Walker needs a new deal and there is absolutely no way the Pirates could replace what Walker gives to the lineup unless Hanson has a Matt Hague like spring.
Only complicating matters, rental players aren’t as valued as they used to be. Without the compensation picks, a rental player is quite literally that: a two month rental unless you know he will resign with your team. For the Bucs, there is no rental on the market who I can see signing with Pittsburgh because their talent doesn’t warrant the big bucks they want from a small revenue team’s perspective. However, none of these facts means that the sellers will be willing to back off the traditionally high price for rentals. Based off of Pittsburgh reports, that’s the issue Neal Huntington is in: the players he wants and values are being overvalued by their teams. Furthermore, players like Victorino or Pence may not be available until the 11th hour when Philadelphia decides to become sellers. Even then, the Phillies will probably be able to pawn off these average players for above average talents to a team in full win now mode unlike the future conscious Pirates.
With this new scenario I think it is safe to assume these few things: if the Phillies don’t dedicate themselves as sellers by losing games (which they aren’t) then Victorino and Pence need to be removed from all discussions. Justin Upton isn’t going to happen this year. Arizona is looking for a knockout deal the Pirates won’t offer. Carlos Quintin is off the market.
So then who is left?
Chase Headley is a nice option but as one of the few options on a clearly selling team, his price may jet up far too high. Wandy Rodriguez was a shot in the dark on a clearly selling team and that’s probably what the bat will be, if there’s one at all. Two teams stick out as potential partners for this kind of deal that would be friendly to the Pirates: Miami and Seattle. First for the fish: Miami has decided they missed the mark with this group and need a new core of guys to win the NL East. The only player who seems appealing is Justin Ruggiano. The 30 year old is now the starting CF and his hitting .362 this season. I’m not sure if he can continue that pace but the Marlins are offering everything and the kitchen sink so it’s worth a shot. Seattle intrigues me because they are way out of the race and have a trade history with the Bucs. The only intriguing piece is Michael Saunders, which won’t come too cheap considering that the Mariners just ditched Ichiro and another dump of this magnitude may not be in the franchise’s cards.
Overall, I love the Wandy move and think an arm > bat this season. However, the Pirates need a bat to solidify a lineup starting to slump back into their old ways. The problem is, I don’t know if there’s going to be a fair market that Huntington will dive into. I’d love to see the commitment to this season with a big bat, but those options are vanishing by the day. Let’s hope “Make a Deal Neal” has one last trick left.
So the first move has been made. Neal Huntington made the first move for Houston Astros’ Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez in exchange for Robbie Grossman, Rudy Owens, and Coltan Cain. For your initial breakdown, the Pirates traded a 3 starter at best (Owens) an unknown with lots of work needed (Cain) and a true mystery outfielder who would probably be another Alex Presley at best. In return, the Pirates get a decent pitcher to solidify the rotation.
Wandy has been in Houston for awhile and has made several starts against the Bucs in the past. He is 7-9 with a 3.79 ERA this season with 166 K’s in 130.2 IP. His WHIP is 1.27 with a BABIP of .287, all translating into realistically an average number 3 or 4 guy. However, what catches my eye is how Wandy is getting his outs. Over the last three years, Wandy’s batted ball stats are roughly this: 250 groundouts, 190 flyball outs, and 105 lineouts. This season, Wandy already has 214 groundouts while his flyouts are reduced to 126 and lineouts to 82. Over the rest of the season, Wandy should finish (assuming he makes 7 more starts) 285 groundouts, 168 flyballs, and 109 lineouts.
Deciphering all of the numbers I’ve just spit out, this is what I think Neal Huntington saw in Wandy: a back end starter who’s controllable for at least next year. He’s expensive ($10 million this year, $13 million next) but assuming Houston kicks in cash that price will drop. Wandy has lowered his flyball rate and raised his groundout rate making him another Charlie Morton type of guy. Being a left hander means that in a potential playoff series against a lineup full of lefties, Rodriguez gets the nod over Karstens. Kevin Correia and Erik Bedard now get to rest down the stretch and the WAR difference between Wandy and Kevin is two full games.
Overall, it’s a solid Neal Huntington move that took away the sting of the fact that Pirates just got one hit for most of a game at home by Paul Maholm. The Cubs got to J-Mac in the first, fifth and sixth inning capped by an Alfanso Soriano homer to left. The Pirates offense sputtered for the second straight night, meaning the Pirates, facing Ryan Dempster tomorrow, could legitimately get swept. Ruh oh.
UPDATE: Looks the the Pirates are on the hook for just over one million this year, $7.5 million next year and $8.5 for the player option. Not too shabby at all.
News today from Neal Huntington had to be somewhat expected after yesterday’s outing for Charlie Morton. Morton struggled with command after the 3rd inning and was already ahead of schedule as he rehabs from offseason hip surgery.
The schedule for his recovery is to pitch a simulated game on the fourth, travel to Pittsburgh for Opening Day, and then pitch in AAA on the 9th before being re-evaluated. The hope is that all of this added time will allow him to pitch on April 14th as the Pirates head out west to take on the Giants.
For the Pirates this means two things: A) What to do with the opened spot and B) What to do about the rotation.
For the first question, Huntington has acknowledged this gives the Pirates far more flexibility. With Juan Cruz making the 40 man active roster, the Pirates could use Morton’s opened spot to give to another worthy reliever such as Chris Leroux, Dan Moskos, Dan McCutchen or Tony Watson.
The Pirates could also use the spot to give to another utility player seeing that Yamaico Navarro, Matt Hauge, and Josh Harrison all are worthy of a shot at the show.
As for the second question, the Pirates may be able to get by on four starters if Morton comes back when expected. Due to the MLB scheduling for inclement weather, the Pirates get one day off in their Phillies series and a travel day for their West Coast trip that follows. This means that Erik Bedard and the numbers two and three starters would all get an additional day to rest in a normal five man rotation. (If I were Hurdle, I’d select Karstens and Correia unless McDonald gets his control sorted out soon. Putting him up against the Phillies could be disastrous.) (more…)
It seems that every year, the Pirates bring in veteran talent to the team. These veterans have very rarely panned out into anything substantial, but have their moments. (Except for Jeromy Burnitz. That was a wash in every respect.) This season, this trend may finally change.
When looking at the Pirates’ veteran acquisitions, they pass the eye test or offer some kind of hope for a breakout year. Furthermore, these players have been signed to rather large contracts (by Pirates standards) and thus maybe Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington see something that other owners overlooked.
The most obvious area where the impact may be felt is in the pitching staff. Erik Bedard’s troubles have been well documented and I would not be surprised if he ends up on the disabled list. However, Bedard has the potential to be the number two starter for the Pirates if he performs like he has when healthy. Those years may be a bit high up on the baseball card, but all of the time injured and rehabbing may just be enough to kick it into high gear.
The bigger impact will more likely come from the newest Pirate, A.J. Burnett. From the begininning, I have said that this move is a win-win for the Bucs, with a solid chance to perhaps bring in more talent to the Pirates via July trade. However, if Charlie Morton’s rehab does not go as well as anticipated or Jeff Karstens and/or Kevin Correia find themselves in September form rather than June form, Burnett could become glue for the rotation (if he isn’t already).