Pirates GM Neal Huntington torn on team’s direction, says 2018 playoffs might be long shot
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — After three quiet days at the winter meetings, general manager Neal Huntington still appears to be undecided about which direction the Pirates are headed.
The Pirates made one waiver claim (infielder Engelb Vielma) and picked up a handful of players via the Rule 5 Draft. Huntington seems unsure whether he should use the time left before spring training to make a significant acquisition or two in order to retool the roster for the future.
“Depending upon what we’re able to do in this market, that (postseason) goal may be (achievable) in 2018 or it might be in ’19,” Huntington said Thursday. “We’ll see where we’re able to go. … We’re comfortable being able to go in either direction.”
When asked what will be the deciding factor, Huntington smiled.
“Patience,” he said. “Seeing how it plays out, seeing what opportunities we’re able to create and capitalize on.”
Although Gerrit Cole and Josh Harrison are drawing substantial interest from other clubs, Huntington has not yet swung a trade. The allure of Andrew McCutchen as a trade chip appears to be minimal.
“We continue to have conversations,” Huntington said. “Some new interest has popped up. Some opportunities that we thought might be there have not materialized.”
Several free-agent relievers found deals during the meetings, but the Pirates did not make any moves to shore up their bullpen.
“We don’t feel forced to do anything,” Huntington said. “We want to capitalize as best we can on maximizing, whether our focus is this year or our window is pushed back a little bit because we’re able to acquire players who we think will make a bigger impact on our ability to get back to the postseason.”
The Pirates project to have a payroll of about $105 million on opening day. Huntington said he has not tapped out his budget allotment from ownership to make roster additions.
“We still have flexibility,” Huntington said, without elaborating.
It’s the second year in a row the Pirates have been relatively inactive at the meetings. Huntington realizes that’s not a popular with fans.
“We get the sense of urgency,” he said. “The right deal at the right time is much better than the wrong deal at the right time. We understand that there’s a lot of talk and attention paid to the winter meetings, the GM meetings and the trade deadline. That’s fantastic for our game … (but) artificial deadlines don’t mandate when we do or don’t do things.”
The free-agent and trade markets were slow to develop throughout MLB this offseason. Will the increased supply mean lower asking prices as spring training approaches?
“That may or may not be the case,” Huntington said. “There are a lot of teams having a lot of conversations. That’s where patience may be a virtue, but also where patience may get you shut out.”