Moves excite Pirates' GM Huntington

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008

CHICAGO -- Pirates general manager Neal Huntington did not sleep well Thursday night.

And, yes, it had everything to do with the fact that he had just traded away one of the Pirates' most popular and productive players. But it wasn't what you might think.

"It wasn't anxiety," Huntington said. "I was wired from the adrenaline. I was trying to self-evaluate. I reviewed so many conversations with other (GMs) I had during the day, how could I have handled something differently or said something differently. So many elements running through my mind."

Minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline, Huntington gave up left fielder Jason Bay in a three-team deal. The Pirates got four players, three of whom immediately joined the team.

A week earlier, the Pirates dealt outfielder Xavier Nady and left-handed reliever Damaso Marte. That also brought in four players, including Jose Tabata, an enigmatic center fielder with huge potential and equally large question marks.

Risky deals, to be sure. But there's a lot of upside if just two or three of the newly acquired players develops to the fullest.

The process left the rookie GM's head buzzing as if he'd been chugging double-shot espressos.

"Adrenaline," Huntington repeated, with a chuckle. "And then I woke up (Saturday) morning and realized that we weren't done."

More trades• Perhaps.

Players must be traded before Aug. 31 to be eligible for postseason rosters. But Huntington does not expect much action this month. Rather, the Pirates could be active in the offseason market.

Huntington may take a few more trade gambles during the winter meetings. It's a nice coincidence that the annual confab will be held this year in Las Vegas.

"We're always looking to make this organization better," Huntington said. "We're open to conversation about any player. The reality is, we can't have any untouchables. But it would have to be a huge package in return."

Three players who could depart this offseason are shortstop Jack Wilson, first baseman Adam LaRoche and lefty reliever John Grabow.

Last month, trade talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers about Wilson progressed to the point where Pirates scouts watched multiple games at every level of L.A.'s minor-league system.

Even though the Wilson deal never materialized, the data came in handy about five minutes before Thursday's deadline.

"At 3:55 p.m., we had come to the conclusion we were holding on to Jason Bay because we did not feel the return we were getting was appropriate," Huntington said. "Then life was breathed into the Dodgers-Red Sox deal, and because we'd put things in place, we were able to make a quick decision.

"It came together in a minute -- one question, two questions and the deal was finalized."

Huntington is satisfied with the eight players he injected into the Pirates' system. However, he's taken criticism for not landing a top prospect/impact player in either trade.

Other than the CC Sabathia deal -- which saw the Milwaukee Brewers send outfielder Matt LaPorta to Cleveland -- no blue-chippers were dealt before the deadline.

Potential trading partners gave the Pirates "untouchable" lists that were seven, eight or nine players long. Tampa Bay could have gotten Bay, but the Rays refused to include right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.

"The can't-miss prospects just weren't available," Huntington said. "Nobody wanted to give up the player who has a chance to come back and haunt them."

That forced the Pirates to alter their strategy.

"Once we felt we had exhausted the ability to get the 'elite' prospect, we felt we needed to get more in terms of quantity -- but still searching for quality," Huntington said.

Huntington has blown up the roster and paid for it with some sleepless nights. But more work remains.

"We've taken a big step forward," he said. "But now there's the next phase. We have to finish out the scouting season, make sure we've got good information going into the offseason, begin offseason plans for winter ball and staffing. So, we didn't really have much time to catch our breath."

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