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Bucs reward Huntington with three-year extension

Convinced the team is on the right track, Pirates ownership on Sunday rewarded general manager Neal Huntington with a three-year contract extension, with a club option for 2015.

"I'm very excited to be able to continue to build what we've been working so hard on the past four years," Huntington said. "We're on the right path. Maybe we're not moving as quickly as everybody would've liked, and we understand that. We've got a lot of work left to do, but there's a lot of good things going on."

All of Huntington's top lieutenants -- such as director of player development Kyle Stark, director of scouting Greg Smith and director of baseball operations Tyrone Brooks -- likely also will be retained. Many members of the front office are in town for their annual, end-of-season meetings.

"They've really rebuilt our system from the ground up and put us in position where we can see winning baseball in the immediate future," president Frank Coonelly said.

In October 2009, Huntington accepted a one-year extension for the 2011 season. The Pirates did not announce the deal until eight months later. Terms of the current extension were not immediately available.

During spring training, Coonelly said he expected Huntington would remain with the team "for a long time." However, Coonelly waited to finalize an extension until after the draft and nonwaiver trade deadline.

"There wasn't any urgency to it," Coonelly said. "There wasn't any 'right' moment. I was confident (in February) he was the right person for the job, and nothing changed."

After 100 games this season, the Pirates were six games over .500 and led the NL Central. However, a slump that began in August has dropped the team to fourth place and put it on the brink of a 19th consecutive losing season.

"We showed we can do some very good things for four months of the season," Huntington said. "Now we've got to figure out how to do it for six."

Huntington, 42, became the Pirates' 12th GM on Sept. 25, 2007. He previously was special assistant to the general manager with the Cleveland Indians. Huntington also has worked as director of player development in Cleveland and as assistant director of player development for the Montreal Expos.

When the Pirates fired John Russell after last season, Huntington led the search for a new manager. In November, the team hired Clint Hurdle, who has two years and a team option remaining on his contract.

Under Huntington's watch, the Pirates have used their first-round draft picks on third baseman Pedro Alvarez, catcher Tony Sanchez and pitchers Jameson Taillon and Garret Cole. The team has spent $48 million -- the most in the majors -- to sign draft picks over the past four years.

To restock the farm system and clear the way in the majors for younger players, Huntington traded away higher-priced veterans such as Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson and Adam LaRoche. The results have been mixed.

The Pirates got four players for dealing Bay at the 2008 deadline. Only one of them, reliever Bryan Morris, still is with the organization. Sanchez, an All-Star second baseman and one-time batting champ, was swapped for pitcher Tim Alderson, who no longer is considered a prospect.

Sending Wilson to Seattle on July 29, 2009, gave the Pirates starting shortstop Ronny Cedeno and a handful of pitching prospects. All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan was acquired in June 2009 from Washington. Pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, who played well this year at Triple-A, arrived in June 2009 in exchange for outfielder Nate McLouth.

"There's a million things we've learned," Huntington said. "There's a million things we're proud of and a million things we wish we could do differently. I look forward to this young talent that we've talked about since day one beginning to show itself on a consistent basis on the major league level and taking that next step and the bigger challenge of sustaining it."

Additional Information:

By the numbers

A look at the Pirates since GM Neal Huntington was hired Sept. 25, 2007:

Wins: 254

Losses: 387

Last-place finishes : 3

Managers: 3 (Jim Tracy, John Russell, Clint Hurdle)

Players claimed off waivers: 24

Free agents signed: 96

Trades: 62

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