ShareThis Page

Pirates GM Neal Huntington torn on team's direction, says 2018 playoffs might be long shot

Rob Biertempfel
| Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, 11:51 a.m.
Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole paces in the dugout after being relieved after giving up a pair of two-run homers in the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Cincinnati.
Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole paces in the dugout after being relieved after giving up a pair of two-run homers in the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Cincinnati.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington talks about his contract extension Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington talks about his contract extension Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, at PNC Park.

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.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.