ShareThis Page

Biertempfel: Huntington won't lose sight of big picture before trade deadline

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 10:57 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Wandy Rodriguez warms his hand on the mound during the seventh inning Wednesday, April 3, 2013, against the Cubs at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Derrek Lee homers during the eighth inning against the Cubs on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Ryan Ludwick bats against the Cubs during the second inning Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Gaby Sanchez strikes out with Andrew McCutchen at second base during the seventh inning against the Cubs on Thursday, April 4, 2013, at PNC Park.

On the eve of the All-Star break, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington tried hard to project a ho-hum attitude about the upcoming non-waiver trade deadline.

“This is a very good club that's done some very good things,” Huntington said. “Our focus is (deciding) what's the best way to add to it. We may make no moves, we may make one move, we may make multiple moves. The market will dictate some of it and (how well) our club plays will dictate some of it. Sometimes, your area of weakness turns out to be stronger than you think and your area of strength turns out to be weaker than you think.”

That last part is easy to figure out. Offense, weak. Pitching, strong. It's why Huntington dispatched a scout to Chicago before the break to scope out outfielders Alex Rios of the White Sox and Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs. It's why first basemen Kendrys Morales and Justin Morneau, a couple of decent sluggers, are repeatedly mentioned in Pirates trade scenarios. It's why a call went out to the Marlins a few weeks ago, wondering what it might take to pry Giancarlo Stanton out of Miami.

Every team's GM makes what must seem like a million phone calls to other clubs this time of year. Much of that is fact-gathering, as GMs try to construct the best possible deal. But, sometimes, it is merely doing due diligence, making sure an opportunity doesn't pass by unnoticed.

If government agents are snooping on Huntington's cell phone records, like they are with the rest of us, what would they think the Pirates will do at the July 31 trade deadline? Huntington considered the question for a moment, then more or less invoked the Fifth Amendment.

“There are areas where we're looking to improve, but it's not a desperation where we've got to do whatever we have to do,” Huntington said. “We've got some guys who we believe are going to have stronger second halves offensively. We've got some guys in the system who can help us. It's not a situation where we don't have any weaknesses. We just don't have a desperate weakness, in our minds.”

Huntington doesn't want to fall into the trap of worrying so much about this season that he loses sight of the big picture — owner Bob Nutting's demand for a steady upflow of talent from the minors to maintain a consistent and low-cost contender. Yet, it can't be easy to preach a stay-the-course sermon when the Pirates have a real chance to snap that onerous, 20-year losing streak.

“There are many examples of clubs that have pushed too hard for today at the expense of tomorrow,” Huntington said. “At the same time, today really means a lot. This is a club we believe in and we want to do what we can to help it take that next step. We want to reward this fan base, which has really been patient. It's been a long time, and we're definitely cognizant of that.”

Two years ago, the Pirates picked up Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick without giving up even a second-tier prospect. Lee was productive, but spent much of his time in Pittsburgh on the disabled list. Ludwick didn't do much with the Pirates, but had a great 2012 season after signing with the Reds.

Last year, the Pirates got Wandy Rodriguez, Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez by giving up a mix that included a few mid-level prospects (such as Robbie Grossman, who flopped in a big league tryout this year with the Astros), reliever Brad Lincoln (who's pitched in only 37 games in the majors since the deal) and a draft pick. Rodriguez has pitched well, but is out for at least another month with a sore elbow. Neither Snider nor Sanchez has performed well, which is why the Pirates have hitters on their trade radar.

“You learn from past experiences, but I don't know that what we've done in the past will impact what we're looking to do this year,” Huntington said.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.