Pirates extend Huntington, Hurdle contracts

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, April 5, 2014, 3:15 p.m.

After spending much of the past 40 years in flux, the Pirates have found stability with their management team.

The club on Saturday announced three-year contract extensions for manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington. Both deals include a club option for 2018. Financial terms were not revealed.

Huntington, 45, who was hired in September 2007, is in line to become only the second general manager to spend more than a decade with the Pirates.

Hurdle, 56, who was hired in November 2010, could end up with at least a seven-year run. That would tie him with Frankie Frisch (1940-46) for fifth longest in franchise history.

Huntington and Hurdle could become the Pirates' longest-tenured duo since Joe L. Brown and Danny Murtaugh, who won a pair of World Series crowns in 15 seasons together. Brown was GM from 1956-76. Murtaugh was the manager from 1957-64, 1967, 1970-71 and 1973-76.

“It does speak to continuity and commitment,” Hurdle said. “It settles the landscape. There's no place I'd rather be, and I'm humbled to be given this opportunity to continue.”

The extensions were in place before Opening Day, but the announcement was delayed until Saturday due to what president Frank Coonelly said were “administrative matters.”

The Pirates also are working on extensions for other members of the front office, such as assistant GMs Kyle Stark and Greg Smith and director of player personnel Tyrone Brooks. The contracts of the entire coaching staff also are being reviewed.

“We're in the process of keeping this group together,” Coonelly said.

Coonelly, who was hired in September 2007, has been working without a contract since his original one expired.

“I'm an at-will employee,” Coonelly said. “That's not unusual for club presidents, and I'm extremely happy with that.”

Since Huntington replaced Dave Littlefield, the Pirates have devoted significantly more money and resources to the draft and player development. The club also has put a renewed emphasis on international signings. Gaining the security of a long-term contract will not affect Huntington's approach.

“It really won't impact the way we do things,” Huntington said. “Having one year, two years, three years ... it hasn't impacted in the past, and I don't anticipate it will impact going forward. We're hungrier than ever to keep this organization moving forward.”

Hurdle previously managed at Colorado — he guided the Rockies to the World Series in 2007 — and was hitting coach for the Texas Rangers.

In each of Hurdle's first two seasons with the Pirates, the team endured a second-half slump and finished fourth in the NL Central. Last season, the Pirates went 38-31 after the All-Star break and ended up second in the division. Hurdle was named NL Manager of the Year.

“It's good that we know Hurdle isn't going to go anywhere for a while,” center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “It's good that we don't have to worry about the future.”

Entering Saturday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Hurdle had a 248-242 record with the Pirates. He was given a one-year extension in February 2013, and the team went on to win 94 games and advanced to the NL Division Series.

“The fact that we won 94 games last year didn't change my view of either Neal or Clint,” Coonelly said. “We've always believed in their leadership.”

Six years ago, owner Bob Nutting said he had hired “the best management team in baseball, maybe in all of sports.” Although the comment generated controversy — and drew some ridicule — Nutting never wavered in his belief.

“I'm never going to apologize for the team we have,” Nutting said. “(The extensions are) one more step in that process. We have a very good, very dedicated team that has done a remarkable job when you think about where the organization was, where it is today and where I believe it can go.”

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

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