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Bucs' Huntington: Frustrated by Sano deal

| Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010

On a bitter cold Friday, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and president Frank Coonelly were on the hot seat at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

It was question and answer night with Pirates season ticket holders, the front office and manager John Russell at Pirates Fanfest, and the folks who fork over the money to the team each year handled their share of questions.

Some were fairly standard questions such as who will compete for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation and what to do about the logjam at third base with incumbent Andy LaRoche and prospects Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker in the system. A few even took a moment to say they appreciate the team's plan for righting the ship after 17 losing seasons.

Some questions packed a little more punch.

One of the first of the night was from a fan wanting to know how in the world the Pirates didn't sign Dominican prospect Miguel Sano last summer and why no heads rolled because of it. Toward the end of the program another fan asked about Sano and the team's ability — or lack thereof — to sign other top Latin American prospects.

"Take your frustration level and multiply it by a million when I got the phone call (that Sano signed with the Minnesota Twins)," Huntington said. "I didn't get it done. I relied on the agent to live by his word that he'd come back to us and give us a chance to make our final bid. We never got the chance."

Coonelly gave the positive spin that at least the Pirates were in the game for the highly-touted shortstop, saying they offered $2.6 million.

"We were never in the game for a player even looking for $250,000 out of Latin America before," he said. "This may be one time we were overly aggressive — we moved too quickly."

Another fan — after thanking Huntington for trading Brian Bixler to the Cleveland Indians — asked Huntington how he couldn't manage to at least get a warm body in exchange for closer Matt Capps. The Pirates opted to non-tender a contract to Capps, who went on to sign with the Washington Nationals.

Huntington said they did try to trade the former closer, but it was tough because of his slip in performance in 2009, multiple arm injuries and what he'd make in arbitration.

"We had the opportunity to trade him (early in 2009) and I chose to hold him because I thought his value would come back the second half of 2009, and in hindsight that wasn't a good decision on my part," Huntington said. "As soon as other teams sniff out that you're going to non-tender a guy, his value disappears. He had very little value at the trade deadline.

"We did make an effort to trade him; I called every big-market teams that needed a reliever, but no one wanted to risk paying $3.5 million and give something up for him. No team is going to give up a prospect and pay arbitration value."

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