Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington Trades: Win, Lose, Or Draw?


Neal Huntington is the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and has always been criticized for his management of the team. Huntington gets the blame anytime the team is not succeeding, and as is the case recently, gets lauded with praise when the team plays well.

Huntington arrived to the Pirates in late 2007, and has done his best to rebuild an organization. Unlike his free agent pickups, I’ve been a fan of Huntington’s trades over the past five to six seasons.  Smitty has stated that it might have been more important to acquire lower level talent with higher upside in his moves, but looking back on his trades it’s rather easy to see that Huntington has made his fair share of solid deals.

Of course Huntington has struggled when it comes to picking up free agents.  I’ve decided recently to take a stroll down the career of Huntington as a GM, and revisit some of his big trades. I’m not going to go over any of the minor ones, but any trade that had some sort of significance will be covered.

The first trade Huntington made came in December of 2007.

It wasn’t anything huge, as the Pirates traded Salomon Torres for Marino Salas and Kevin Roberts. Torres, who was 35 years old at the time of the trade, was an average reliever who played with the Pirates from 2002 through 2007. He spent five seasons in the Pirates bullpen, and closed games from time to time. It wasn’t any sort of loss when they traded him, and they got two young pitchers in return.

Roberts and Salas never made it to the bigs, but they were both highly thought of prospects at the time of the trade. If they would have lived up to their potential, this could have been a great deal for Huntington, but instead was a minor one that didn’t really change much.

Huntington was faced with a big moment in 2008, which was his first full season as the Pirates GM. The Pirates had some veteran talent, and they took the approach in dealing away their veterans for young(er) talent. Like any other GM, Huntington took some heat for dealing away his best players. Personally, I didn’t know much better at the time, but Huntington really did make some solid moves in the Summer of 2008 and Summer of 2009 when it comes acquiring young talent.

Xavier Nady crushes a homer against the Pirates in May 2012.

July 26th, 2008

The Pirates traded away Xavier Nady and Damaso Marteto the New York Yankees for four young players. Nady was a solid outfielder at the time of the trade, and Marte was a veteran reliever that the Yankees wanted to fill a need in their bullpen.

Who did the Pirates get in return? Jeff Karstens, Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, and Daniel McCutchen. Karstens has been a very steady and underrated pitcher in his days for the Pirates and Tabata has showed signs of being an everyday outfielder. He’s bounced between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh a good bit, but has the talent to be a solid ballplayer.

Ohlendorf and McCutchen both had their chances for the Pirates in the Majors, but just couldn’t put much together. Ohlendorf  is now putting up decent strikeout numbers–in the minor leagues.  McCutchen pitched some decent relief for the Bucs, and is now serving a suspension for using banned substances.  Overall, this was a win for the Bucs. Nady and Marte have done nothing since leaving the Pirates, and Karstens and Tabata have both been contributors these past few pathetic seasons.

From left, Team Canada’s, Corey Koskie, Jason Bay, Luke Carlin, and Russell Martin sit in the dugout during World Baseball Classic group C baseball game against Italy in Toronto, on Monday March 9, 2009. Italy defeated Canada 6-2. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Darren Calabrese)

July 31st, 2008

Just five days after dealing Nady and Marte, the Pirates traded arguably their best player at the time, Jason Bay. Bay was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, an All-Star, and right around the high point of his career. In a three way deal with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, the only player the Pirates sent away was Bay.

It was a smart move, and they got some good talent in return. Andy LaRoche, Craig Hansen, Bryan Morris, and Brandon Mosswere all sent to Pittsburgh in the three-team trade. Unfortunately, Morris is the only one still in the Pirates organization, but this trade was so close to being a huge one for the Bucs.

Moss was a very highly regarded prospect who did nothing with the Pirates, but of course, is now lighting it up with the Oakland Athletics. LaRoche, the younger brother of Adam LaRoche, was given his chances with the Pirates, and didn’t seize the opportunity. Hansen didn’t see much of the Majors, but Morris, on the other hand, is currently on (and off) the Pirates roster, and is regarded as a solid reliever for the future.

This trade could have been so much bigger than it ended up being. Four young players with talent were brought over for the Pirates best player, but only one of them made a name for himself on the Pirates.

August 21st, 2008

A trade that still makes Pirate fans frustrated: Jose Bautista for Robinson Diaz. Bautista was an average utility player for the Pirates, and hit around 15 homers a season for them. He played third base the majority of the time, but also helped out at second base and the outfield.

After Andy LaRoche was acquired, Bautista lost his starting job and eventually got sent down to Triple-A. For some reason, Huntington decided to deal Bautista for Diaz eight days after he was sent down, and it’s been one of his biggest regrets ever since.

We all know what Joey Bats has done with the Blue Jays.  Huntington lost patience with a talented player.

Bautista is one of the premier power hitters in MLB, and was given to the Blue Jays for practically nothing. Diaz spent a very brief amount of time with Pirates, and was released in 2009.

It’s a trade that Huntington will regret the rest of his career. Add up the impact Bautista has made with his bat in Toronto versus the return Huntington has received in all of these trades in this post..and, …well, you get the point.

June 3rd, 2009

Nate McLouth made a name for himself as a Pittsburgh Pirate and Huntington made a brilliant move by sending him away while he was playing his best ball. McLouth was dealt to the Atlanta Braves and the Pirates got Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke in return.

What a haul for an outfielder that had one good season under his belt. Morton has had some ups and downs as a Pirate, and is currently fighting injuries, but should be in the starting rotation at some point before the 2013 season is over. Hernandez was a mediocre outfielder who we will discuss in a few paragraphs, since he has since been traded away.

Locke, possibly the best surprise so far for the Pirates in 2013, was the third player in the trade. Not only can Locke help out of the bullpen, but he’s stepped up tremendously and been fantastic this season as a starter.

McLouth hasn’t done much with his career since the trade, and the Pirates got two young pitchers who will help them out for years to come.

June 30th, 2009

Huntington made another splash trading for Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge, as he sent Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan to the Washington Nationals.

Hanrahan was awesome while closing games for the Pirates, and Milledge’s career as a Pirate was pretty forgettable. He had talent to be an everyday starter, but didn’t live up to it. Burnett has been a Major League reliever ever since.

Though he hasn’t been as effective as Hanrahan, he’s still pitched some good baseball. Morgan was a key contributor to the Brewers for a season or two but is now playing in the Japan Pacific League. I’d have to give Huntington another win on this trade, just because of the three excellent years he got out of Hanrahan and the talent he received in return for flipping Hanranator to the Red Sox.

July 22nd, 2009

Adam LaRoche had his ups and downs in Pittsburgh, and was eventually shipped away to the Red Sox for Argenis Diaz and Hunter Strickland. Mostly all Pirate fans remember LaRoche’s days as a Pirate. He wasn’t all the liked in Pittsburgh, despite putting up decent numbers for a first basemen, along with bringing fantastic glove. Diaz appeared in the Majors for a very brief amount of time, and has since been in the Detroit Tigers organization.

Strickland was the better prospect of the two, but never made a name for himself. He was DFA’d this offseason, and is now pitching in the San Francisco Giants organization. LaRoche has had some good seasons since leaving the Pirates, with 2012 standing out the most.

LaRoche was one of the best players on one of the best teams in the National League, the Washington Nationals, and the fans there actually enjoy his presence.

July 29th, 2009

Ian Snell and Jack Wilson ended their lengthy, yet successful, Pirate careers as they were both traded to the Seattle Mariners for five players in return.

Ronny Cedeno was the only relevant player brought over, and contrary to the belief of most Pirate fans, contributed a decent bat and great glove at the shortstop position. Jeff Clement bounced up and down in the organization, and young pitcher Aaron Pribanic has lingered around the minor league affiliates. The other two pitchers brought over, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock, are no longer in the organization and didn’t do much in the minors

Wilson was a fan favorite and Snell was an average pitcher who tried his best with the Bucs, but it was time that both of them left. The Pirates got a haul in return for the two players, and it’s unfortunate that Cedeno was the only one that did anything in a Pirate uniform.

July 29th, 2009

Just a few hours after Wilson was sent away, Huntington took the approach of dealing away his counter mate. Freddy Sanchez was traded for arguably the best prospect that Huntington got in return throughout any trade he ever made, and that player was Tim Alderson.

Alderson, the 6’6” right-handed pitcher, was drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft by the San Francisco Giants. He pitched well for San Francisco’s minor league teams prior to the trade, and I was extremely thrilled to hear the Pirates had gotten back a potential star of the future

Unfortunately, Alderson was an overhyped prospect that has toiled in the minor leagues.  Quite shocking for the 22nd overall pick in 2007.

July 30th, 2010

A five-player trade occurred between the Pirates and Diamondbacks that featured five major league players. The Pirates acquired Chris Snyder and Pedro Ciriaco, while trading away Bobby Crosby, D.J. Carrasco, and Ryan Church

This was a smart trade at the time, picking up a solid backup catcher on top of a talented young shortstop. Snyder played a decent season and a half for the Pirates, and Ciriaco was never given the chance to be an everyday shortstop. He has such been released and acquired by the Red Sox, where he has actually been given a chance to play everyday

Crosby, Carrasco and Church never did much for the Diamondbacks and Carrasco is the only player still around in the Majors today. If the Pirates would have given Ciriaco a chance, this could have been a steal of a trade. Snyder wasn’t anything awesome, but caught some decent games for the Bucs while picking up a few big hits

The only loser in this deal was Bob Nutting who was forced to write checks to Crosby and Church.  The only memorable thing Church did was attempt to run over one of the Bucs fan favorites.  The right fielder ran over Neil Walker in Oakland knocking the Bucs second baseman out of commission with a concussion.  Shortly thereafter Huntington did the fans of Pittsburgh a favor by unloading the three veterans.

July 31st, 2010

Huntington made a smart decision to sell high on reliever Octavio Dotel, and did a good job in doing so. Dotel closed some games for the Pirates, but was an easily replaceable reliever. James McDonald came over in the trade as a young promising pitcher and has showed the potential to be an ace as well as the most frustrating pitcher in Pirates history.

Andrew Lambo has been hitting the ball in Altoona after going unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft.

Dotel has pitched with four teams since the trade, and as I said earlier, was easily replaced, making this another successful trade for Huntington.

July 30th, 2011

The Pirates were in the playoff hunt and took the approach of acquiring a veteran first basemen, and were successful in adding Derrek Lee. They gave up Class A first basemen Aaron Baker and got a few decent months out of Lee. He only played for the Pirates that season, and did his best to help carry the Pirates, but was obviously unsuccessful in doing so.

July 31st, 2011

With less than an hour before the trade deadline, the Pirates acquired another veteran, this time outfielder Ryan Ludwick. Pirate fans don’t like talking about Ludwick, strictly because of the fact he did absolutely nothing for the Pirates when they needed him to step up. If that wasn’t already bad enough, he left the Pirates after the 2011 season to join the Cincinnati Reds, where he had an unbelievable season. The Pirates didn’t really lose anything in the trade, but were let down horribly with Ludwick’s performance.

February 18th, 2012

A.J. Burnett was acquired by the Pirates in mid-February for two minor league pitchers.  Burnett’s season and half has been nothing short of excellent, and Huntington also got the Yankees to eat roughly two-thirds of the contract. Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones, the two players given away in the trade, haven’t even come close to being called up and this is one of the more lob sided deals that Huntington has ever pulled off.

The 2012 trade deadline rolled around and the Pirates were right around the lead of the National League Central. Huntington knew that he needed a few big additions if he wanted to end the losing streak at nineteen seasons.

July 24th, 2012

Huntington started his trade deadline season off with a very good pick up. Wandy Rodriguez was acquired for three minor league players. Rodriguez, as all of you know, has been solid for the Pirates since being acquired by them last summer.

Houston should call up Rudy Owens, one of the prospects sent to Houston, some time soon, and Robbie Grossman is currently on the Astros 25-man roster. Colton Cain, the third player sent to Houston, has been struggling in Single-A. The Pirates did have to give up three players to get him, but it has definitely paid off thus far.

July 30th 2012

Huntington decided to make a surprising trade that not many people expected, as he traded away Brad Lincoln for Travis Snider. Lincoln was in the middle of a surprising season for the Pirates.  Huntington sold high.

Lincoln was a first round pick for the Bucs in 2006, and got traded for Snider, another first round pick in 2006 by the Toronto Blue Jays. Fans didn’t know what to think of the trade. Lincoln was somehow pitching at a high level, and Snider was underperfoming.

The trade has clearly worked out in the Pirates favor though, as Lincoln is struggling with the Blue Jays, while Snider has been hitting the ball rather well for the Pirates.

July 31st, 2012

This trade was another win by Huntington, as he traded away a mediocre outfielder and a top draft pick for Gaby Sanchez and Kyle Kaminska. Gorkys Hernandez, who at the time of the trade had 2 hits in 25 games for the Pirates, did bring a good glove in the outfield. He had blazing speed, but is definitely not a better player than Sanchez.

Sanchez plays regulary in the platoon role with Garrett Jones this season.

July 31st, 2012

The Pirates wrapped up their trade deadline with a little bit of a head scratcher, trading Casey McGehee to the Yankees for Chad Qualls. McGehee played first and third base for the Pirates and brought a pretty good bat when called upon. Qualls’ days with the Pirates were pretty pathetic, and fans questioned why he was on the team almost anytime he pitched. He’s no longer a Pirate, but this trade was a very minor one that didn’t really affect either team.

December 26th, 2012

The final trade on the list is one that has been talked about a lot this season. Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt for Mark Melancon, Jerry Sands, Stolemy Pimental, and Ivan DeJesus Jr.

This trade could actually be chalked up as Huntington’s best one yet, and I’m serious when I say that. Sure, the McLouth to Atlanta and Burnett trade could make their cases, but this one might already be decided as a win for Huntington.

Hanrahan was a great closer for the Pirates, but the front office made a smart decision unloading him. His days as a Red Sox have been awful thus far, and he suffered a season ending injury last month. Holt was DFA’d by the Red Sox last month, as well.

Melancon has been one of the best relievers in the Major Leagues so far this season, and Sands, Pimental, and DeJesus Jr. are all promising talent that could bring production to the team.

Unlike the free agent signings that Huntington has made in his career as the Pirates GM, I truly believe that Huntington and the front office have done a fabulous job in the trading department. I know that the decision isn’t 100% Huntington’s when it comes to these trades, but he definitely has the biggest say in them.

For a guy who takes just about as much heat as any sports-related figure in Pittsburgh, Huntington hasn’t been praised enough for all of his successful trades. Sure, like any other general manager in the MLB, he’s made some bad decisions, but the majority of them have been helpful to the team.

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  • Andrew Goemaat

    Couldn’t agree more with this post. Morton aside, the McLouth trade looks great based on Locke’s performance alone. I’m really liking what he’s been doing for us. Plus I am happy to see Nate having success again for the Orioles. I always liked the guy when he was here…

    Burnett trade, awesome. Simply awesome. I really hope they offer him a 2 year contract after this season. I’d hate to see the guy retire after this year. He’s been phenomenal since day 1 and is has been a huge influence on younger guys like Locke in particular.

    At the time of the Hanrahan trade, I was pretty much entirely against it. I’d watched Melancon implode in Boston and some research on the other guys wasn’t too encouraging. I saw it as a cost cutting move and nothing more. Wow was I wrong. We all know the deal, Melancon has found his groove and has been lights out as the 8th inning set up man and Grilli has been un-fucking-believable. At first I hated this trade but now it looks like one of the smartest moves Neal’s made. Hanrahan out for season plus Melancon and Grilli shutting it down? I absolutely love it.