Neal Huntington’s Successful 2016 Trade Deadline


Many Pirate fans were critical of the moves Neal Huntington made at the trade deadline last month. However, as usual, Neal Huntington has come out smelling like roses.

One day Pittsburgh Pirate fans will learn to trust general manager Neal Huntington. Well, maybe they will. Despite all of the success he has had as Pirates’ general manager, Huntington continues to draw a lot of criticism from large portions of the fan base.

This was most certainly the case at last month’s trade deadline. At this year’s trade deadline Neal Huntington made a quartet of trades. And, thus far, all four trades have worked out extremely well for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Neal Huntington’s wheeling and dealing began on July 30th. It was on this day that Huntington traded closer Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals. In return Huntington received left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero, and left-handed pitching prospect Taylor Hearn.

On August 1st Huntington acquired starting pitcher Ivan Nova from the New York Yankees for two players to be named later, left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo from the New York Mets for fellow left-handed reliever Jon Niese, and he traded Francisco Liriano to the Toronto Blue Jays in a four player trade. While, somewhat surprisingly, most fans approved of the swap of Bastardo for Niese, fans were up in arms over the other two trades. Especially the trade that shipped Liriano north of the border. 

More from Rum Bunter

While Ivan Nova was not very good as a member of the Yankees, he has been a completely different pitcher for the Pirates. Nova has quickly become Ray Searge’s latest success story. And the free agent to be will, most likely, cash in from it this offseason.

In five starts as a Pittsburgh Pirate Ivan Nova has pitched 31 1/3 innings. In these 31 1/3 innings pitched he is averaging 6.32 K/9, 0.29 BB/9, 0.86 HR/9, and he has a WHIP of 0.99. Nova owns a 2.87 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 3.44 xFIP, and he has thrown his first complete game since 2013. Also, the Pirates are 5-0 in Nova’s five starts.

The two players to be named later for Nova wound up being outfield prospect Tito Polo and left-handed pitching prospect Stephen Tarpley. Both Polo and Tarpley are players that were in the back half of the Pirates’ top 30 prospects. Ultimately, Polo’s Major League ceiling is probably as a fourth outfielder while Tarpley’s future is, most likely, in the bullpen.

Mark Melancon is going to be a free agent at the end of the season. The Pirates were not going to resign Melancon. So, Huntington traded him for a pair of left-handed power arms that can help the Pirates for years to come.

Felipe Rivero is under team control through the 2022 season. Rivero possesses a plus fastball and a plus change up. And so far as a Pirate, he has been lights out.

In 16 innings pitched with the Pirates Rivero is averaging 14.06 K/9, he has a WHIP of 1.31, and the only run he has allowed came on a solo home run. All of this has resulted in Rivero posting a 0.56 ERA and a FIP of 3.14.

Next: Bucs Promote Five

Last season Antonio Bastardo was a huge part of the Pirate bullpen. For the first four months of the season the Pirates’ bullpen missed Bastardo. And since he has returned on August 1st, he has, once again, became a integral part of the Pirates’ bullpen.

Antonio Bastardo has pitched 11 1/3 innings since returning to the Pirates. In these 11 1/3 innings pitched he owns a 0.88 WHIP, he’s averaging 8.73 K/9, and he has allowed just one home run. Furthermore, Bastardo owns a 1.59 ERA and a 3.63 FIP.

Maybe the best part about re-acquiring Bastardo is that he is under team control for 2017. Furthermore, the Pirates were able to get the Mets to pay part of Bastardo’s contract for 2017. Once again, a good move by Neal Huntington.

The most widely criticized deadline move that Neal Huntington made was trading Francisco Liriano. The Pirates traded Liriano and prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez to the Toronto Blue Jays. In return the Pirates received pitcher Drew Hutchinson, and the Blue Jays took on the remainder of Liriano’s contract.

Aug 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (45) watches Minnesota Twins first baseman Trevor Plouffe (24) round the bases after hitting a home run in the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 26, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (45) watches Minnesota Twins first baseman Trevor Plouffe (24) round the bases after hitting a home run in the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

By making this trade the Pirates freed up around fifteen million dollars in salary for next season. The Pirates have already started to reallocate some of this money. This came when they resigned David Freese last week.

Even though Liriano had statistically been the worst starting pitcher in the National League in 2016, many fans criticized this trade. This was mainly due to the Pirates attaching prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez in order to dump Liriano’s contract. However, getting out of Liriano’s contract was a great thing.

Francisco Liriano has pitched in five games, four starts, with the Blue Jays. In these five games Liriano has pitched 22 2/3 innings. In these 22 2/3 innings Liriano is averaging 9.13 K/9, 3.97 BB/9, 1.59 HR/9, and he has a 1.46 WHIP. All of this has resulted in Liriano posting a 4.76 ERA and a 4.79 FIP.

So, Liriano has continued to struggle for the Blue Jays. Not having Liriano in the Pirates’ rotation has helped the Bucs. And not having his contract on the books for next season is already paying off, too.

While I am high on Drew Hutchinson and believe he can be a strong middle of the rotation starter, the Pirates made out of this trade in good shape even without this happening. Trading Liriano and his contract away has already turned into a David Freese extension. And I expect it to also turn into more money spent this offseason to help the 2017 Pirates. And the 2017 Pirates, barring injuries, will be one of the best teams in all of baseball.

At the 2016 trade deadline Neal Huntington traded Mark Melancon, Tito Polo, Stephen Tarpley, Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese, Reese McGuire, and Harold Ramirez. In essence, he received Felipe Rivero, Taylor Hearn, Drew Hutchinson, Ivan Nova, Antonio Bastardo, three extra years of David Freese, and an extra eight or nine million dollars to play with this offseason. That is a trade I would make ten times out of ten.

It seems that nothing Neal Huntington does as Pirates’ general manager will ever be good enough for some Pirate fans. However, I am not one of those fans. I realize Huntington is a great GM, and the 2016 trade deadline is just the latest example of that.