10 days until the Pittsburgh Pirates hold their first workout of the spring
The start of Spring Training 2018 for the Pittsburgh Pirates is now just a week and a half away
Spring Training 2018 is right around the corner for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In just 10 days, the team’s pitchers and catchers will report to the fields of Pirate City in Bradenton for their first workout of the spring.
The 2017 season was Neal Huntington’s tenth as the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. His ten years have had its fair share of ups and downs, and now his tenure as Pirate general manager appears to be at a bit of a crossroads.
On September 25, 2007, Neal Huntington was named the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. When he took over he inherited arguably the biggest mess in the history of professional sports. The team was coming off their 15th consecutive losing season, their farm system was the worst in baseball, and the Major League team was devoid of talent.
Neal Huntington it the ground running. During his first month as GM he fired manager Jim Tracy and cleared house in the team’s baseball operations and scouting divisions. He also made it clear the team would begin to move toward a more sabermetrical approach to the game. In time, the Pittsburgh Pirates became one of the most cutting edge franchises in baseball when it came to sabermetrics and advanced analytics.
By 2011, Huntington had built a team that was competitive. Despite late seasons collapses, the Pirates were in postseason contention deep into the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Then in 2013, the Pirates finally broke the losing streak by winning 94 games and defeating the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Wild Card Game.
The 2013 season was the start of one of the most successful three year stretches in franchise history. The Pirates made the postseason for three consecutive seasons for just the second time in franchise history, and they had the second most wins in all of baseball during this stretch.
The past two seasons, however, have not gone according to plan for the Pirates who have won just 78 and 75 games the past two seasons. These two seasons are why Neal Huntington’s tenure is currently at a crossroads.
This past September, Huntington received a new four-year contract extension. Then this off-season he has conducted a rebuild of sorts by trading away superstar center fielder Andrew McCutchen and ace starting pitcher Gerrit Cole.
During his time in Pittsburgh Huntington has made more good moves than bad. Sure, the Jason Bay trade was a disaster, not all of his drafts have panned out, and trading Neil Walker for Jon Niese blew up in his face. But shrewd free agency signings such as Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, and Edison Volquez, as well as trading for players such as A.J. Burnett, Charlie Morton, Felipe Rivero, Josh Harrison, and Mark Melancon all worked out brilliantly.
Under his guidance, the Pirate minor league system graduated key contributors such as Gerrit Cole, Gregory Polanco, Jordy Mercer, and Pedro Alvarez as well. He was also able to negotiate very team friendly long-term contract extensions with players such as McCutchen and Starling Marte.
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Right now, Huntington is in need of some more of the great moves he had during his first eight seasons as the team’s GM and less of follies of the past two seasons. If this does not happen, then Neal Huntington’s eleventh season as GM, which begins in 10 days, could begin to put him in hot water in Pittsburgh.