The Pittsburgh Pirates have a lot of moving parts to figure out this offseason. However, there could have been one major move that would have changed everything.
The Pittsburgh Pirates offseason is underway and the team has already started to adjust their roster to make a better ball club for the 2019 season. The team acquired a potential starting shortstop, and if not a solid utility player, in Erik Gonzalez in one deal. Meanwhile, they brought in free agent Lonnie Chisenhall in a separate deal to fill in for Gregory Polanco and then fill the fourth outfield spot.
Who has made these deals? Of course, Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington is in charge of bringing in free agents and making trades. Huntington himself gets criticized a lot for the way he operates, however not one person can deny that he has done a good job in Pittsburgh. He was hired in 2008 and has led a team that was the laughing stock of baseball to be a legitimate, competitive franchise once again.
In 2008, Neal Huntington came in with a plan to completely tear down the roster and build it back up. He knew that it would take a few years of really bad teams, high draft picks, and tough trades. However, the end result was the Pittsburgh Pirates having a winning season in 2013, their first one since 1992. Even better, the team made it to the postseason for three straight years from 2013-2015. Many considered his work to be an impressive feat for how quickly he was able to turn the small market Pittsburgh Pirates into a contender.
Even last year, he took a team that many thought would be in the bottom quarter of the National League and brought another winning record. While the expectation is and should be to make the playoffs, Huntington was able to put together a roster that no one thought would do well and surpass expectations.
With his success of creating a quality product over the last five-to-six years, especially with his financial handcuffs, Neal Huntington has been considered one of the best General Managers in baseball. Many credit him of doing the impossible and changing a whole franchise in a scenario that is one of the toughest in baseball.
With that, it has long been believed that he would eventually jettison to a bigger market team. Major League Baseball saw this when highly regarded Tampa Bay Rays General Manager Andrew Friedman left to become the President of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Well, apparently this almost happened with Neal Huntington after this past season.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Neal Huntington was the top choice for the San Fransisco Giants in their search for their President of Baseball Operations vacancy. To read the full scope of Rosenthal’s report one must subscribe to The Athletic, but here is a snippet as to why Huntington turned down the opportunity:
"“…but ultimately declined to push for the opportunity. Family and geography were factors, but his desire to complete unfinished business with the Pirates carried greater weight.”"
Huntington’s contract runs through the end of the 2021 season. That fact that he turned down a potential better position, one that would definitely pay more, and for a franchise that is in a much bigger market suggests that he is really dedicated to winning here in Pittsburgh. He has shown the urgency to get this team back in the playoffs by making uncharacteristic trades last trade deadline and being somewhat aggressive this offseason already. Huntington may leave after 2021, but for now, the Pittsburgh Pirates are in good hands. The fact that the Giants wanted to bring him and give him a better position shows how he is viewed across Major League Baseball.