Neal Huntington Discusses The Trades That Were Finalized This Week

PITTSBURGH – The Pirates completed two of their deadline deals this week, sending two players to be named later in the Ivan Nova deal, and receiving two in the Arquimedes Caminero trade. Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley both went to the Yankees in the Nova trade, while Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez came back in the Caminero trade. Neal Huntington met with the media today for his weekly interview, and our own Alan Saunders asked about the returns in each deal.

Getting Players Back in the Caminero Trade

The Pirates didn’t get a big return for Caminero, but got two lottery ticket pitchers in the lower levels. Huntington said that they had a list of players agreed to at the time of the deal, and tracked those players with multiple scouts, along with some video breakdowns.

“In each case, it’s a young, solid frame, a good athlete and a projectable pitcher with some ‘now’ pitches, velocity or the ability to spin a breaking ball or feel for a changeup in some cases,” Huntington said. “Much like we’re doing out of the draft, as we look to acquire young pitchers, these are the pitchers we look for.”

Brentz seems to have a lot of upside as a left-hander who can already touch 96-97 MPH. He has only been pitching for three years, after converting from the outfield. Vasquez is in his second year as a pro, after making an aggressive jump from the DSL to Low-A this year. Both pitchers are raw, giving the Pirates a chance to build upon their skills.

“They’re early in their professional careers and there is some projection remaining,” Huntington said. “We look at it more from an amateur standpoint than how he could help the major-league team tomorrow. These guys are a ways away from that. These guys are more projection and what do we see that we can build on and what do we see that we can help them to grow and develop?”

The Ivan Nova Deal

Huntington didn’t discuss the return in the Nova deal, instead talking about how the Yankees went through the same process of choosing from a list of players and taking who they liked. He did discuss what they liked at the time of the deal, and Nova’s performance so far.

“Our guys liked the sinker. We’ve tracked him for a number of years now and liked the sinker,” Huntington said. “We believe the sinker plays really well in our ballpark, in our league, with our defense. That’s not a rip against the Yankees defense, but we’ve had a lot of ground ball guys have a lot of success here. We like the breaking ball. We like the makings of the changeup. Again, just change of scenery can help sometimes.”

Nova has been great so far, to the tune of a 2.89 ERA and a 3.38 xFIP in 37.1 innings over six starts. Huntington said that this has been due to Nova working in the bottom of the zone, and using his secondary stuff efficiently.

“Our scouts did a nice job of identifying what he does well,” Huntington said. “Our analysts did a nice job of identifying how it might translate here. Nova has done a great job of going out and pitching well. That’s the one thing that we can’t miss in this situation, is that Nova has gone out and he’s the one that’s pounded the bottom half of the strike zone and been able to get his breaking ball over for strikes and get players to change it and he’s thrown his changeup enough to keep them off-balance. Nova has done a really nice job since coming over.”

The downside here is that Nova is just a two-month rental, and the Pirates are still on the outside of the playoffs, looking in. They gave up a nice return in Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley — ranked 20th and 21st in our mid-season update, respectively — and that will really hurt if they don’t make the post-season and Nova leaves at the end of the year. With the team needing a starter next year, it wouldn’t hurt to try and bring him back at the end of the year, especially if the Pirates feel he can repeat this success.

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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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for giving up our two month, Pirates did very well. For getting two month rental, we gave up cannon fodder. Big edge NH.

IC Bob

We gave up in the Mealncon trade and then out of no where we decided to give away top 25 players for nothing more then a two month rental on a below 500 team. Reminds of the previous GM. NH deserves to move forward because overall he has done a good job for the Pirates and he is limited by a cheap owner, however this year he has been horrible turning a 98 win team into an 80 win team while losing only one player to retirement.


NH has made a number of bad trades this year. If Nova is resigned the possibility exist that this trade makes some sense. Walker trade was terrible and the Caminero trade “for lottery” with the current shape of the bullpen was bad.


Biagio, u are voting for recreational weed this year at the polls aren’t you?? NH chuckles everytime Rivero comes out on the mound!! It was a great return for Melancon considering we will get NOTHING at the end of the year if he stayed!!

Caminero was a damn lottery ticket himself!! Hell, I’m glad we got 2 new lottery tickets for the HORRIBLE season he was having!! This is not all on NH, this lineup all of a sudden can’t hit when we need them to!! Disgracful that we get (yet again) dominated by a 5+ ERA starting pitcher!!


I’m voting for any kind of weed! Walker trade was terrible. Also I can’t play TITO POLO in the pool anymore


Haha….nice!!! The Walker trade was bad!! I’m just happy we were able to get Bastardo back giving Niece back to the Mets!!! Bastardo has pitched well. So NH righted the wrong.

IC Bob

Are you serious you think Bastardo has pitched well. He is horrible. The Mets were willing to give him to the Bucs for nothing. Now we are stuck with his 6.5 million next year. All Neal did was double down on a crappy trade of Walker and making it worse


Bob, come on Brotha!! Bastardo has pitched well since coming back over!! Not today, but overall he has done well!!


You do realize Walker is out for the season.


Althougb I like Hurdle as a person, he’s not a good strategy manager. NH benefitted from taking over an organization that had bottomed out. Its obvious he is overmatched and unable to take the organization to the next level.


Buccos Fan, I have to disagree with you my friend!! He has more than earned his spot in Pgh!! Do we forget WE WERE NOTHING 4 SHORT YEARS AGO!! NOTHING!!! This man has earned my respect for taking an organization that was a piece trash!!! We smelled like an Iraqi PorterPotty and he took us to being in the conversation!! When we beat the 190-200 million dollar payrolls, that makes it that much sweeter!! But to sit here and talk about a 100 million dollar budget THAT AIN’T GONNA CHANGE, is not productive at all!! With that 100 million, he has done FREAKING BRILLIANT!! Will he miss from time to time, absolutely!! Who doesn’t!! Will he make a hard choice that is tough to take?? Yes!!! I was pissed we didn’t keep Happ, but I knew we had these young kids coming up and they rolled the dice. But let’s not forget EVERYBODY was like “Who in the HELL is JA Happ” when we made the trade for him!! Folks were pissed we gave up Adrian Sampson for him!! Today….people can give a frogs phat ass where Sampson is today or cares!! The trade served its purpose and we benefited from it!! So we will have to wait and see how Nova and Huchinson plays out to give a grade. But we have to cut NH some slack about his track record because it is WELL ABOVE 500 in his years here in Pgh!!

Thomas H

NH came here in 2007. They’ve been a loser most of the time he’s been here. Overall his record as GM is 684-737. They’ve never finished a year first place in their division and they are 3-5 in the playoffs.

Just saying.


Thomas H….When I needed a fact based guy…I know I need to come to you!! Thank you for clearing up the won-loss record for NH. Yes, he was hired in ’07, but first season was ’08. What I meant by winning more than losing was his trades he has made that have worked out for us, not won-loss record, but thank you for letting me know we are getting closer to 500 every year.

JT Crown

The team has won 1 WC game in 4 years and will be lucky to finish above .500 this year….Any division titles ??? Any playoff series wins??? That’s some seriously low expectations if you accept NH’s performance this year


JT….it took us 25 years to get here!!! 25!!! This ain’t like we been winning for the past 10-15 years with 1 WC win!! We just had 3 straight postseasons!! That in itself is an accomplishment considering where we were!!! Over those 21 years, we averaged 90 losses! So until we miss the playoffs 3-4 straight years and we not contending, I might want to talk about NH, but until that happens, I’m riding the wave and enjoy this run we are on!! Call it low expectations, but I call it winning!! Plus forget the Cubs this year!! We don’t have 200 million dollars to compete!!

JT Crown

I sure as hell can’t call that winning— Bucs haven’t won anything, only people who won was upper management and ownership….Their bank accounts that is.

Thomas H

Be factual. The Cubs aren’t spending $200 million. They are spending $171 million. An average team spends $130 million. Pirates are spending $103 million.

Money doesn’t mean anything? Put it in context. In the last 40 years 53% of the time the WS winner was in the TOP 5 in payroll. 44.5% of the time the WS winner was in the middle third. Only TWICE was the WS winner below the 15th highest paid team in that span and only ONCE was the WS champ below 20th in payroll.

Your Buccos rate 25/30. Every single NL team ahead of them in the standings today spends at least $130 million. Every Single One. Of contending AL teams only Houston and Cleveland don’t spend to the mean. Each spends $5-10 million more than the Pirates. Frankly, I don’t think either Cleveland or Houston is a serious contender for the World Series. Do you?

You want to say the Pirates don’t have the Cubs resources, fine. That doesn’t mean they can’t spend up to the mean. The fact that they don’t, tells me they are more interested in profits than winning. I obviously don’t see The books but according to Forbes magazine, the Pirates are 17th in gross revenue’s and according to spottrack they are 25th in payroll. What does that tell you?


Thomas….profits are important when you running an organization. But when we have loss money for all of those losing seasons because we were bottom 3 in the league in attendance can contribute to keeping the payroll down. They have increased it over the years we have been winning. All in part we want to keep our better players and attendance has gotten a lot better. But that is because we have gotten a lot better. Will we get to the mean??? One would hope, but like I said in my initial post, we are winning despite of the payroll. But NH can’t any credit with the handcuffs put on him every year and he has done a nice job pullling the right strings. But it seems like from all the “Constructive Criticism” that WHOEVA this organization brings in to run this team will not be good enough. But I am telling you, until they make a change, NH has my support. I have not agreed with every decision he has made, but for the most part they have worked out for us!! That was my point. For 3 straight years, we have made the playoffs says something about how he has bought us back from NOTHING!!! Saying that he has earned my respect!!

alex w





Mixed feelings about the trading of Polo and Tarpley. Everything was sunny and bright about them before the trade? Now, neither is a big prospect? That would mean we’re kidding ourselves about many, many Pirates prospects ranked in the top 50?

IF the Pirates are unwilling or unable to resign Nova, this was a bad trade by a GM trying to look relevant in his work. Here’s hoping Nova does the Liriano thing and resigns with a team that wants him and a pitching coach who can keep him on the straight and narrow road of ground balls. That’s the key to this trade with the Yankees.

Tom Brenholts

I think it’s more that we tend to delude ourselves as to what “good prospect” means. Think of someone like Jeff Clement. Really good prospect, first round pick. Top of the list. Made it to MLB, briefly. Andy LaRoche. Really good prospect, made the roster.

That’s what “really good prospect” means to me. Good chance to make it to MLB, but not necessarily a good chance to make it as a regular player, to make the leader boards or to be a key part of the roster. For pitchers, a really good prospect most likely will turn into Kyle Lobstein. I mean, the guy made it to The Bigs, but he can just barely hang on. But he was a really good prospect, and he made it.

joe s

It is all spin. The trade was made to make it seem the pirates were relevant this year which they were not. Besides Meadows, Barnes and Osuna the Pirates have very little in the way of minor league outfielders. Just a terrible bunch of trades made to make it look like he was trying. The team seems to have quit. Hurdle is in jeopardy.


So not the case Joe!! Hurdle is in great shape my friend!!


“We believe the sinker plays really well in our ballpark, in our league, with our defense.”
Is NH delusional? The Pirates defense is average at best – they are NOT a strong defensive team.

Bobby L

There are two things that must be considered with Nova. One, can he continue doing what he has done so well since being traded. Two, if he is able to continue as well as he has and being a free agent entering a market where there is a dearth of starting pitching he will demand more than a one year contract and a much higher salary. But if he blows up, should he be resigned?


How will losing Polo and Tarpley hurt if they don’t make the post season or sign Nova?

The trade was made for a two month rental and that was the cost. If Nova had 2 or 3 years left on his contract, then the cost would’ve been higher.

A lot of the projections on Polo have him as a 4th OFer and Tarpley as a reliever…IF they make the majors. And, even if they exceed those projections, it still won’t ‘hurt’ us. We have depth at OF and SP. Plus, we needed a SP for THIS year.


Its funny how Tarpley and Polo were considered very good prospects for the Pirates, BEFORE they were traded. Now, they are just average and will be lucky if they even sniff the majors.
Considering the Pirates were not in any position to make a deep run, even if they did miraculously win a wild card spot, to trade two top 20 prospects for a rental was absurd. It comes across as NH trying to save his butt after his disastrous job this season.
Nova will NOT re-sign with the Pirates – that can almost be guaranteed. Someone will give him an absurd contract and the Pirates will not be able to match it.

Bruce Humbert

C’mon Tim NOBODY expected this team to have such a horrific run at home. 1-9 I think since returning from SF mid October – NOBODY. Swapping out Liriano for Nova in the rotation was a HUGE plus and gave them a fighting chance for the second wild card.

The manager has lost the team – you need no more proof of that than seeing Jaso starting again tonight. I bet you cannot find 5 players in the clubhouse who think Jaso should start over Bell.

What happened to we called him up to play?


Tim….they needed a SP. They had to pay the cost.

Are you saying that they should’ve just given up and gotten nobody?

You can’t keep prospects forever.

Michael Sanders

They didn’t need to trade the prospects at all. They may have considered the fact that they needed two starting pitchers prior to the start of the season. Set the team up for success in the beginning and you won’t have to go into panic mode come August. What did you really get for 4 great prospects (Hutch and Nova trade)? Could you have traded all 4 for one good/great pitcher with some years of control? I think a team would have jumped on a package of all 4.

Bruce Humbert

None of the four “great prospects” will play in the majors for at least two years.

But you are right – all NH had to do,was pick up the phone and call the White Sox and he could have had Chris Sale instead of Nova

Thomas H

Pirates gave up at the beginning of the year. Not at the trade deadline. Getting nova was just “optics.”


NH had to do something to show that he was still trying to win this year. That was why the Nova trade was made. If they make the wild card game again, it was a good trade. Hindsight is always 20/20 in these situations. He had to show that he wasn’t throwing in the towel.

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