Neal Huntington Discusses Pirates Deadline Moves, New Prospects, and Trade Talks

The Pirates made two trades at the deadline today, but hardly made a splash. They traded Tony Watson, getting prospects Oneil Cruz and Angel German in return for his final two months before free agency. They also added Joaquin Benoit for minor league reliever Seth McGarry.

After the deadline, I pointed out on Twitter that Watson had a 4.61 xFIP this year, while Benoit has a 4.66 xFIP. That’s not really praise for Benoit, as much as pointing out that the Pirates replaced one struggling reliever with previous success for another. I’m not sure if either pitcher will bounce back, although I don’t think it matters for the Pirates as much, since their chances of contending this year are low after the last week.

On the flip side of this, the Pirates traded one prospect who didn’t make our top 50 in exchange for two prospects — one of which (Cruz) will probably end up in our top 50. The Pirates may have stayed neutral in the majors, but they definitely had a small upgrade to their farm system. It seems they were thinking the same thing, based on Neal Huntington’s comments after the deadline.

“We’ve felt we’ve had the opportunity to add two prospects that are very intriguing to us for various reasons,” Huntington said. “And we had the opportunity to acquire Joaquin Benoit for one prospect that we liked. In a vacuum, we like the return we got on the prospects, and we felt like we’re giving Clint Hurdle a legitimate veteran option, with neutral splits, to help us be able to win ballgames.”

Huntington said that they weren’t necessarily looking to make moves that worked in conjunction, but this was how the day worked out for them.

Other Potential Trades

It was difficult getting a feel for what the Pirates would do prior to the deadline. They were in a similar situation as last year where they were technically contenders, but not strong contenders. So I guess it’s not a surprise that they approached this year with the same plan they had last year to trade expiring contracts, and also look for some cheap, short-term help.

“We obviously approached the trade deadline from a similar mindset as we did a year ago,” Huntington said. “We wanted to respect the positive signs from this 2017 club. We have one of the top five records in baseball against teams with a record of .500 or better, but we also need to be realistic, and unfortunately we’ve been challenged against teams with a record of .500 or worse. In terms of the current club, we’ve had a large number of young players that are playing key roles for us. They’re learning, they’re developing, and they’re getting better every day.”

Huntington said repeatedly that the team had more conversations, but didn’t find a deal that worked for them. He wouldn’t comment on any specific players, and had no comment on Andrew McCutchen talks. He did say they tried adding a bat, and different types of pitchers, but didn’t come to a deal.

“We had other expiring contracts that, if we wanted to, we could have moved other players. The returns were not compelling. The Watson return was compelling,” Huntington said. “We had a number of conversations to add more to the 2017 club. The challenge was that Benoit was the only conversation that came to fruition. In some cases, the organizations chose to go in different routes. In some cases, we thought the acquisition cost was above where we were comfortable going. In some cases, there just never was momentum to come together. We sought several other opportunities to add to the 2017 club.”

The interesting thing going forward will be what they do with Juan Nicasio. He has been one of their best relievers this year. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, they kept a few rentals last year, then either extended them (David Freese), or tried to re-sign them in the offseason (Sean Rodriguez). They also added Ivan Nova as a rental and re-signed him. So it’s possible that they could now target Nicasio to stick around, much in the same way that they did with Freese and Rodriguez after keeping them last year.

Huntington also said that the team will explore August trades, as usual.

The Prospects

Huntington described the prospects acquired as “two guys with risk, but two guys with quality ceilings.” My analysis of traded prospect Seth McGarry is in the Benoit article, and my thoughts on the Watson return were that Cruz is the better prospect, while they get a typical hard throwing relief prospect as well. I actually like what I’ve read about German better compared to what I’ve seen from McGarry, but neither pitcher has an easy path to the majors. Cruz is the clear big return here.

Huntington broke down what they liked about each prospect.

Huntington on Cruz: “It’s a very long levered athlete that has quality raw power. Hits the ball about as hard as anybody we have in our system right now. There’s a run and throw tool. He’s growing into his body. He shot from 6′ 1″ to 6′ 6″ in a very short period of time. He’s a good old-fashioned run-throw athlete that teams talk about that has quality raw power. He was very intriguing to us.”

Huntington on German: “It’s a big man with a big arm. It’s a fastball in the mid-90s, complemented by a developing slider and changeup. He’s gotten ground balls, he’s gotten strikeouts, and again, there’s power to his stuff.”

Wishing the Best For Watson

The move to trade Tony Watson wasn’t a surprise. The Pirates traded Mark Melancon last year, who was having a better season, and when they were arguably closer to contending. So it was expected that they’d be listening and could possibly deal Watson in a trade like this. On the flip side, it ends a long run for a reliever who has been very successful for the Pirates, and a great guy off the field.

“We wanted to appreciate Tony Watson for the man he is, for all he’s done for the organization, and for the community,” Huntington said. “But the reality also was that he was on an expiring contract, and we were able to acquire two young prospects that we think highly of. We also acquired a veteran reliever that’s pitched in high leverage roles in the past, that is relatively neutral splits, and gives Clint Hurdle an option as we continue to push this forward for this year, and the young prospects help us continue to push this organization forward in the big picture.”

Huntington went on to praise Watson at length, both for his on-field efforts and his off-field personality. As someone who has covered Watson since 2010, I can confirm what a great person he is, and personally wish him the best in Los Angeles.

“A huge thank you is owed to Tony Watson by us as an organization, and really by us as a community,” Huntington said. “Tony has been the constant professional. He’s helped our young players grow and develop off the field. He’s a tremendous family man. He’s a tremendous friend.

“These are hard. These are not fun conversations when you call a player who has been here a long time and tell him he’s going somewhere else. You know it impacts his family. You know it impacts a lot of people in his life. He’s got friendships that we hope he’ll continue to maintain over the rest of his life.

“We cannot express enough appreciation for Tony Watson as a man, as well as the pitcher. Everything he’s done, the stable force he’s been in the back-end of our bullpen for a long time. We wish him success, and want him to go out and do everything he’s capable of doing, because he’s just a tremendous person, and he’s been a tremendous pitcher since he’s been with the Pirates.”

Why Benoit?

I understood the reason to trade Watson. The Benoit trade really amounts to no more than a waiver claim. From the sound of things, the Pirates aren’t taking on much of his salary, and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle by getting him back to his old self. You could guess that this is their small attempt to keep the team competitive, although without other moves the Pirates don’t seem to have a strong chance of contending.

The big question is why the Pirates wouldn’t just go with a prospect like Edgar Santana or Dovydas Neverauskas. The answer to that also may answer why they brought in Benoit.

“It’s an indication that we still are working through their growth and development as young pitchers,” Huntington said of Santana and Neverauskas. “Sometimes you can ask too much of a player. We are still fighting for a division. We are still fighting for a Wild Card. Benoit allows Clint to have a veteran that has been there and done that to pitch in meaningful innings, while we’re also continuing to give Santana and Neverauskas growth and development at the Triple-A level. We certainly feel comfortable for them coming up and pitching in a lower leverage role. But we want to make sure we don’t ask too much of our young guys too quickly.”

You could argue that one of those two could come up and pitch in a lower-leverage role. However, both have late inning upsides, and would probably be better working on their issues in Triple-A. I don’t think it’s a problem that Benoit is taking innings from them in August. It will be a different story in September if he’s still taking innings from them, especially if the Pirates are out of the race.




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How much more Kool Aid does Huntington (aka Jim Jones) expect us to drink. Looks like Nutting has enough cash now to go out and buy a new resort. This is getting seriously ridiculous. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Seth McGarry bite the Bucs in the butt a few years from now.


could the pirates be looking to sign benoit to a 2018 contract? his stats are all hr driven and pnc park can help that come down.


The basic problem with the Pittsburgh Pirates today is that Bob Nutting is continuing to run the team on a CHEAP basis! The front office simply mouths what Nutting wants to cover up, that he is a cheap owner always complaining about a small market team having problems. But we’ve known we have a cheap owner for years.

What we’re learning now is that Huntington is a below average drafting general manager. Yes, his teams are winning in the minors for the most part, but where oh where are all the good prospects to come up and play well? All of this could turn around if Glasnow suddenly becomes the next Randy Johnson, which is possible. But don’t hold your breath. My .02 on the matter.


I do not ordinarily defend the front office, but Nutting is NH’s boss. I do not know the work climate of others on this site, but when my boss approves my annual budget I have to stick to it. I also respect and understand the hierarchy of professional organizations. It is understandable that NH toes the company line. I think given his budget limitations NH does an admirable job. There is not a GM in the business who is perfect.


Tim, can you please provide a bit of your true opinion on this day? More importantly the time since 98 wins? You are not paid by the BMTIB as far as I know.


“…by getting him (Benoit) back to his old self.”?
The guy is 40 years old. I think we want him back to his young self.


On the Huntingdon comments, was this a press conference? Was he asked questions by members of the media? Was this just a statement with no questions?

Daniel D

Hey Tim, you think the Pirates will go after DJ Peterson?

Harry S

Cruz sounds like a clone of Polanco. Long looping swing, potential for power, grew quickly. Can you imagine Polanco trying to play 3B if he was right handed ?


do not underestimate the return NH got from the Dodgers… both are pretty intriguing . Most of the comments here are very similar to when Melancon left and the Bucs got Rivero & Hearn. How’d that work out ??

Joe P

Any chance they may have been trying to flip Rivero and saw Benoit as potential closer if they did? I think the Dodgers or someone would have way overpaid for Rivero and catapulted our farm system.


Very doubtful.. if anyone would be closer in that situation it would be Nicasio. Plus Bucs wouldn’t shop Rivero, and Dodgers showed unwillingness to part with elite prospects

Dale O

“Good afternoon everyone… We kicked the can down the road until we can get up to it and kick it further again. Bob would like me to remind you that tickets are $19 off this entire home stand. Thanks, have a nice day!”

Fixed your presser/quotes for ya Neal.


Emmet M

NH must be very popular in Charleston, Bradenton and to an extent Altoona. He works tirelessly to make sure their fans get to see loaded, contending teams. Somehow, those same guys seem to get kidnapped on the way to Indy or Pittsburgh.


Yeah, he is popular in Altoona. It seems like once you get about 80 miles West of here stupidity sets in. Nobody says ” yinz ” in Blair County.

Emmet M

Bristol must be overloaded with prospects.

Bobby L

Then Bristol is the most prospect loaded MiL team of this season.

Matthew R

Any reliable news on how much of Benoit’s salary the Phils are taking on?


Huntington’s on an expiring contract himself…time for a new GM


For what it’s worth, I think NH is a fantastic GM given the circumstances he has to work with. You put him on a team that has more actual “financial flexibility” and he’ll put together a solid run of playoff births for aforementioned team.
I’m all for smart spending. I also realize this is a small market without the revenue larger markets have. But my tax money pays for that effing stadium, and I would like Nutting to show he’s interested in putting a competitive team on that field, not in every minor league city affiliated with the Pirates.


So meaningful late summer and early fall baseball every year for 6 years doesn’t qualify as “competitive”?

Thomas H

3 winning seasons 7 losing seasons under NH not counting the current season, which has been a hude disappointment.

Those are the facts. “Meaningful fall baseball” is a fiction.


This is either an awfully generous definition of “meaningful” or a tenuous grasp of seasons.

John Allen Habel III

Any other potential waiver claims?

Daniel D

DJ Peterson

Bobby L

Hope so.

dr dng

Weather there doesn’t look good.
Hope you are ok.


I knew it was not going to happen now, but this coming off season the front office needs to acquire a player who makes the fans say, ” Wow! I can’t believe he’s gonna be a Bucco! This is gonna be great!” A name that will put butts in seats just to watch him play. Todd Frazier comes to mind. Mike Moustakas. Jake Arrieta. Who else might we target?


Todd Frazier ???? Are you serious ?

Arik Florimonte

In your scenario, then people will say, “NH is an idiot for trading ” and ” is an overpaid bum”.


All twelve of you would get over it quickly, I promise.


I feel like when people make statements such as the one you replied to, they’re essentially saying they want management to purposely make bad decisions so they have something to complain about.

Mike U

I think its more him saying that regardless of what happens, people will complain.


I know. I was agreeing with him, I think it’s funny when people make those kind of “If Pirates do this…” statements. They’ve wanted Cutch gone, but want to overpay for a 200 hitting Frazier cause of HR totals and memories of him crushing Pirates while in a Reds uniform? Makes no sense.

John W

Cheapest deadline prices in years and Nh talking about high “acquisition costs”. He thinks we are all idiots.


That sums things up pretty accurately. This year’s deadline extravaganza was a total disgrace where the Pirates are concerned. Their ownership and front office just thumbed their collective noses at their own players and the fan base. I have never seen a front office quit on their own team until now.


For a guy who thinks he’s smart, NH actually has no faith in his own drafting abilities. If he was confident, he would not mind so much trading prospects if he thought he could replace them. It’s like he thinks he can’t replace them. I guess for him, continued losing (face it, missing the playoffs annually is losing) is less embarrassing than making a bold move and have it fail.

Kerry Writtenhouse

I think the one thing that bothers me is, he’ll trade higher rated prospects to shed money. But he won’t trade them to go get a frontline player.


Haha here we go again with high rated prospects. After yesterday McGuire and Ramirez are both out of Tornontos top 30! Get a clue.

Kerry Writtenhouse

I realize where they are now nostradamus. I also realize their stock was starting to slip. But the concept remains the same. He’ll trade better prospects to shed money than improve the roster. It’s funny how punks like you jump all over someone when they make a comment. Mighty brave behind that keyboard .


McGuire is no better than Toronto’s 5th best catching prospect. Ramirez is their 6th best OF prospect.

John W

What a joke NH has become. The return for Watson is fine. The forecast for this team’s future remains the same/ mediocre as far as the eye can see.

Scott K

Why do you refuse to understand Pirates FO puts their faith in the players they draft and develop. The ML roster is loaded with young players who are learning how to be successful, mixed in with some vets who are, or have been, successful.

If that’s what mediocre as far as the eye can see looks like, than you’re just a pessimist of the first order.


the real question here is could you ever see this front office and ownership group going for a yu darvish? sonny gray? quintanna? jd martinez? type of player at the trading deadline?

Imagine if you will, flash forward to early october and the pirates win the division by 3 games, what the hell are we going to do in LF and 3B? I know it sounds crazy, but, the cubs are far from sure locks at this point and the pirates (for whatever reason) plays the cubs/cardinals/brewers very rough – i almost dont want to see them win the division at this point because i could see them being manhandled in the playoffs by yanks v pirates 1960 kinda numbers only without us showing up offensively on our side – what a shame – someone please tell this front office that you can only play 9 starters per game no matter if you have 500 prospects….

Stephen Brooks

We don’t have to wonder, we know Huntington made an offer for Price (rumored to be headlined by Josh Bell) that was, according to Peter Gammons, better than Detroit’s winning offer.

I don’t know whether he would/will ever trade for an A-list rental like Darvish; in the 7-ish years of contention he’s only traded for 3 starters at the deadline, and the 2 rentals were JA Happ in ’15 and Ivan Nova in ’16 – mid-rotation guys who didn’t cost anything the Pirates would miss (Wandy Rodriguez was the 3rd, and he was under contract for the next year plus an option).

And honestly, I don’t hate the logic of targeting a mid-rotation rental vs. a #1 because the benefit over 10-11 starts of the 1 vs. the 3 isn’t likely to be huge. Unless it’s a Cy Young candidate like Sabathia in 2008 (and he was traded before the AS Break). Or Lester in 2014.

But trade for a #1 with an additional controllable year or more, like Gray or Quintana? Maybe, but as with Price in 2014, when the Pirates at the deadline were in a 3-way dogfight for the NL Central and a 4-way for the WC, the circumstances would have to be right.

As for bats, he traded for Marlon Byrd, who was having a better season in 2013 than JD Martinez is now (or did last year), so there’s a qualified yes there too.

I think both this year and last, NH has seen the path to the playoffs as too uphill to justify cashing in, but not so remote that it makes sense to tear it down.


Im curious, in what universe is it that we have been in contention for 7-ish years? It has been 3-ish years…must be the same universe that you equate Marlon Byrd with JD Martinez – r u fuckin kidding me? and the Price bullshit…how do we really know that we were in competition for him and if we were, how is it that a supposedly far worse toronto farm system was able to pry him from detroit for lesser? prospects than the pirates had?

Stephen Brooks

On the morning of the trading deadline from 2011-2016 the Pirates were:

2011: 3.5 games back in NLC
2012: 3 games back in NLC, #1 WC position
2013: 1.5 games ahead in NLC
2014: 2 games back in NLC, 0.5 games out of #2 WC
2015: 5.5 games back in NLC, #1 WC position
2016: 3 games out of #2 WC

I leave it to the professionals who run baseball teams to determine what “contention” is: I looked at all teams within 4 games of a playoff spot at the trading deadline over the last 10 years, and the vast majority of teams added at the deadline. So THEY think they’re in contention.

I wrote “7-ish” because the Pirates were within 2 games until they lost 7 of 8 in COL, SF and SD. Had those last two series against two of the three worst teams in baseball gone differently, the Pirates would have been no worse than 3 back at the deadline again.

Marlon Byrd in 2013 had a 3.4 WAR when the Pirates traded for him. JD Martinez had a 1.6 WAR when Arizona traded for him. Byrd in 2013 was a 4-win player. JD will end this season around 3 wins. This is easy to look up.

We know we were in competition for Price because it was reported by Peter Gammons.

And it wasn’t Toronto who traded for him, it was Detroit. This was 2014, not 2015. This is also easy to look up.

But don’t let facts get in the way of a good rant to a month-old post.


Stop injecting logic. It’s raining “nevers ” and “always”

Kerry Writtenhouse

Don’t kid yourself, they wouldn’t make it to the yankees.


N.H. has become a joke. From the Walker trade to now, nothing except Rivero (and we had to give up a 10 million dollar player to do that.) In 2013, with the promise if we showed up they would spend, I drive across state for the right to spend thousands. Now I would give these owners money if they played across the street. Cleveland, same size as us spends 20 million Encarnacion. Trades stud prospect for Miller, while our owner/gm counted their prospects and ticket sales like scrooge mc duck. I cant wait til they trade Cutch for the next Neise-Basrardo combo this offseason and attendence goes down another 25%. And they will wonder why.


yutz03, very accurately and appropriately put. This ownership and front office just quit on this team. Instead of providing the team with the players to give them a shot at playing in October, they decided to punt the rest of the 2017 season. WHAT AN ABSOLUTE DISGRACE!!!!!!!!!!!!! I VERY WELL MAY BE DONE AS A FAN OF MLB IN GENERAL, AND THE PIRATES IN PARTICULAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Rut roh, not Basrardo!

Travis P

You DO understand that the GM works for the owner, right? He’s not using money out of his own pocketbook. I never quite understand people like you who throw Huntington in with being so cheap. You can get mad about plenty of things, but anything to do with the money, salary, etc make all your other points seem uneducated on the infrastructure of any organization, let alone a professional sports organization.


He had the chance to move the likes of Meadows and Glasnow to go for it when we had the chance…now were back to filling in and trying to compete with the Joe Randa, oops, I mean David Freese’s of the world. 20 more years, here we come.


Because people like this one are stupid ?

Bill Harvey

It really wasn’t hard to figure out what the Pirates were going to do today. It will be very similar to what they do next year. They will still be good enough to be middling around the division, not good enough to win it, too good to completely tank it. The sad thing is that Cutch will be the expiring contract that gets moved. Let’s hope the front office treats him as nice as they did Watson and give him a real shot to win the WS.

jason d

They should be better by at least 10 games next year. They will have a healthy outfield with Austin Meadows on the bench at some point. Cole should be fine, Taillon should be better, any combination of a much improved Glasnow, steady eddie Trevor Williams, much improving Chad Kuhl, looking good lately Nick Kingham, finding his ceiling Steven Brault, or regressing Nova should make for a solid rotation. Anyone of those guys above that don’t make the rotation may very well end up helping the bullpen. I also still like Santana and Neverauskus to help in 2018. The bench should be better with Frazier, Meadows, Jose Osuna, and possibly Newman, but is still the one area they need to improve. I wouldn’t want nothing but rookies on the bench. 2018 Pirates look a lot stronger with zero moves than the 2017 team that hasis missing 1 or 2 big bats in the middle of the order( Marte and Kang).


cutches option should be picked up today, also if huntington and hurdle options are not picked up soon ,that would be a telling sign.

IC Bob

I don’t think Cutch makes it to the starting gate next year. I think he is traded in December. One thing is for sure when we say a player has 4-6 years of team control we need to adjust it to when the Pirates will actually trade them which is 3 months to two years before their contract runs out


Neal…..You’re 8.5 back in the Wild Card. You are NOT fighting for a WC.

Bill Harvey

Foo, we both suck. Both of us banned ourselves from commenting, yet, here we are.

Rick Ceschin

Seems an odd way to go about, essentially, swapping prospects. Liked Watson and hope he does well for the Dodgers (like, beating the Cubs, for instance).

Side note: Does Huntington realize he refers to Cruz and German as ‘It’? I know professional athletes are often treated as commodities by GMs, but that seems a little blatant.

Rick Ceschin

That’s fair — thanks for clarifying.


It’s the way he talks…essentially these guys are nothing more than assets to him.

Scott K

You’re way too smart to make such a ridiculous statement like this Lee.


No he isn’t.

Arik Florimonte

Did you not read the whole article?

“We cannot express enough appreciation for Tony Watson as a man, as well as the pitcher. Everything he’s done, the stable force he’s been in the back-end of our bullpen for a long time. We wish him success, and want him to go out and do everything he’s capable of doing, because he’s just a tremendous person, and he’s been a tremendous pitcher since he’s been with the Pirates.”


Interesting to not that going strictly by FIP Benoit’s ERA is nearly a run better than Watson’s. Probably a wash however


What’s the diff between FIP and xFIP?

Stephen Brooks

HR rate. xFIP assumes a league-average rate of HR to fly balls. FIP gives credit/dings for actual HR allowed.

Basically it’s another method of “wishcasting” success of a player with a super high HR/FB. Particularly if you’ve just acquired one and need to feel better about the move.


But in this case, the xFIP makes Benoit look much worse. If you look at his FIP, he is much bette.

Bill Harvey

A small x

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