Huntington takes questions from fans
GM discusses the 2009 Draft and this season's trades
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington participated in a live online chat with fans on Tuesday. During the chat, Huntington answered many questions about the club's recent trades, the 2009 Draft, future plans for the club and more. The complete transcript follows.
Huntington: Thanks, everyone, for taking a few minutes to chat today. On to the questions. Each Draft has strengths and weaknesses, and as such, our strategy will vary. We intend to be as aggressive next year as we were this year, though.1pitpitpir1: Overall, were you satisfied with the outcome of this year's Draft?
Huntington: We are pleased overall at the outcome of the Draft. We would have liked to have added a few more players, but we lost some in the delay of the signing process, and we had others whose [asking price] increased after the Draft. Overall, though, we are very pleased to add a quality amount of talent to the system.
Corsairship25: You spent a lot of money on the Draft but didn't sign as many players as other teams. Does that quantity of players signed this year concern you at all?
Huntington: We focused more on quality this year over quantity. No team ever intends to sign all 50 players drafted. Last year we signed nine seniors. This year our need for those types of signs was reduced because of the improved depth of our system, and we only signed four seniors this year. Other clubs signed many more college seniors than we did this year, and that is a good thing for us, because we were more focused on signing talent than filling a short-season roster with a college senior.
dsnelqendo: The major criticism over the past year seems to be that the Pirates have received lots of quantity but not enough top quality. How do you respond?
Huntington: We have essentially two basic responses to that criticism. The first is that Major League teams have begun to protect their "best" prospects and are not willing to trade them. Reportedly, San Diego could not get [Tommy] Hanson ... for Jake Peavy. As a result those players were not in play for [Nate] McLouth. Secondly, the best player in our game was a 13th-round selection. A review of the All-Star rosters quickly shows that All-Stars come from all parts of the Draft and International signings. Additionally, we have our own internal preferential lists that sometimes align with the media lists, but they are often times out of alignment. Ours varies from theirs as well.
cutchtime: In your scouting before the Lastings Milledge/Nyjer Morgan trade, was there evidence to support the claims that Milledge could still develop into a five-tool player?
Huntington: Prior to the trade, we felt Lastings still had the tools to be an above-average Major League player. After having the chance to work with him, our staff and scouts feel strongly that ability is still present. Lastings has been very candid about the level of instruction he has had in the past and how excited he is to be working with our instructors. There is no questioning that Nyjer has played far better for the Nationals than he did for the Pirates, but we remain optimistic about the impact Lastings will make for the Pirates.
cutchtime: Which current Pirate has been the most pleasant surprise this season?
Huntington: Garrett Jones has obviously gotten off to a great start, but we should also recognize ... [Andrew McCutchen]! I am sure you will like that answer.
Bashers: When do you honestly think we will stop trading all our great players away? It is very upsetting to see this every year and then to see the players we give away do awesome.
Huntington: I agree that it is tough to watch former Pirates do well elsewhere. Please know that each of the moves we have made is an attempt to put this organization in a position to play meaningful games in September and October consistently. While no small- or midmarket team can retain every player -- nor can any team in reality -- we are closer today to being able to build a winning team around core players. We look forward to having as many players spend as much of their career in Pittsburgh as is feasible because we have broken the cycle of losing.
ernie1717: I am a long-time, die-hard Bucco fan. I like what you are doing with the organization. You have no choice. Do you feel you took away leaders in the clubhouse and that this has resulted in some immaturity? Does the locker room police itself?
Huntington: There is no doubt that veteran leadership and presence have an important role in a clubhouse. We brought in Eric Hinske and Ramon Vasquez to provide some of that going into this season, and we will look to add to Ramon this offseason. Clubhouses can and do police themselves, but the staff also plays an important role. Our young players are getting established, and some of them will step forward as leaders, but our staff can fill the void in the short term, and we will look to add some leadership in the offseason.
jm_bucsfan: What is your strategy for September callups?
Huntington: We will add some players in September to help [manager John Russell] win games by giving him options off the bench. We will also add some other players who have earned their way to the Major Leagues, and they will get playing time in September to show what they can do. In other instances, we have an offseason plan in place for players that trumps a few game looks in September.
swesker: I'm sure you saw the deal that No. 1 Draft pick Stephen Strasburg received last night. If, for example, we have the chance to draft Bryce Harper next year, would you be hesitant to select him, knowing what kind of contract he will command?
Huntington: We place an internal value on each player in the Draft based on our subjective and objective analysis of that player. When the player's [asking price] is within a reasonable range of our value on that player, we will select that player. Simply because a player asks for $9 million does not make him worth it. We are focused on adding the best talent to our system, and we will not shy away from a player because of his demands if we feel they are appropriate.
DDAY: Do you see yourself making any more trades in the next couple of years, or are you going to give the players you have now a chance to win in Pittsburgh?
Huntington: We will continue to look to make this team and organization better. Our young players have the opportunity to seize jobs at the Major League level, and if they do not, we will look to find an alternative (internal or external). We look forward to seeing who can step up and play a significant role in this turnaround.
gooch1973_2: Is Ryan Doumit's injury still bothering him? He doesn't seem to be his old self at the plate or behind it.
Huntington: While Ryan's wrist is healthy and for the most part pain-free, there is very little question that it is impacting his performance. As we expected prior to the surgery, he is not fully 100 percent and likely will not be until next season. Ryan is a competitor and will never use his wrist as an excuse, but his strength is down, his timing is off and, likely, his confidence is a bit shaken. That said, he continues to work hard, and we look forward to him at full strength next year.
eriebuc: What did the Cubs see in Tom Gorzelanny that the Pirates did not?
Huntington: The trade with the Cubs was more about the long-term returns we saw in Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio and Josh Harrison than it was about what we did not see in Tom Gorzelanny.
gobuccos85: Did Jack Wilson have a counteroffer?
Huntington: When we agreed to trade Jack, our understanding from Jack and his agent was that the only way Jack was interested in returning to Pittsburgh was if we retained Freddy Sanchez. After we agreed to trade Jack to Seattle, his agent did reach out to us in an effort to restart talks, but it was too late. At the end of the day, we feel very good about the group of players we received in return for Jack and wish him nothing but success in the future.
vapirates: Do you think you overestimated the talent on this team going into the season, which then led the fans to believe you would build around that talent rather than trade most of the starting lineup?
Huntington: As we did a year ago, we wanted the team to help us determine our course of action. Unfortunately, we were again a sub-.500 team that was not in the hunt for the playoffs. In order to rectify that situation, we needed to acquire more talent. The Draft is the primary way for clubs to acquire talent, but the players out of the Draft that will make the Major Leagues typically take four to six years to make an impact. Most of the nucleus of the '08 and '09 Pirates were scheduled to become free agents after the '09 season. Those factors did not make for a promising combination. We made the difficult decisions to make unpopular trades with the intent to add much-needed talent to our system. Had we won more games, the course chosen would likely had been altered. Either way, many players would have been lost to free agency at the end of this season, instead we have acquired several players that will play a meaningful role for us as we move forward.
That was the last question of the day. Thanks very much for your interest and questions.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.