7/31/2014 9:05 P.M. ET
Huntington OK with no action at Deadline
Pirates could seek waiver deals like last year; Hurdle shifts focus back to field
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- For a general manager who had just spent days having the allegorical door slammed in his face, Neal Huntington sounded pretty upbeat Thursday afternoon.
"We identified potential fits, wanted to add and worked hard to. At the end of the day, we weren't able to push anything across the line," Huntington said after he had crossed the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline without a move.
On a historically active day, the inertia made the Pirates unique. Of the 14 teams that began the day within three games of a postseason berth -- the Bucs were in second place in the National League Central, two games behind Milwaukee -- they were one of only three to not swing a trade in the three days leading up to the Deadline. The other inactive clubs were the Angels and Giants -- who both had done their work earlier.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who had huddled daily with Huntington as the Deadline approached, shared the GM's view that the boost the club needs can come from the players already in uniform.
"Now that the dust has settled, the focus needs to be on playing games," said Hurdle, shortly before a team meeting in which he planned to tell players to step up and to not question the lack of reinforcements. "We'll look for each individual to get a little bit better. The last five, six weeks we've shown that we can compete. We can play. We also have some people with more upside. We think there's more available than what they've put on the field.
"Our focus needs to be on the players we have here. There's got to be trust at all levels: The GM doesn't come down here and question the guys on what happened during the game; he trusts what we do and we trust what he does."
Huntington had to be comforted by last summer's experience. Likewise, he didn't act -- a year ago, the Pirates led the division by 2 1/2 games -- and at the end of a mediocre August (14-14), he swung deals for Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd and John Buck.
"It was a challenge last year, and we ended up working through some situations. So we'll continue to work hard and find avenues," Huntington said. "We'll see how things play out. We like the core of the team. Guys are turning a corner and we look forward to a strong finish. We still like the foundation of the rotation."
That was a reference to the two main targets in Huntington's bull's-eye: Left-handers Jon Lester of Boston and David Price of Tampa Bay, who went to Oakland and Detroit, respectively.
Connecting some dots, this is what appears to have happened: Huntington loosened his hold on some of the organization's top young prospects, particularly for Price, stretching "way beyond our comfort level;" but he wasn't able to compete when others' offers veered toward established Major Leaguers.
Lester returned Yoenis Cespedes. Price returned Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin in the Rays' three-team deal. Furthermore, John Lackey went from Boston to St. Louis for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly.
The Bucs simply do not have the depth at the big league level to have been competitive with those offers.
"It was interesting, in that the majority of impact players went for Major League talent instead of teams trying to grab the best prospects they can, as has been the case in recent years," Huntington said. "We engaged teams for the top guys on a lot of fronts, and didn't find the right situation for us.
"We negotiated in good faith. We felt like we were in position to add to this club," he added. "Actually, we feel good where we ended up."
"I know for a fact a lot of effort was made," said Hurdle, who denied that the progress shown recently by Francisco Liriano and the imminent return of Gerrit Cole tempered the Pirates' interest in dealing. "We were still looking to fortify the club where it made sense."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.