Back on June 17, Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told Chris Adamski of the Tribune-Review that the Pirates have had more discussions about adding players, than subtracting.
Fast-forward nearly three weeks, and a mark of 5-9 in that span, it’s hard to believe Huntington still feels that way. A week ago, I called for the Pittsburgh Pirates to sell, sell, sell. I haven’t come off that stance, so I do wonder if Huntington changed his view.
But does it really matter if he did or didn’t? It’s time to have a discussion about Huntington’s credibility, both in the media, and as a builder of a major league franchise.
On June 17 against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park, the Pirates dropped an 8-6 decision as Joe Musgrove gave up six earned runs in 4.1 innings of work. Since that day, the Pirates lost five games in a row, and just got smoked by the Los Angeles Dodgers, 17-1, in Los Angeles.
There’s a clear path for the Pirates to rebuild, yet Huntington doesn’t seem to want to embrace that. Reports are that the Pirates continue to search for help in the bullpen, with a name such as Brad Brach of the Baltimore Orioles continuously surfacing. But why would the Pirates – who have a terrible record against winning teams, and face teams with winning records in nearly 70 percent of remaining games – add to this current group?
Well, Huntington and Bob Nutting care about the optics of this team and the moves they make. When Huntington says he’s thinking of doing something, he usually does it, good or bad.
Prior to this season, Huntington told the Pittsburgh media that he traded away Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen to help the 2018 version of the Pirates return to their competitive ways.
Now, I personally don’t see how trading away your best pitcher, and one of your best hitters and face-of-the-franchise makes you better, but in the month of April, Huntington looked like a genius.
Since then? Not so much.
This team is hurting in the pitching department, both at starter (19th in starter ERA, 4.29, 22nd in reliever ERA, 4.35), and has struggled offensively since the month of April, recording an OPS of .645 in June (22nd in baseball) after recording OPS’s of .732 (12th) in April, and .767 (8th) in May.
While it’s tough to blame the poor play completely on Huntington, he helped construct this roster, and his credibility as a talent evaluator and team builder has dwindled year-by-year since the Pirates won 98 games and decided not to add to that group the following winter.
If Huntington still believes this current group of Pirates can still compete for a Wild Card spot, he’s absolutely lost his mind, plain and simple.
He has a lot to do with this current core to regain some credibility. But from where I sit, he’s just about out of all that credibility he built up from 2013-15. He seems to have rested on his laurels thanks to that credibility, and the Pirates have suffered in recent years for it.