Anyone that has followed my work in the past knows that I feel Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has done a solid job of rebuilding the Pirates organization from the ground up.
Huntington has drafted much better then his predecessor and has acquired talent via trade, but while the Pirates are in much better shape now than they were a year ago, things aren’t getting done according to plan.
Someone has to be held accountable for what has turned into a second consecutive collapse and Huntington’s performance has to be evaluated. Here’s a look at a three-part series evaluating Huntington’s performance in the past five years.
I begin by looking at all of the free agents Huntington has signed during his tenure on the job. Now I understand that it wasn’t the plan to build through free agency as the developing talent and acquiring talent took precedence over singing free agents, but you can’t swing and miss with every single free agent signing and that’s exactly what Huntington has done.
To be fair, he’s done an extremely poor job of bringing talent into the organization from the outside. Not one single free-agent signing has worked out in the past five years and that’s unacceptable.
To his credit, Huntington wasn’t on the market looking to add everyday players to this team, but instead looking to add depth and bench players.
He’s failed to this point so far.
First let’s look at the 14 offensive players that he’s signed to either a major-league or minor-league deal and I’ve only included guys that ended up playing more than a handful of games with the Pirates (waiver claims weren’t included as I will look at that later on).
Huntington has signed: Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Garrett Jones, Nate McLouth, Eric Hinske, Lyle Overbay, Bobby Crosby, Matt Diaz, Craig Monroe, Ryan Church, Ramon Vasquez, Luis Rivas, Chris Gomez and Doug Mientkiewicz.
What did the Pirates get from that collection of stiffs?
They got a combined .243 batting average (1,094-for-4,508) and only 500 runs scored in the span of five years. Those 14 guys have combined to hit 123 home runs and drive in only 537 runs (82 HR, 266 RBI by Jones). In addition those guys have combined for a Wins Above Replacement total of 0.0. So at the end of the day, that basically says Huntington didn’t improve this team one bit via free agency.
Let’s say he didn’t swing and miss altogether on Jones, who is far from a legitimate everyday major-league player, but has at least offered up some production. Considering his age, Huntington basically got lucky on Jones, but it worked out a little bit, so give him some credit.
Here’s the total numbers of the free-agent signees if you eliminate the numbers of Jones.
.231 AVG (632-for-2,740), 216 R, 41 HR, 271 RBI,.292 OBP, .613 OPS, -4.4 WAR
Those numbers are beyond awful for 13 players that were signed and it’s unacceptable to continue to bring unproductive talent into the organization. I know Huntington is hamstrung by a light checkbook, but better decisions must be made when it comes to evaluating what talent is brought into the organization.
But while Huntington has failed miserably when trying to sign hitters, many feel that he has done a good job signing pitchers. But is that really the case?
I beg to differ.
The list of 14 pitchers that have been signed as either major- or minor-league free agents that have appeared in more than a couple of games for the Bucs include: Kevvin Correia, Jason Grilli, Juan Cruz, Doug Slaten, Rick van den Hurk, Joe Biemel, Erik Bedard, D.J. Carrasco, Octavio Dotel, Jason Davis, Brendan Donnelly, Wil Ledezma, Javier Lopez and Chris Bootcheck.
He’s had much more success with the arms, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying he’s done a good job of signing pitchers either.
Looking at the production Huntington has gotten from those 14 guys, you get:
862.0 IP, 416 ER, 4.34 ERA, 46 Wins, 58 Losses, 27 Saves, 1.63 WHIP, 739 K, 378 BB, 0.3 WAR
First thing to note is that 23 of the wins belong to Correia, so Huntington has bought exactly 23 other wins from the 13 other guys.
Combined the 28 free agents have a WAR of 0.3. To say that the Pirates front office isn’t getting it done signing free agents would be far too kind. It’s possible I may have missed a scrub or two along the way, but they wouldn’t have affected that number in a positive way, if anything they bring that number down.
Also take a look at how many of these guys have lasted an entire season with the Pirates: Grilli, Correia, Barajas, Barmes and Jones. That’s it. Five guys out of 28 goes a long way to showing how poor of a job the Bucs have done at signing free agents. He was able to turn Dotel into James McDonald, but the rest just turned out to be garbage.
The best things Huntington has to show for the past five years is Grilli and Correia, with an honorable mention thrown to Jones. That’s simply not good enough.
Again, I know it wasn’t the plan going in to sign many impact free agents, but Huntington does sign players and he’s pretty much missed on every single one of them.
I will examine all the trades he has made later in the week, but the bottom line is that Huntington has done nothing to improve this team via free agency and that’s something that must change if he’s retained.