Tag:Neal Huntington
Posted on: December 1, 2010 12:42 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 1:10 pm

Newsmakers or Snoozemakers: GMs to watch

From December 6-9, baseball's offseason will kick into high gear as team officials, agents, players and media descend upon Orlando, Fla. This week, MLB Facts and Rumors will preview an aspect of the Winter Meetings each day. Today: The top 5 GMs expected to make noise at the meetings, plus those who should remain quiet.

There figures to be plenty of action at the Winter Meetings and much of it will happen on the floor with agents, media and team representatives, but those responsible for all the machinations will be ensconced in hotel suites, directing the action from above.

While some hotel suites will have plenty of neighbors looking over with a scowl at all the noise, others figure to stay quiet -- well, as quiet as one can amongst the hubbub, anyways. Let's look at who figures to be splashed among the headlines and those who will wait for another day.


Moore Dayton Moore (pictured): Moore has perhaps the best player on the trade market (unless one wants to pitch in Adrian Gonzalez' name) in Zack Greinke, but Greinke ain't going anywhere until Cliff Lee signs -- and even then it's a big if.

While one can't rule out Cliff Lee signing next week, there stands a good chance that may not come to fruition until the week or two after the winter meetings. Remember, Mark Teixeira inked with the Yankees January 6. Lee's market is more defined and aggressive than Teix, but the fact remains: the Lee saga could be far from over.

Sure, Moore figures to make his annual overpay for a mediocre player (cough Jeff Francouer cough), but that'll get overshadowed and is essentially a non-story anyways until K.C.'s baby boom arrives.

Sandy Alderson : Alderson was thought to be close to a deal with starting pitcher Chris Young, although those talks have not progressed as quickly as originally thought. This is roughly the caliber of player New York will be seeking. The core of the team (both financial and talent-wise) is already on the club. It's Alderson's job to supplement the team with the best opportunity to win in 2011 with the resources it has, while leaving the future (as immediate as 2012) open for making the team the way Alderson wants it.

That leaves Alderson discussing deals with lower-tier free agents, not enough for people to really sit up and take attention of at this point. However, his has been a bit of an aggressive free-agent market, so while lower-tier names usually don't fly off the board early, Alderson could net some in Orlando. Alderson is also thought to be trying to clear out salary, but that won't be easy to do and any proposed deal that hits the rumor page doesn't make sense.

Michael Hill
: Larry Beinfest is still attached to the Marlins publicly in his role as president for any moves in baseball operations, but Michael Hill is the general manager in name and practice so he is the one of record making the moves Florida has done lately. And they've been plenty: trading Dan Uggla, Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller and signing John Buck along with Javier Vazquez.

Is Florida done? No. Are they nearly done? Yep. Florida could stand to add one more bat, either at second, third or center, but may choose not to do so. The Marlins have wrapped up so much of their business quickly that there simply isn't much left to do.

Neal Huntington: The Pirates aren't high on anyone 's wish list, so even if Huntington is much in the same position as Alderson in only being able to afford mid- and lower-tier free agents as the Bucs desperately try to reverse the stink of 2010, no players will be signing in town anytime soon. There are no major trades on the horizon either.

Dan O'Dowd : O'Dowd is in a similar situation to Hill in that he's made most of his major moves. A mega-million extension for Troy Tulowitzki and enticing Jorge de la Rosa back to town were his grand strokes. Up next is fortifying the bench and infield, which may be done with a trade of Seth Smith or Ryan Spilborghs which would only register as a minor rumble on the Winter Meetings-ometer.

Ah, but as Michael Buffer (pictured) is famous for saying, these GMs figure to be prominently displayed...


Brian Cashman : Cashman has his fingers in pretty much every major storyline this offseason. Let's look:
  • The No. 1 free agent target in the market, Cliff Lee, is the apple of New York's eye and they are determined to outspend everyone for his services.
  • The best position player on the market in Carl Crawford would be best served in seeing the Lee saga to play out in case the Yankees become a suitor. Jayson Werth's suitors will crystallize with Crawford off the block, so his own timeline is delayed.
  • The Yankees have the resources and may have the desire to get Zack Greinke from the Royals. The latest scuttlebutt has Greinke willing to waive his no-trade clause even for New York.
  • The public brouhaha between the Yankees and Jeter has been a major plot for a league-average player at this point in his career because of all the implications therein. The Yankees are dominating the media with this topic.
  • Oh, and about that greatest closer of all-time? Yeah, Mariano Rivera and New York may be edging closer to a contract extension that could be announced at the meetings to give the Yankees an injection of goodwill.
  • Yep, another bullet point. Don't forget about Andy Pettitte, trying to decide between retirement or rejoining the Yankees.
Dave Dombrowski : The Tigers have been very busy this offseason so far, snaring Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez while re-upping with Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta. A big outlay has been made, but the Tigers aren't done just yet. The club could stand to add another starting pitcher and definitely need to add an outfielder. You can't rule Jayson Werth out, although Detroit figures to shoot lower.

Andrew Friedman
: Friedman has a major task ahead of him in rebuilding the Rays back to the level they achieved just months ago in the 2010 season. He has to start over with a bullpen while replacing Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. The two major trade chips are Jason Bartlett and to a lesser extent, either Matt Garza or James Shields. Bartlett should be moved quickly, but Tampa's work will be far from done. The club needs to get as many chips as it can in order during the meetings.

Kenny Williams: No Winter Meeting is complete without a patented Kenny Williams move. Unafraid to be aggressive in free agency and trades, Williams always seems to have something cooking. The team needs a catcher, outfielder and could even strike for a third or first baseman. How good would Adam Dunn look on that club?

Tony Reagins
: The Angels have sure been quiet for a team expected to make a splash. Where's the Adrian Beltre signing? The flash of bulbs as Carl Crawford holds up his jersey? Rafael Soriano grinning as he assumes the mantle of closer?

You may see all (or some) of those at the Winter Meetings. The Angels have been laying in wait, shuffling their cards behind the scenes and could be poised to break through.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 21, 2010 12:39 am

Pirates waiting for Pena?

Tony Pena The Pirates may have their eye on one of the LCS coaches, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 's Rob Biertempfel writes .

The candidate that could make the most sense is Yankees bench coach Tony Pena, a former Pirates catcher.

The Pirates have announced each candidate after their interviews, but haven't done so since last Thursday.

"The managerial search is an ongoing process," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told Beirtempfel. "We continue to do due diligence on candidates and are considering additional interviews."

In addition to Pena, the Pirates could also interview Rangers hitting coach Clint Hurdle, Giants bench coach Ron Wotus and Yankees third base coach Rob Thomson.

The Pirates have already interviewed Eric Wedge, hired Monday by the Mariners, John Gibbons, Dale Sveum, Carlos Tosca, Jeff Banister, Bo Porter and Ken Macha.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: October 3, 2010 1:23 am
Edited on: October 3, 2010 3:16 pm

Report: Pirates to fire Russell, keep Huntington

John Russell The Pirates will reportedly fired manager John Russell, while keeping general manager Neal Huntington, although both are under contract through 2011.

Citing "several internal sources," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 's Dejan Kovacevic writes the decisions "should become known early this week."

It's just another example of a team firing the manager, when it doesn't really matter. Managers make for cheap and easy scapegoats. Russell saw this coming the day he took the job.

It's not like the love child of Connie Mack and John McGraw conceived in a test tube belonging to Tony La Russa could have done much better with the roster Russell was given, but that's just the way the game works.

The Pirates go into the final day of the season with a 57-103 record and are 186-298 in the last three seasons, all under the guidance of Russell and Huntington.

Not that either Huntington or Russell are blameless, but the ownership group has famously used its money to pad its pockets, rather than try to put the best product on the field. But even though fellow owners don't like the likes of the Nutting family just taking its revenue sharing money, the owners who do care about winning like seeing the Pirates on their schedule and know they don't have to worry about them. No matter who is fired or hired, while there are owners like the Nuttings in Pittsburgh and David Glass in Kansas City, baseball will continue to have its patsies always available to play their part as the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters of the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals of MLB.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 1, 2010 1:18 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2010 1:48 pm

Pirates fire Double-A champion manager Walbeck

Matt Walbeck On Wednesday night, the Pirates fired Double-A manager Matt Walbeck, just days after winning the Eastern League championship.

What, are the Pirates fully committed to losing?

The firing of Walbeck, a former journeyman catcher (photo from playing days) who retired in 2003, was met with surprise by many. After all, Walbeck is one of the more successful minor-league managers at just 40. He won the Double-A championship in his second year at Altoona, a place where he was popular with the fans. He was the third-base coach of the Rangers in 2008 and prior to that won his league's manager of the year award three times in four years while in the Tigers' system.

Walbeck, 40, just completed his second year as Altoona’s manager. In 2008, he was third base coach for the Texas Rangers. In the previous four years, he was a manager in the Detroit Tigers’ system, where he was his league’s manager of the year three times in four years.

"Kyle [Stark, director of player development] just told me that, hey, you're driven, you have aspirations, you have goals, and we feel it's best for your development and growth to move on,"Walbeck recalled to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . "It’s funny in this business where you think you’re in, and then you’re out."

An entirely different story is being filtered to the media, however.

The Pirates reportedly were not pleased with Walbeck's management in 2009 but opted to give him another chance. He failed.

Pittsburgh management felt that Walbeck was not strictly adhering to the development programs the Pirates have passed down, including extra work before games. The Pirates are well-known for their rigid enforcement of rules and development programs. The Gazette noted that other coaches in the past have complained that the structure is too rigid, not allowing for individual quirks.

Huntington disagreed, saying that coaches "can be individuals within our framework," but it all has to work together. Winning games and championships in the minors is nice, but our goal is to get players prepared for games in Pittsburgh."

The Pirates and their discipline and thin-skinned demeanor has been a problem in the past -- Jose Bautista was largely run out of town for expressing that he was disappointed he lost the third-base job to Andy LaRoche back in 2008. That was to the Jays' gain. This topic gained additional steam several days ago when Garrett Jones said he did not believe he was a platoon player as GM Neal Huntington said the team was going to find someone to do just that with Jones in 2011. The Bucs weren't pleased with Jones' words.

Regarding Walbeck and the possible lack of pregame workouts as well as communication issues, a source told the Gazette that the squad was lacking in these areas compared to other affiliates. Walbeck disagrees.

"One of my main objectives this season was to follow the guidelines within the minor-league system. Early ground balls. Bunting. Pitchers’ fielding. I felt like I became a better teacher because of it," he said. "Look at the innings pitched. Look at the games played. You can go up and down the roster and see the number of players who were healthy and realize, within that, that it was a successful season, for wins and for development."

The Pirates were also under the impression Walbeck had career aspirations that involved promotions from the Double-A level of the business. This wasn't something ever discussed between the two parties, but it reportedly influenced the Pirates' thinking to dump Walbeck as they weren't interested in promoting him.

Walbeck certainly won't have any trouble finding another job -- if not a promotion, but this is the latest in what is becoming a long line of questionable actions by the Huntington regime.

  -- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: September 22, 2010 12:50 pm

Pirates management seems to have rabbit ears

You'd think a team with the record of futility of the Pirates would be a little more used to criticism.

If you're a player, apparently your job is to shut up and take it. Of course, for Jose Bautista, all's well that ends well -- namely getting the hell outta Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 's Dejan Kovacevic runs down the history between the Pirates and Bautista , and notes the Pirates have made a similar mistakes recently with Neil Walker and Garrett Jones.

Anyway, it's a great read -- make sure you go read the whole thing -- but the key part is here:
In the summer of 2008, just before a morning workout at Wrigley, Jose Bautista was told by John Russell that he had lost his job to Andy LaRoche. This was what Bautista told me that morning in the visitors' dugout.

Seem harmless?

Nevertheless, the Pirates, by several accounts, took umbrage that Bautista expressed that he still saw himself as everyday material, almost as if it were an act of insubordination.

Then, Bautista was sent to the minors.

Then, after Bautista did very well in the minors, he was traded to Toronto for third-string, since-released catcher Robinzon Diaz.
Walker apparently upset management last year when he said he thought he deserved a chance in the mjors -- instead he was told he had to be a super-utility player to make it to the majors. Walker also said Dave Littlefield players were being held down.

Walker got his chance this season and hit .296/.343/.474. The 24-year old got his chance and made the most of it, but was he right and maybe was he ready last year?

Jones may be the latest to receive the cold shoulder from the Pirates after having the audacity to believe in himself. Two weeks ago general manager Neal Huntington said Jones' disappointing 2010 means he will be considered a platoon player in 2011. That didn't please Jones.

"Yeah. My production was down this year, but nothing's set in stone," Jones told Kovacevic . "I think they're just looking at different options for next year. For me, I've got to go into the offseason and really work on my swing, find a way to get out of some of these funks I've had. I'll come in prepared for next season and, whatever decision they make … I'm going to make it hard on them to do something like that."

Or the Pirates could just trade him -- it worked last time.

 -- C. Trent Rosecrans

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: September 3, 2010 10:52 am
Edited on: September 3, 2010 12:23 pm

Pirates president unhappy with team

Paul Maholm There could be a regime change in Pittsburgh, as a projected 109-loss season stares the Pirates in the face.

"I have been extremely disappointed in the team's performance,'' president Frank Coonelly told Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "We are evaluating every aspect of our operation in order to determine how we can get the club moving in the right direction immediately."

That includes assessing the work of GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell, two with contracts through 2011.

The Pirates certainly expected a losing season in 2010, but not one that could be the team's worst since 1953, when the team went 50-104 for a .325 winning percentage. Pittsburgh is currently at 44-89 with a .331 winning percentage.

The team has an intriguing future ahead, with Andrew McCutchen manning center field, Jose Tabata in left and power-hitter Pedro Alvarez at the hot corner. Second baseman Neil Walker has also turned heads, but their decrepit offense still ranks near-last in the majors, thanks to the incoming rookies adjusting to big-league ball and some disappointing seasons by young veterans such as Garrett Jones and Lastings Milledge.

The pitching, on the other hand... is just as bad as the hitting. When a 4.07 ERA is the lowest of any starting pitcher with at least 11 starts, you know you're in trouble. No. a 4.07 ERA isn't terrible for Ross Ohlendorf, but it shouldn't be the best on the team. Speaking of the minimum 11 starts, Charlie Morton has exactly that number of starts with an unsightly 10.03 ERA attached to it. Nice.

"While we have made tremendous progress executing a sound plan to overhaul a broken system and return this once-proud franchise to its tradition of winning baseball, we have only one benchmark by which we measure ourselves and that is wins and losses at the Major League level," Coonelly adds. "By that benchmark, we have badly underachieved."

This is where things diverge between Coonelly and common sense. The last several seasons have featured a mass exodus of quality players -- players like Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson, Tom Gorzelanny, Matt Capps and Nyjer Morgan. (Although, at this point, Morgan may be addition by subtraction ). 

No, these players weren't enough to get the Bucs to .500, but they certainly didn't exactly hurt the goal of .500 either. To dump all these players and replace them with fringe major-league veterans plus a bevy of prospects doesn't instantly translate to wins. A large number of these prospects either didn't pan out or are still in the minors, which was expected. Those that have reached the majors yet haven't produced instant results, but despite the sheer talent of NL rookies who have entered the bigs this year, rookies tend to have a learning curve. Is it any surprise, then, that the young major-leaguers have underperformed who they are replacing?

No, not really. So additional losses shouldn't have been a surprise. It's only when you go from a 95-loss team to a 105-plus loss team that it really crystallizes just how awful a team is.

"Our sole focus is determining why that is the case and making the decisions necessary to achieve our goal of giving Pirate fans winning baseball again as quickly as possible. '

As for the fates of Huntington and Russell, their culpability is less than clear. Huntington has done a fine job at building up a stable of prospects but also making a few curious moves. The Jason Bay mega-deal was a failure, as Brandon Moss nor Andy LaRoche have helped the team, while Bryan Morris is 23 and stuck in Double-A. Yes, Morris still has a chance to help, but even if he cracks the bigs as a solid starter or reliever one day, the return for Bay remains poor. In addition, the head-scratching move to dump Matt Capps in the offseason has completely blown up in Huntington's face as has the odd trade of Gorzelanny to the Cubs.

So no, Huntington hasn't been perfect. But he hasn't been awful, either. He has cobbled together strong drafts since joining Pittsburgh in October 2007 and is in the process of infusing the team with exciting young players. Other than Ohlendorf and Tabata, however, no external acquisition has worked out yet.

The judgment for Russell is less certain, and it seems all but a done deal that his head will roll after the season. After all, the manager is always the first to go. Huntington will likely get one more year to prove himself, but that's all he'll get -- so you may see a more aggressive general manager making moves in the winter.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: June 17, 2010 4:18 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2010 4:19 pm

Huntington, Russell with Pirates through 2011

John Russell The Pittsburgh Pirates may be in the midst of its worst performance since GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell took over, but president Frank Coonelly isn't giving up.

Amid speculation that Russell was on the hot seat , Coonelly announced that both Huntington and Russell had their contracts extended through 2011.

The extensions happened in spring training, when Russell's option was exercised and Huntington's had an extra year tacked on. Coonelly has resisted clarifying contract statuses in the past, but felt the need to do so amid whispers a change would be forthcoming in management.

"While we have demonstrated in the past that a contract will not prevent us from making a change if one is appropriate and thus contract status truly is irrelevant, we will confirm that during the offseason we exercised the club's 2011 option on JR's contract and added a fourth year to Neal's contract," Coonelly wrote in a statement via e-mail, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review .

"We did so because we believed that they were successfully implementing the organization's vision of building a baseball organization that could compete for championships on a consistent basis," Coonelly added.

While Russell's contract status would not inhibit a firing if the team felt the need to, it's clear the Pirates have no interest in severing ties with Russell.

"While dismissing the manager when the club is performing poorly is common in this industry, it is not the appropriate response in this case," Coonelly said. "JR's contract status has played no role in this determination. "

Despite the poor play thus far (23-42 entering play Thursday) the team has graduated several top prospects to the bigs recently. Pedro Alvarez joined Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata on Wednesday, forming a core along with Andrew McCutchen the team hopes will push Pittsburgh back to respectability -- soon.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com