The Pirates have five of the most interesting players available on the July trading market, so it's no surprise that people around the game were talking about Pittsburgh this week.
|Damaso Marte could provide a club with valuable left-handed relief. (Getty Images)|
Multiple executives from competing teams claimed that a split had developed between first-year club president Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington, the general manager whom Coonelly hired. The story was that Coonelly was so intent on breaking the Pirates' 15-year string of sub-.500 finishes that he was hindering Huntington's efforts to trade players and build a base for the future.
The only thing is, Huntington says emphatically that the story isn't true. What's more, he said Thursday that the Pirates have basically accepted that they have little chance at a winning record this year, and that there's a chance that he could deal any or all of his coveted players by the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
"We need to turn this group over," Huntington said. "We have to get as much value as we can. We need to acquire talent ... We could wake up Aug. 1 with this team intact, but we could also wake up Aug. 1 with a team that looks a lot different.
"We'll make good baseball trades."
That could be good news for the many teams in search of left-handed relief (the Pirates have Damaso Marte and John Grabow to offer), and also the teams in search of right-handed hitting outfielders (Xavier Nady and Jason Bay). It could even be good news for teams looking for a shortstop, even though the Dodgers seem to have moved on after balking at the initial price for Jack Wilson.
All five players have drawn significant interest, and Huntington's phone could ring even more often if the Rockies stay in the race and decide against trading outfielder Matt Holliday and left-hander Brian Fuentes. The Mets, Yankees and Rays are among the teams that have shown the most interest in the Pirates outfielders, while Milwaukee, Florida and Philadelphia have been among those pursuing Marte and Grabow.
"They could get anything they want for Marte right now, the way he's throwing," one scout said Thursday.
Huntington admits that he's been asking for a lot, but he said that has nothing to do with any pressure from Coonelly. It's simply that the Pirates believe they have players who should have value on the market, and also that of the five, only Marte is eligible to be a free agent at the end of this season.
In other words, if the Pirates don't trade Bay or Nady next week, it doesn't mean they won't trade them this winter. Even with Marte, they seem content with keeping him and offering him arbitration if they can't find a deal they like in the next week.
In any case, Huntington said again, he and Coonelly are in agreement on what path the Pirates should be taking.
"Frank and I share the long-term vision 100 percent, as to where we want to go as an organization," Huntington said. "He is involved, sure, but in other ways we have complete autonomy. The big-picture vision, we absolutely share it."