Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington talked Sean Rodriguez, George Kontos and more on his weekly radio show
Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington makes a weekly radio hit on the team’s flagship radio station 93.7 The Fan. Each Sunday, Pirates Breakdown will bring you a recapping of Huntington’s show, picking out the best tidbits from the show, hosted by Greg Brown. Let’s get started.
All quotes are direct from Neal Huntington as told to host Greg Brown.
On the Pittsburgh Pirates bringing back Sean Rodriguez – why now?
Why now? The reality is he’s got a handful of games under his belt; he’s healthy; his timing is something he’s still working through; can still play any position and play it well..the offensive production he brings once he gets that timing back. We talked about Sean with the Braves before the deadline, but it did not line up at that time; it did line up this time.
Brown followup: Some suggest that it’s just odd timing…how would you answer to that? Not just why now for Sean, but in terms of what kind of role he would play, and that’s a lot of money for a utility player…
That is an accurate observation, a $5 million role player in this industry is the norm, but a small market team has to be more precise with their dollars….we wanted to sign Sean over the offseason, but he felt he could find a better offer out there. But again we like the abilities, and when Starling Marte went down and Jung Ho Kang couldn’t get a visa, we had to push guys into roles that they weren’t quite ready for, and over-expose them, such as David Freese playing every day. We went from a team with a strong bench to a team that was challenged. Adding Sean to that mix gives us another weapon, another guy, and amazing energy and presence.
Brown followup: Did Rodriguez potentially come back too soon from his car acceident?
The pace with which he recovered is not surprising for Sean. He is incredibly driven and wanted to make good on that contract he signed. You could argue he was well ahead of pace that he would be under normal circumstances, but that’s hard for us to judge. We still see the same aggressiveness in the swing, but the challenge has been the timing, and there’s been swing and miss because of it. He’s still the same guy, just a matter of getting the timing down.
On the intricacy of the Pittsburgh Pirates getting George Kontos off of waivers from the Giants
Well the trade waiver is an interesting time in that any claim you place on a player, you need to be prepared for a team to say “he’s yours.” In Sean’s case we were able to work out a deal with Atlanta – the claim goes through, but we gave them compensation. In Kontos’ case, we went back and forth – he was a guy we tried to get before the deadline – but we expect that a guy with his control, we gave a claim partially to block but also to possibly acquire him. We expected them to withdraw the claim and they gave him to us.
On if the Pittsburgh Pirates have enough financial flexibility to handle both contracts next year
In Sean’s case, the money is guaranteed and we still have a question to answer on Kang. We like our depth, and we’ve got youth at key positions in the rotation and Josh Bell at first base, which allows us to balance payroll some, but we added a good baseball player. If we end up with everyone intact, we’ll have a good lineup and a good bench. In George’s case, he will go through arbitration, he’s gone through before, we’ll have to really like what we see to feel comfortable with what he might make in arbitration.
On trading longtime Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Tony Watson
We had many discussions; those [the deals to send Watson to LAD and bring in Joaquin Benoit] were the ones that came together in terms of Tony Watson for a couple of prospects we believe has a high ceiling; Last year we traded Mark Melancon, the idea was to help our organization not just for that year, but the next year and years to come. In this situation, we didn’t really want to trade Tony, but as wel ooked to where we could get players with high ceilings – so in the Dodgers deal we feel we got two with high ceilings – and high risk of course.
On the bullpen’s up and down performance in 2017
We’ve talked for years…the hardest and most variable part, the most unpredictable part is the bullpen. On paper you may think this is a light bullpen, we don’t have X or Y…but it turns out to be a good bullpen, unfortunately the flip side can happen. We felt OK about this group on paper, and it has been a challenge at different points. As Felipe Rivero has solidified the back end, it’s made the middle parts much harder to perform. Hitters can go 0-4 and you don’t think much of it, but when a reliever gives up a run, you know about it and remember it. That’s why those guys, I believe that’s why there’s so much variability among who’s good and who’s not. The elite stay elite, but there is a ton of volatility in that role.
On Jameson Taillon‘s challenging recent stretch
Jameson’s not used to going through this. Ray and Jameson has gone through everything, trying to identify why even when he’s making good pitches they are getting hit; they think they might have found something mechanical…these are major league players, and sometimes they have a lack of trust in their execution, and that is the difference at the major league level in getting the job done.