The Pittsburgh Pirates announced Tuesday that GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle have both signed four year contract extensions through the 2021 season. The terms of the deal have not been released.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are 66-72 and on pace for their worst record since Hurdle’s first season in 2011.
Regardless, ownership still feels they are the right men to lead the franchise and help grow a second wave of young talent, which already includes Josh Bell, Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Adam Frazier and others. To reflect that feeling, both Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle received extensions today.
Hurdle has a 575-534 record with the Pittsburgh Pirates and is currently fifth in club history in wins. Among team managers who have lead the club for seven or more years like he has, only Fred Clarke and Danny Murtaugh top his .518 winning percentage. He lead the Pirates to three straight wild card berths from 2013-2015.
Huntington took over the general manager position in September of 2007. While this year’s team is on pace to post a seventh losing season in that 10 year stretch, he has been widely praised as the driving force behind the Pirates’ turnaround. He is the fourth longest tenured general manager in club history.
Hurdle did not have much to say on the potential extension after the game Monday, but he did offer this:
“I’m going to wait on the organization to get everything they need in place. I’ve made it clear from the beginning that a contract would work out when it was meant to work out. I love working here. I love working in this organization. I’m proud to be a Pirate. I have been proud to be a Pirate.I’m going to do everything I can, if I get an opportunity to move forward, to bring a world championship to this city. The players in there, we’re in a good place. The staff in there, we’re in a good place. It would be humbling.”
Huntington had this to say through the team’s press announcement:
“I am honored to have the opportunity to continue to work for and with such a quality group of professionals. We recognize that we have unfinished business. We remain committed to doing everything in our power to accomplish our organizational goals and to return a World Series championship to Pittsburgh.”
What does this extension potentially mean for Hurdle, Huntington and the organization?
They’re in it for the long haul
Hurdle and Huntington were already under the Pittsburgh Pirates’ control for 2018 via a club option. Traditionally, managers and front office personnel hate to operate with no safety net, and these two are likely not exceptions.
The popular theory among analysts and reporters throughout the season was Hurdle would step down either in 2017 or 2018. Some also speculated that he had had enough of the current front office and would leave after his contract expired to go to a team that seems closer to winning, such as the New York Mets.
But Hurdle has a young family and has often talked about how much he enjoys living in Pittsburgh. With this deal, he is most likely announcing that he is going to retire a Pirate.
Huntington’s contract comes as less of a surprise, both because of his e and his actions this year. If he was on the hot seat or planning to leave, it would have made sense to trade top prospects in order to try to win now. Holding onto them seemed to indicate that he was still thinking of the long term outlook of the franchise. It will be interesting to see if the extra job security impacts him to be even stingier with his minor leaguers or give him the confidence to trade a few for major leaguers.
What does this mean for the future of Tom Prince?
Prince appeared to be the heir apparent to Hurdle as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ skipper. There likely won’t be much demand for him this year after completing his first season coaching at the major league level, but interest in him may grow in the future. The Pirates already lost Jeff Banister to Texas after the 2014 season, so other teams will likely look to leech off them again if they start winning. The front office may become a popular target again too.
Management thinks they are close to winning again
There may be a lot of negativity around the fanbase, but the ownership has to feel good about the future. Management probably would not have offered Hurdle an extension if they felt a rebuild was necessary. They likely would have gone with a younger manager who would be willing to stick around through two or three years worth of losing.
While the Pirates’ results this year are disappointing, there is optimism that they will improve in the near future. The young pitchers and position players they have will likely take a step forward in 2018. A full season from Starling Marte, Josh Harrison and Francisco Cervelli would also help immensely.
This is pure speculation on my part, but Pittsburgh Pirates management may have told both men behind closed doors that they would be more aggressive in future offseasons. Last winter was extremely quiet, with Daniel Hudson being the only newcomer to the team. It was a poor free agent class league wide, but it was underwhelming haul for a playoff hopeful team. The next two free agent classes look much stronger. It would not be surprising to see the Pirates try to grab an extra player or two more than normal.