After clearing waivers and being outrighted from the 40 man roster, Hutchison is set to become a minor league free agent at season’s end before pitching even a dozen innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
All general managers in baseball make good trades and bad trades, and this is news to no one. Sometimes a deal works out in a team’s favor, and other times a trade can end up being a disaster. Neal Huntington’s trade to acquire Drew Hutchison last summer can be filed in the second category.
Hutchison, the man the Pittsburgh Pirates just paid $2.3 million in 2017 to help hold down the rotation for the Indianapolis farm team, has cleared waivers and was outrighted off the 40 man roster. This all be assures that Hutchison will become a minor league free agent at season’s end, with the Pirates getting a grand total of 11.1 innings from him in a trade that cost them prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez for the right hander along with salary relief of Francisco Liriano.
The problem here is not that the team has decided to part ways with Hutchison, but rather the explanation from management. As reported by Stephen Nesbitt in the Post-Gazette, Huntington said that, “We just also decided this year that the growth and development of our guys put them ahead of him. We may regret that decision in three years. Drew may bounce back and be the guy that we traded for, but we felt like we had guys that we wanted to give the innings to at the Major League level ahead of him. Time will tell if that was the right call.”
Huntington has been getting a lot of criticism lately, particularly with how he handled Juan Nicasio, but this whole Hutchison fiasco is shaping up to be one of the more ill conceived transactions during his tenure as general manager. While it is true that pitchers such as Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow are guys that the organization wants to give more innings to and probably jumped ahead the recently outrighted Hutchison, he could still have been a viable option for the occasional start next year in the event someone gets hurt or underperforms.
Solid and unspectactular
This year with Indianapolis, Hutchison went 9-9 with a 3.56 ERA in 159.1 innings. He struck out 124 and walked 57. These are not bad numbers by any means and it is curious that given the state of the Pittsburgh rotation this season Hutchison was never given an opportunity. Figure in the fact that he was the player acquired in such a controversial trade, one would think that Huntington would at least want to give Hutchison an opportunity and show that this deal was not a mistake.
Huntington also addressed the lack of injuries as a reason Hutchison was not recalled. “It’s easy to say, but if we have two injuries, as we did a year ago, Drew would have been a great option for us.” Here is the thing though about injuries: just because there was a lack of them in 2017 does not guarantee the health of the rotation in 2018. Maybe there will be no injuries in 2018. Or maybe there will be seven injuries in 2018. No one knows, which is the reason why a team needs to plan ahead and be prepared and this move appears shortsighted at best. Hutchison would have been under the team’s control until 2020, so it appears that they could have had an experienced, fairly cheap starter for the next few years. Even if the rotation would miraculously weather a 162 game season with no injuries, Hutchison would have represented a decent, if not spectacular, emergency option at a reasonable price for a Major League club.
Now with Hutchison presumably gone, the starting rotation depth has taken a hit. Outside of the five pitchers who made up the rotation for the majority of the season, only Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow have any experience at the MLB level. Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes could be options early in the season, but they have not yet been promoted. Mitch Keller, as exciting as he is, will not be ready when the season begins. So this points to Huntington now needing to address starting pitching depth in the offseason, among other areas the team needs to improve.
With the team assured a second consecutive losing season, management can expect more questions and frustrations from an already angry fan base. It is going to be a long offseason once again and the men in charge are going to need to bolster more than just the starting pitching depth before the team reports to Bradenton this spring.