Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Despite rumors of a housecleaning, the Pirates will retain general manager Neal Huntington and assistants Greg Smith and Kyle Stark, according to team president Frank Coonelly.
The rumors that Huntington had been on the hot seat were amplified by the Pirates' collapse down the stretch, but even without a collapse of that magnitude, the Pirates had reason to think hard about Huntington's status. Not only have many of his free-agent decisions been questionable, but the Bucs spent $48 million in the draft between 2008 and 2011 (after which the new rules on draft spending went into place), and so far, they have little to show for it beyond top-two-overall picks Pedro Alvarez, Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. Huntington clearly understands the importance of young talent for a team in the Pirates' position, and has made a number of smart moves, like his theft of James McDonald from the Dodgers. But, for me, the issues the Pirates have had in the draft ultimately swing the balance in the other direction.
Smith was the architect of those four drafts, which makes it strange, in particular, that he should return. The Pirates' spending in the draft, along with a weakened National League and NL Central, should have put the Pirates in good position to contend in the next several years, and it's possible that will still happen. The Bucs do, after all, have a relatively strong farm system, thanks to the top-two picks and a rejuvenated Latin American program. But it arguably should have been even better, and the Pirates' 2008-2011 drafts now feel like somewhat of a missed opportunity.
Stark, who previously served as the Pirates' farm director, might be a slightly different case. He attracted a ton of negative attention last week amid reports about the Pirates' Navy SEAL training program for minor leaguers, along with the leak of a bizarre-sounding motivational email Stark wrote. But the fact is that Latin American prospects like Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco have done well recently, which suggests that the problem with the farm system, to the extent that there is one, is primarily a result of the Pirates' drafting, not their developing, and Stark has worked mostly on the development side.
In either case, if Huntington had not survived, it's not likely Smith or Stark would have, either. Now, it's clear that all three will stay.