There is much consternation about the lack of GM news for the Red Sox. Time is ticking and an experienced candidate is nary to be found. But there is a GM out there who has plenty of experience trading big time players and could be available: New Hampshire's own Neal Huntington.
Trouble in Pittsburgh
Now the Pirates' President and CEO Frank Coonelly has been let go.
Why is this happening? Because the Pirates have been bad for a long time. Why have they been bad? Because they are carrying the second lowest payroll to the Tampa Bay Rays in baseball. Tampa has scraped it together ably and admirably to make the playoffs this year. But that is far from the norm. Huntington has been hamstrung with an extremely limited budget and has had to trade off talent by the boatload. But that experience has primed him to trade superstar talent. How has he done in some of those trades?
January 2018 Andrew McCutchen to the Giants for Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick
Andrew McCutchen was fading by the time he was traded. He won the NL MVP for the Pirates in 2013, finished 3rd in 2014, and 5th in 2015. That was the last year he garnered MVP votes. Getting former first round pick Kyle Crick was good, but Reynolds is the real gem of this trade. He finished 9th in the majors in batting average in 2019 with a .314 mark, and threw in 37 doubles and 16 home runs as well. Meanwhile McCutchen has been on three teams since the trade and continues to decline. This is a win for Huntington.
July 2016 Mark Melancon to the Nationals for Taylor Hearn and Felipe Vazquez (Rimero).
Mark Melancon is another player who had his best years as a Pirate and declined. In this case Huntington got Felipe Vazquez. Vazquez has run into some disturbing legal trouble. But before that he was one of the top Closers in the game. Meanwhile Melancon has never reached the All Star highs he reached as a Pirate. Another win for Huntington.
July 2019 Corey Dickerson to the Phillies for PTBN & $250K International Bonus Pool Cash
Corey Dickerson is a good hitter who gets injured frequently and is now a free agent, thus the small return. That cash can be put towards an international free agent, which can be much more valuable than the mid round draft compensation the Phillies will get if Dickerson signs elsewhere this offseason. Close, but a win for Huntington.
January 2018 Gerrit Cole to the Astros for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz and Jason Martin.
Considering Cole has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since he went to the Astros, this doesn't look so good. Huntington took a shotgun approach to get four players back. Moran continues to show signs of breaking out while being a solid major league outfielder, and Musgrove is a league average starting pitcher. Feliz had a 3.99 ERA and 11 K/9 in 2019 and Martin doesn't look like much, with a .731 OPS in AAA.
July 2018 Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows to the Tampa Bay Rays for Chris Archer
This is the blackest mark on Huntington's trading career. Glasnow is a budding, if injured, Ace, and Meadows is the heart of the Rays lineup that went to the playoffs this year. It's hard to believe now, but Huntington was lauded for this trade at the time. Meanwhile Archer toiled to a 3-9 record in 2019 with a 5.19 ERA. If the Red Sox do get Huntington from the Pirates this trade will be the primary reason they let him go.
An Experienced GM
For good reason, John Henry has stated he wants an experienced GM to run the Red Sox. Neal Huntington is certainly that. He's also a talent who has been hamstrung by extremely tight purse-strings in Pittsburgh. And unlike Billy Beane he's been in an extremely competitive NL Central rather than the perennially bad AL West. Sure, the Rangers have made noise, but it's much harder to compete against the Cardinals and Cubs every year. What could Huntington do with a $200 Million payroll and the resources of the Red Sox? It's an enticing question.
Huntington is currently two years into a four year contract. The Pirates just fired Hurdle with the same two years remaining, and they moved on from their Dave Dombrowski. Why not make it a clean sweep? It appears it would take much less to pry him away from the Pirates than some of the other candidates in other situations. He grew up in New Hampshire and has New England roots. He would have a hunger to prove himself and would likely be extremely motivated.
The Red Sox are running out of time. They have Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez and Jackie Bradley Jr. decisions on the docket, and a mandate to get below $208 Million on the payroll. Huntington has made mistakes, but also a lot of good decisions in difficult circumstances. Bring a local boy home who's been through the grind and let's get on with the offseason.
Featured Image Via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette