I have been back and forth on this issue since all the trades of 2008. The argument can be made either way, but in my opinion it is a very important debate and it is quite simply the most important position in the entire organization (players included). Let's take a look at his body of work....
I was one of the biggest defenders of Huntington after he traded away most of the team he inherited. It was simple. This was the apex of a team created by Littlefield and the team couldn't even break .500. Why keep them together? We needed to have a true firesale and get pieces that would be part of an actual competitive team.
This trade was very confusing, because, at first, it was reported as a totally different trade. Karstens and McCutchen were not a part of the trade and were replaced with George Kontos and Phil Coke. I can't say I care which way the trade would have gone. It was Huntington's best trade, as it landed Tabata, but it also foreshadowed what type of players Huntington would covet in trades. He was going to target prospects that, in his opinion, had lost value within the industry for an unfounded reason. That could be that a starting pitcher was now only thought of as a reliever (Ohlendorf), had off/on the field troubles (Tabata, Milledge), or had failed in this first trip to the major leagues (Andy laroche, Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, etc.) It's akin to buying stocks at their 52 week low. The flip side of this is that buying stocks at their 52 week low could be just the beginning of the stock going even lower, while buying at the 52 week high, could be indication that the stock is set to rise higher.
I was very happy when this trade happened. Bay was are biggest trade chip and was in the middle of a stellar season. We received Laroche, who had raked in the minors and was now going to be our 3b of the future and Morris seemed like a top of the line pitcher. Hansen and Moss seemed like good complimentary players.
It failed miserably. 3 of the players on no longer in the organization and the other doesn't seem to have TOP OF THE LINE stuff.
These were essentially dumps. Capps literally was a dump (and therefore not a trade but stay with me) and Bautista netted us a player who had no future anywhere. These moves reminded me of Littlefield moves. We got rid of average players, because we simply didn't want to pay them the money. Bautista and Capps would have netted about 2-3 million a piece and in the Pirates view this wasn't worth it.
FAIL. These moves were major failures and might be the biggest reason Huntington should be fired. I don't blame Huntington for not seeing the Bautista's future explosion, but he was a great bench guy who could play multiple positions and had average OBP numbers. Capps had one bad season. One. There was no reason to believe he couldn't find his former abilites and excel as an above average late inning pitcher. Huntington has stated that he believes a bullpen can be put together in any given offseason, and I believe he's proven he has a talent for it, but the set-up and closer are harder to find. These were salary dumps, plain and simple.
Huntington changed the Pirates approach to the draft in a major way. The days of drafting "signable" guys was out the door. It was a welcome change. Hungtington drafted Alvarez, Van Rosenburg, Taillon, Allie, and others who all demanded above slot money. The future of these prospects are unknown. Alvarez is going to be a talent, but the others have not proven much and/or have not had the opportunity. These prospects should have a major impact on the decision on if to keep Huntington.
It's simple. He's 1 for 2. The Pirates had an unprecedented opportunity to sign Sano, long story short, Huntington messed it up. You can blame it on Sano's agent, but this was a major disappointment. If it wasn't for the Sano debacle, I'd probably not be writing this, but it happened and here it is. It was nice to see the Pirates sign Heredia, who was also well regarded and gave me confidence that Huntington could actually pull off these type of deals.
Huntington has put forward a totally different strategy from that of Littlefield. He wanted to pay players over-slot, acquire former/current prospects, who's stock was down, and make bigger splashes in the international. It seems like a decent strategy. But at what point does results trump strategy? If Huntington implements the perfect strategy and still acquires talent that fails at the major league level, should he keep his job?