Pirates Need To Evaluate Draft Scouting, And To Make Decision About Neal Huntington

Just a couple notes about the discussion about the possibility of a shakeup in the front office:

-P- I think the Pirates need to think hard about their draft scouting. That's the first thing. I'm not sure why Greg Smith was promoted last year. There may be development issues as well, but the breakouts of Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco this year, along with Starling Marte's charge through the minors despite missing a bunch of time, at least suggest that the problem might be not the development of prospects, but the players themselves. That might be a coincidence, and if the Bucs conclude that development is an issue as well, then that's fine, but I think there's less of a clear-cut problem with development than there is with the fact that the Pirates spent huge piles of money after the first round in four straight drafts and have very little to show for it.

-P- If Neal Huntington is fired, his successor needs to have the authority to hire a new manager. You can't just decide to keep Clint Hurdle around, as the article linked above suggests. If the Pirates replace Huntington with someone who doesn't have that authority, that's a sign that the Bucs are going to be in serious trouble going forward. If they hire a new general manager, that person needs to be in charge of all baseball decisions. If Huntington is fired, then Frank Coonelly, who's been elbows-deep in baseball decisions for the past five years, probably shouldn't be involved with those things anymore. And Bob Nutting himself definitely shouldn't be involved in decisions about the Pirates' manager.

-P- If the Pirates are thinking about getting a new general manager, they'll do it soon. There are only six weeks or so before the offseason starts. Right now the Bucs are in an awkward spot, because there's still a chance -- however strange it might seem to us right now -- that the Pirates will play decently the rest of the year and wind up with a winning season, and it would seem odd for them to fire their GM right after he led the team to its first winning season in two decades. (Seriously, think about that. Consider a scenario in which Huntington leads the team to a winning season and gets fired, and then someone new comes in and the Pirates have five more losing seasons in a row. A lot of the casual fans who hate Huntington now would turn him into a bizarro-world folk hero.)

I'm not sure what impact a winning season would have, but I remember David and I were talking about Huntington on the radio a month or so ago, and what I said then was that I had issues with the job Huntington had done, but that it was hard to say anything terrible about him when the team was playing so well. Of course, how the Pirates do in these last couple weeks shouldn't really change much about whether or not Huntington is the right man for the job. But it could be quite difficult for Bob Nutting to see it that way.

I'm on the fence about Huntington. The problem I see right now is with scouting, and I'd like to see action there. I think Huntington's moves at the major-league level have been better than he generally has gotten credit for. A lot of his free-agent signings have been bad, but that reflects more on the money available for Huntington to spend than on Huntington's evaluation skills. And I think his trades, by and large, have been fine. It's the draft that's the big issue, and the Bucs need to do something about that. If that turns out to be firing Huntington and replacing him with some other smart GM, I'm fine with that. If that involves other changes, that might make sense too -- Huntington is ultimately responsible for the draft, but he probably doesn't have a ton of involvement with a lot of the late-round, big-bonus picks who have flopped.

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