Just to be clear, I don't think what players have to say about their GM's performance is particularly important, but these comments from Jason Grilli are likely to attract some attention, so let's have at it.
"Maybe some of it’s the economics here," Grilli said. "Players know the situation. To get a top-tier bat … maybe the expectations were a little higher on our end. That’s not a knock against who we got. It’s just when you’re winning, it’s like, ‘Dude, do you want to go for the gusto here? Do you want to go for the jugular?’ … Pull the trigger. Do you want to win? Do you want to change?
"As a player, it’s like, ‘Come on. Let’s see. Give us the pieces.’ Last year, the names being thrown around were (Hunter) Pence, (Shane) Victorino, Upton. … If anybody’s going to do it, you’d think a team that hasn’t won and is in first place would be the first to do it. Let’s not wait."
Elsewhere in the piece, Andrew McCutchen says the trades were irrelevant and that the Pirates' players simply "didn't do the job." Which seems to pretty clearly be true if you look at the evidence. Let's just look at the potential trade acquisitions Grilli mentions. Pence produced 0.5 wins above replacement down the stretch with the Giants. Victorino produced 1.1 wins with the Dodgers. Upton produced 1.4 wins after the trade deadline.
Wandy Rodriguez produced 0.7 wins for the Pirates, more than Pence and less than a win less than Victorino and Upton. Why is it that, whenever we hear this argument that the Pirates didn't do enough at the trade deadline, we never hear about Wandy Rodriguez? He's relatively famous, the Bucs took on salary to acquire him, and he pitched fairly well.
And why doesn't anyone else simply do the math on this? The Pirates' decision to acquire Rodriguez rather than Pence, Victorino or Upton cost them less than one win. The one guy who the Bucs might have acquired who would have made any kind of difference was Chase Headley, who played out of his mind down the stretch, but the Pirates finished nine games out of the playoff race. No one player is good enough to bridge that gap. (And then there's the considerable cost in prospects it would have taken to acquire Headley, and the fact that it's tough to guess when someone's going to go berzerk down the stretch the way Headley did.) So either the Pirates simply weren't good enough to make the playoffs, or they quit because they didn't get what they wanted (which I doubt is true, but which is the only way I can imagine that the Bucs' trade-deadline performance had any bearing on their failure to make the playoffs). In either case, Grilli is wrong.
I'm not a fan of Neal Huntington, frankly. I think his drafting has been questionable, given the amount of money he's had to work with, and I think progress has come too slowly. If I were Bob Nutting, I would have fired Huntington by now. But these critiques -- not just from Grilli, but from many quarters -- of Huntington's trade-deadline performance are mostly asinine.