On Friday, Neal Huntington was on 93.7 the Fan and said that if Pirate fans saw what the White Sox wanted for Jose Quintana, they wouldn’t have wanted to give it up. Let’s presume we’re talking all minor league prospects, as that’s what the White Sox have mostly traded for in their two main trades this offseason (the Eaton and Sale trades). Under that presumption, there’s virtually no combination or quantity of prospects that I wouldn’t give up for Jose Quintana.
Friday, February 10th, 2017 is the day that Neal Huntington finally dropped the mask and revealed that he’s a prospect hoarder. It’s either that or he has a pathological fear of giving up a prospect that will turn into a star for someone else.
We’ve shown in our past articles that prospects fail. A lot. Our Surplus Value work shows that it’s a good idea to keep the top 10 ones, but all the rest have significant failure rates. Prospects are currency to be used to supplement your current team with low-cost talent, but also to facilitate trades with teams for current impact talent.
In his career as a GM, Huntington has made 118 trades (up to date with the Pat Light and Phil Gosselin trades!). In those trades, he has never traded a prospect that was currently in the Baseball America Top 100. I’m not suggesting that Huntington casually start tossing prospects away like he’s throwing beads off a Mardi Gras float. But if Huntington isn’t willing to trade prospects, even multiple top ones, for Jose Quintana, then when would he ever do so?
Here’s a recap from our December article regarding the Pirates interest in Jose Quintana about his characteristics:
- He’s a high-end #2/low-end #1 pitcher
- He’s left handed
- He’s 28, in the prime of his career
- He’s controllable for four years
- He’s making just $7M this year
That whole article was a blueprint for Huntington to follow. It even gave him an out on how to move Quintana at a later date to replenish the prospect worth lost to acquire Quintana in the first place. Quintana has so much surplus value in his insanely affordable contract that for any team acquiring him it’s a no-brainer, barring injury which no team can predict.
We don’t know, and probably never will, the exact permutation of prospects that the White Sox asked for from the Pirates. But let’s look at each of the potential Baseball America Top 100 prospects from the Pirates, based on the midseason list and one or two others:
- Austin Meadows, OF — Seen by many, including the Pirates, as the heir apparent to McCutchen in the outfield. His inclusion may have been the deal-breaker for Huntington. Meadows is going to be good, but probably not great. He’s also never had a full season in the minors, yet, due to picking up an injury every year.
- Tyler Glasnow, RHP — I’ve been a huge proponent of his, but last year’s performance set off some alarms for me. He has yet to develop a 3rd pitch, his command/control has not improved, and he’s so slow to the plate you can time him with a sundial. There’s still time for refinement, but Steve’s dire prediction last year that Glasnow would ultimately be a reliever is looking more likely.
- Josh Bell, DH-in-waiting/1B — Bell has a great command of the strike zone, but his in-game power has not materialized enough to overcome his massive defensive deficiencies. Dreams of a 30 HR slugger in the cleanup spot are looking more like a high teens HR hitter, like a JT Snow-type.
- Mitch Keller, RHP — This is the one prospect that I’d be most hesitant to deal, as Keller is exhibiting great command of the strike zone to go along with premium stuff. However, he’s only entering High-A this year and wouldn’t be ready for the Majors for at least 3 seasons. I’d be willing to deal his future to improve the present.
- Kevin Newman, SS — Newman may be a major league SS, but his range is most likely going to take him to 2B. His complete lack of power is not appealing to me at all as a starter.
- Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B — Hayes is a good 3B defensively, but isn’t demonstrating a dynamic bat. His thick frame presages a move to 1B long-term, where the pressure to hit is even greater.
- Will Craig, 3B — Craig is a low upside, bad body that did not have a strong debut at all in the short-season league. I don’t see a long-term starter at 3B.
These are all flawed players; there are no can’t-miss types, even if such a thing existed. Quintana is a proven commodity and you have a team in the White Sox that is in the midst of a massive rebuild.
I understand the core tenet of what Neal Huntington is trying to do. He’s trying to create a sustainable model of success for the Pirates by keeping the talent pipeline flowing from the minors. It’s the way the Pirates can compete with more well-heeled clubs. The term ‘sustainability’ has infiltrated every facet of business and our modern lives. It’s a buzzword that in this case is clouding the ultimate vision of the Pirates. Huntington is trying to create an 86-win club every year that with some bounces here and there can be a 90+ win club. He’s minimizing risk while he keeps kicking the can down the road.
The whole goal of this baseball thing-a-ma-roo is to win. It’s especially helpful to win in the current year. The Pirates can compete this year with Jose Quintana and still have enough pieces left, especially with a trade or two down the line, to keep on winning. Ask the fans, or maybe fan, of the Tampa Bay Rays about getting really close only to see how hard it is to get back as a small-revenue club.
What Huntington has shown is that he’s playing not to lose, instead of playing to win.