Pirates fire GM Neal Huntington as front office shake-up continues

Liz Roscher
Pirates GM Neal Huntington has been fired by team owner Bob Nutting. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Pirates GM Neal Huntington has been fired by team owner Bob Nutting. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ personnel overhaul continues. The team announced on Monday that GM Neal Huntington has been fired.

Assistant GM Kevan Graves has been named the interim GM, which the Pirates apparently misspelled as “Kevin” in the original news release.

Huntington, 50, was hired as GM in late 2007. Over 12 seasons, the Pirates made the playoffs three times: one trip to the National League Division Series in 2013, which they lost, and two trips to the NL wild-card game in 2014 and 2015, which they lost both times. They haven’t been back to the playoffs since, and have finished an average of 19 games out of first place over the last four years.

Huntington is also the author of the hilariously lopsided Chris Archer trade, in which the Pirates sent three prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Archer. In the 15 months since the trade, Archer has been a shadow of his best self while all three prospects acquired by Tampa have flourished to an almost absurd degree.

The firing of Huntington is just the latest phase of the Pirates’ front office shakeup. It began when longtime manager Clint Hurdle was fired on September 29, just before the final game of the season. The Pirates mutually parted ways with their president, Frank Coonelly, on October 23. As Nutting said in the press release, the team will pause their managerial search to focus on hiring a new GM.

With Huntington gone, and more employees likely to follow given the upcoming regime change, owner Bob Nutting is remaking his front office. He’s already reportedly hired a replacement for Coonelly: Travis Williams, the former chief operating officer of the Pittsburgh Penguins. According to Mackey, Williams wasn’t behind the firing of Huntington — it was Nutting.

There’s reason for optimism in Pittsburgh. Nutting, having held on to Huntington, Hurdle, and Coonelly for years longer than he likely should have, is finally taking action to change the direction of his ball club, if not improve it. With the Pirates unable to make the playoffs for four straight seasons, it seemed long past time for change.

There’s one man who’s not going anywhere, though, and that’s Nutting. While Huntington, Coonelly, and Hurdle have all been sent packing, the man who controls the Pirates’ purse strings and sets the organization’s tone is still there and will remain there. It’s fair to ask how much he hamstrung Huntington by not giving him enough money to truly upgrade the team (though the Archer trade will forever remain an unforced error).

Unless Nutting suddenly decides to get candid, we likely won’t have an answer to that question for awhile. We’ll just have to watch the Pirates’ new front office to see if Nutting is truly serious about improving his club, or if he’s just changing out executives in hopes of somehow achieving better results with no additional investment.

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