Column: August deal Neal Huntington should accomplish today

Posted on Aug 4 2017 - 4:46pm by Joey Cinello
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Often scrutinized because of deals he hasn’t made, Neal Huntington has an easy opportunity to regain fan excitement. Photo Courtesy: Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH — It’s a common consensus within the fan base and media that the Pirates didn’t do enough — or anything — at the non-waiver trade deadline for a team who proclaims they’re in contention. However, there’s an escape route for general manager Neal Huntington. The trade, if completed, centers around a player he dealt nine years ago, underachieving prospect-turned-superstar Jose Bautista.

Ken Rosenthal reported on the Toronto Blue Jay’s willingness to part ways with the 36-year-old slugger, prompting management to place him on revocable waivers.

Bautista, a six-time All-Star, is in the midst of his worst season in Toronto — .216/.325/.38, 16 homers, 45 RBI.

Substandard numbers and a hefty contract — $18 million in 2018, with a $20 million vested option for 2019 — may sway teams away.

Numerous causes could have led to Bautista’s downfall this year. Perhaps his unhappiness when the franchise didn’t extend fellow long ball threat Edwin Encarnacion, or the back-and-forth very public dispute regarding a long-term deal between Bautista and the Blue Jays. These points are neither here or there, though.

Jose Bautista, drafted by the Pirates in the 20th round in 2000, played on the big league club from 2004-2008. Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY

Without a doubt, Bautista instantly would add fear in opposing pitcher’s eyes.

Overall, the former Pirates’ numbers are shoddy, but the power ability he owns still threatens pitchers regardless of his pedestrian batting average. His 16 big flys, if on the Pirates, places him third on the squad behind McCutchen (22) and rookie Josh Bell (19). And remember, we’re only two years removed from Bautista’s third 40-plus homer season.

His knack for hitting the long ball would be an essential boost to an offense that desperately needs it. Pittsburgh ranks second to last in team home run totals — 100 exactly in 2017.

Where would he play?

As it stands, the Pirates outfield trio — Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco — are formidable enough to be one of the most productive in baseball on both sides of the ball.

Sure, the outfield possesses capable players at the moment, but what happens when Marte can’t play if the postseason is reached? Do they roll with the Adam Frazier-John Jaso-Jose Osuna combo who were inadequate at best? Don’t expect a deep October run if that’s the case.

It doesn’t end there.

David Freese, only hitting a wearisome .248 against right-handed pitching, isn’t an everyday third baseman on a playoff team.

Manager Clint Hurdle would instantly have the ability to mix and match different third base and outfield combinations with Bautista.

Now, money comes into question. Known penny-pincher Bob Nutting, deemed “Bottom-Line Bob” by Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, may not offer the necessary resources to acquire Bautista in a normal year. This isn’t a normal scenario, nevertheless.

After saving money on Jung-ho Kang’s suspension, Marte’s suspension and Watson’s trade, and not to mention the Blue Jays’ probable inclination to eat a large portion of Bautista’s contract, Huntington and Nutting must find a way to make this work.

Barring Bautista blocking a trade back to his old club, no reasonable excuse exists to not at least explore the idea.

Get the deal done, compete this year.


Joe Cinello covers Pirates material for Pittsburgh Sports Castle. Connect with him on Facebook (Joey Cinello), Linkedin (Joseph Cinello) and Twitter (@JCinello).