5 Biggest Moves That Got Pittsburgh Pirates Into Playoffs For First Time Since 1992

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Neal Huntington's 5 Most Important Moves For Pittsburgh Pirates In 2013

Neal Huntington's 5 Most Important Moves
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to do so until it starts to happen: Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington needs to start getting some respect. Huntington will probably win National League Executive of the Year for the 2013 season, but even still, it doesn’t seem like enough people are giving him the credit he deserves.

Think about where the Pirates were just a few short seasons ago. Huntington inherited a team in 2007 that was empty on MLB talent with little to work with in the minor league system. He had to completely rebuild this franchise from top to bottom. The problem fans had with his rebuild was that it started with the bottom and worried about the top later.

Huntington installed a “Five-Year Plan” for the Pirates when he was hired; it took six years, but it has worked. He began with the farm system, focusing mainly on acquiring young talent via the draft, the trade market and international signings. This plan left a lot to be desired at the MLB level for a couple seasons. Before Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Marlon Byrd came around, the Pirates were playing the likes of Nyjer Morgan, Aki Iwamura and Ryan Church as everyday players. Dark times, right Pirates fans?

For a few seasons at least, it looks like the Pirates’ dark days are over. The Bucs have several young players already contributing at the MLB level and even more young players waiting for their own opportunity in the minor leagues. If Huntington is able to continue his high level of genius, the Pirates are in great shape for the long term.

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5. Giving Andrew McCutchen a Contract Extension

Giving Andrew McCutchen a Contract Extension
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

In March of 2012, the Pirates gave Andrew McCutchen a six-year contract extension worth $51.5 million, and it included a seventh year club option. The Pirates now have control of him until 2018 if they decide to exercise his club option, and I’m sure they will. If no injuries occur, McCutchen is going to be a MVP candidate pretty much every season with the Bucs.

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4. Signing Francisco Liriano

Signing Francisco Liriano
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Francisco Liriano has been a huge bargain for the Pirates. The Bucs guaranteed him very little in terms of money in his contract, but he has several bonuses that he can earn by staying healthy for certain periods of time. No matter what he is making in 2013, he deserves more. He is an ace. Liriano finished the 2013 season with a 16-8 record and a 3.02 ERA.

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3. Signing Russell Martin

Signing Russell Martin
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

Russell Martin has been great for the Bucs. I don’t know if he has seemed better because of the Pirates’ 2012 catcher, Rod Barajas, being historically bad, but that doesn’t matter. Martin has been above average offensively for a catcher and is borderline elite defensively.

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2. Trading For Marlon Byrd

Trading For Marlon Byrd
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

The Pirates traded prospects Vic Black and Dilson Herrera to the New York Mets to acquire outfielder Marlon Byrd at the 2013 waiver trade deadline. In 115 plate appearances with the Bucs, Byrd hit for a .318/.357/.486 slash line and a .843 OPS. He has been great in the playoffs and has been a team leader since he arrived.

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1. Trading For A.J. Burnett

Trading For A.J. Burnett
Charles LeClaire-USA Today Sports

The Pirates took A.J. Burnett off of the New York Yankees’ hands for practically nothing. The Yankees were looking to rid themselves of some of Burnett’s salary, and the Pirates were willing to pick some of it up. The Pirates traded two minor league players that aren’t very good for at least two seasons of good pitching from Burnett.

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