New Bucs GM has vision for team
Huntington plans to build through Draft, international market
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates president Frank Coonelly made it no secret when he was hired that his vision for the team moving forward was one steeped in the need to draft and then develop talent within the organization.
It's a system that is heavily dictated by payroll constrictions, but one that new general manager Frank Huntington also is convinced can both work successfully and reap long-term success.
"It's not the amount of payroll that's going to determine our success," said Huntington, who was named the organization's 12th GM on Tuesday. "Our success is going to be determined by our ability to go acquire those players through the international Draft, through free agency, through all avenues of player acquisition."
Huntington is well aware he will be challenged by working within a payroll of approximately $45-50 million, though Huntington said he doesn't believe a low payroll has to translate into lesser success. Coming from a scouting background, Huntington said the key to success lies in the evaluation and development of young players.
"We have to make sure that we have the right evaluators," Huntington said while laying out the groundwork of his vision moving forward. "Once we get those players, we have to develop them in the right way, with the right staff members, with the right teachers, and they've got to work within the system.
"Once our players progress through the system and make it to Pittsburgh, the players that make it to Pittsburgh, we believe that we will have the resources to retain them."
Having the financial resources to keep players will require a shrewd balance and management of the payroll. But Huntington did emphasize that working within a tight budget won't constrain the team to having to solely rely on its farm system for player development.
"We're going to be a team where we always have young players on the roster," Huntington said. "We're going to be a team that always has players that are first- or second-time arbitration eligible. And we hope to mix in the right players that are free-agent eligible."
On Tuesday, Huntington frequently spoke about talent evaluators and making sure the best developmental staff is in place moving forward.
When asked what personnel moves would be forthcoming in the organization to ensure the ideal talent evaluators are in place, Huntington said he first would conduct a thorough evaluation of the staff before making any decisions. He did not set a timetable for that evaluation process.
"I'm excited to learn about who we have, and who are the key people moving forward, and to learn what systems are in place that we can build upon and what systems are in place that we need to completely change," Huntington added.
One talent evaluator, however, who is likely to play a significant role is Brian Graham, who has served as the Pirates' director of player development and was the interim GM before Huntington came on board. The two worked together for a short time in Cleveland when Huntington first joined the Indians organization in 1998.
Therefore, there is speculation that Huntington could appoint Graham to the post of assistant GM.
"I respect Brian as an individual," Huntington said, when asked in what capacity he would like Graham to work. "I respect what he's done here in Pittsburgh. But all other elements of that decision process really haven't been made yet."
His evaluation process won't end with the staff. After introducing himself to the team on Tuesday afternoon, Huntington said he will begin an immediate evaluation of the organization's Major and Minor League players as he creates an organizational framework for the future.
"Individually, there are some good players on the field," Huntington said. "There are a good mix of young pitchers and some veteran players that are gaining experience and really coming into their own as players. There's a few gems in the system. But, overall, I need to do a much more thorough evaluation of what has gone right and what has not gone right here."
Huntington's track record with the Indians shows he was part of a successful front office that acquired talent through all avenues. He was a part of the front-office team when the Indians drafted C.C. Sabathia, now the Indians' ace. Players like rookie sensation Fausto Carmona and Jhonny Peralta were signed from an international market, while the Indians hit the free-agency market for both Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner during Huntington's tenure.
"He's a very thorough guy," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said of Huntington. "He does his homework. He's very analytical. He's worked in an organization where he understands what young talent is all about and does for you if nurtured correctly. He gets it."
All three areas of player acquisition will be targeted here in Pittsburgh, with a greater emphasis on scouring the international markets for talent than the Pirates have done in the past. Having made trips to the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in his previous professional capacity, Huntington emphasized the need to create developmental programs for young players in Latin American countries.
Huntington spoke of creating the same culture of success that Coonelly emphasized upon his arrival. And while both have created a blueprint for building this team primarily from within, Huntington admitted he knows there still is a ways to go for that goal to be realized.
"This challenge is an incredible one," Huntington said. "But I could not be more excited to tackle it."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.