2019 MLB Season: Rating the NL Central general managers

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer speak Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 as the team reports to spring training in Mesa, Ariz (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer speak Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 as the team reports to spring training in Mesa, Ariz (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

2019 MLB Season: The NL Central’s best GM

Neal Huntington, Pittsburgh Pirates

When the Pirates finished 69-93, their worst season since 2010, veteran manager Clint Hurdle was involuntarily retired. Huntington, Pittsburgh’s even longer-time general manager, is fortunate he wasn’t also dismissed.

In pure mathematical terms, Huntington had the worst season of any National League general manager. His moves cost the Pirates 10.4 games in the standings. Granted, some of those moves were made under duress, driven by injuries to Francisco Cervelli, Starling Marte, Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, and others.

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Still, virtually every post-season team worked through one or more substantial injuries during the season. Winners view problems as opportunities.

Two of Huntington’s promotions did work out well. Shortstop Kevin Newman and left fielder Bryan Reynolds, both rookies, broke through in April and formed a productive top of the Pittsburgh order. In fact, it was virtually the only productive part of Pittsburgh’s lineup. Newman batted .308, Reynolds .314 and they combined for +3.6 WAA.

Elsewhere the results were desultory. Melky Cabrera signed in February and provided neither punch nor defense. And despite the contributions of Reynolds and Newman, the farm system was  — as a group – downright harmful. A full half dozen callups produced WAAs for the Pirates amounting to -1.0 or worse. Even counting Newman and Reynolds, the net of Huntington’s 16-player rookie class was -5.3 games.

He could also be equally unsuccessful in ridding himself of players. At the trade deadline, Huntington shipped rotation starter Jordan Lyles to Milwaukee for a minor leaguer.  After starting 5-7 with a 5.36 ERA in 17 starts for Pittsburgh, Lyles won seven times out of eight decisions in helping the Brewers reach the NL wild-card game.

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Short-term acquisitions: -1.3

Short-term trade losses: -2.2

Short-term free agent signings: -3.4

Short-term free agent losses: +1.8

Short-term rookie production: -5.3

Short-term total: -10.4