No strife in Pittsburgh: John Russell, Neal Huntington got contract extensions

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On the heels of this morning’s business concerning John Russell and the Pirates comes a statement from team president Frank Coonelly that General Manager Neal Huntington and Russell each got contract extensions over the winter and thus all of this speculation about Russell being in trouble needs to stop:

As you know, we have respectfully declined to
discuss publically the contract status of our non-player personnel. 
While I continue to believe that internal understandings regarding
goals, expectations, standards, performance and progress towards meeting
those goals are far more productive than public votes of confidence or
public discussions about the years remaining on an employee’s contract,
it is clear that the desire to ascertain the number of years that remain
on our manager’s contract has become and will remain a distraction,
precisely the result we sought to avoid by declining to discuss such
matters.

As a result, while we have demonstrated in the
past that a contract will not prevent us from making a change if one is
appropriate and thus contract status truly is irrelevant, we will
confirm that during the off-season we exercised the Club’s 2011 option
on JR’s contract and added a fourth year (2011) to Neal’s contract.  We
did so because we believed that they were successfully implementing the
organization’s vision of building a baseball organization that could
compete for championships on a consistent basis.

So that’s that. I suppose I’ll know I’ve hit the big time when my reports cause team brass to issue refutations in press-release form like this.

Nick Williams has been trying to sell Jake Arrieta on the Phillies

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CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.

Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”

On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”

Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.

Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.