Pirates opt to retain GM Neal Huntington

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The Pirates’ season has derailed, but the engineer will be returning. Pirates president Frank Coonelly released a statement Wednesday saying that GM Neal Huntington would be back in 2013.

Manager Clint Hurdle and assistant GMs Kyle Stark and Greg Smith are also expected back.

“As soon as we finish this season as well as we possibly can, we will turn our full and total attention to evaluating why were unable to finish the job and what we must do differently to take the next step to becoming a championship team,” Coonelly’s statement read. “There will unquestionably be changes made to the way in which we operate as a result of this thorough critical self-evaluation, but we will not be making personnel changes at the very top of our baseball operations department. Neal, Kyle, Greg and Clint are dedicated and intelligent baseball men in whom I have great confidence.”

If the Pirates’ season had unfolded differently and the team had achieved its current 76-78 record through more typical means, Huntington probably wouldn’t have been on the hot seat in the first place. That several of the most important players on the roster (Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, James McDonald, Starling Marte) have had such encouraging seasons is really the most important thing here. The only real key disappointment is Jose Tabata, and he has played better since returning from the minors. Retaining Huntington is certainly the right move. The Pirates’ probably haven’t been in this good of shape in 20 years.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.