Neal Huntington wouldn't come close to committing whether the Pirates will be buyers or sellers at Major League Baseball's July 31 trade deadline.
Which meant, basically, that it was a day ending in Y.
In this case, it was at his weekly gathering with reporters in the PNC Park press box Sunday, one in which he did little more than reiterate being open to either option: He'll entertain offers to sell, but he'll also look to buy if there's the right match.
"The interesting part about that is that you're buying either way. It's just, are you buying for the present? Or are you buying for the future? We're still working through it," Huntington began on the subject. "We've got players who we believe have helped us win games this year, and we'd love to be able to add to this group. We'll see what this market allows and where we can move this market in one direction or the other. But that's the interesting thing: Are you buying now or buying for the future?"
Like I said, wouldn't come close.
Which got me to thinking: For all the fuss that's made about a team's performance in July as it relates to the deadline -- seemingly every win or loss brings matching cries of buy or sell -- how much does this month really sway someone as analytical as Huntington?
I asked that:
"You always want to win, and you want to appreciate every chance you get to be in a postseason run," he replied. "It's tough to make that decision on July 31st. And this year, teams have to make it on July 31st."
Right. No more Aug. 31 waivers trade deadline. All deals are done this month, or they aren't done at all. That change was made for this season.
"There's no more pushing this into August and saying, 'Oh, well, if we fall back in August, we can still get some return for expiring contracts," he continued. "It will make it a little bit interesting this year. You look at the number of National League clubs that are in contention of some sort ... if you're within a good two weeks of getting back into it, it makes for an interesting dynamic."
I've deciphered the man for a decade now, and I'll give this a shot: He's selling. But he might not sell at all if any of the following occur:
• The Pirates go on some wild tear.
• Someone overpays for Felipe Vazquez. Several contenders, notably the Dodgers, are known to have reached out with significant, prospect-rich offers. The accompanying word in each case is that the Pirates will seek more than anyone's comfortable conceding.
• Someone will take on one of his expiring contracts. And not just the obvious ones like Francisco Cervelli or Corey Dickerson, but also Melky Cabrera, the latter having been a big -- and healthy -- contributor all season. The first two haven't been either, of course.
Of Vazquez specifically, Huntington acknowledged he keeps getting calls, but he pointed again to Vazquez's contract that offers any team four years of control beyond this one, the final two being club options.
"We certainly understand why his name gets floated: He's one of the best relievers in baseball," Huntington said. "We're sitting behind a handful of teams, there's a history of teams sitting behind a handful of teams being willing to trade players and, so, it makes sense. But we also have four-plus years of potential contribution from one of the best relievers in baseball. My job is to listen when someone makes the call, but we're not the ones placing the calls to see what's out there. If someone wants to explore anybody on our club, we have to."
Pausing a moment, he added, "We fully anticipate Felipe will be closing the next playoff games that we're a part of."
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