I suspect Neal Huntington has been shaking his head a lot lately.
Pittsburgh’s GM has the well-earned reputation of being MLB’s most tight-lipped executive. Off-the-record is not in his vocabulary. He will never be that mysterious “baseball source” leaking news.
Huntington simply will not comment on developing transactions until they are done. Media get word on moves when 245 Park Avenue has signed off on them. Huntington also believes in the sanctity of mutual-risk long-term contracts.
We’ve seen both of those principles violated time and again this offseason.
Once, at the 2014 Winter Meetings, Huntington took time to actually explain his refusal to talk about in-the-works transactions. Digest version: To do so could make the club prematurely accountable for the welfare of the player, and can also lead to embarrassment.
Twice in the last two weeks, the Dodgers had “deals” that, for different reasons, fell through. They’ll survive, but you don’t think Dodger Red — as in embarrassed — has temporarily supplanted Dodger Blue as the team color after Aroldis Chapman and Hisashi Iwakuma?
And premium free agents keep signing win-win long-term deals with midpoint opt-out clauses: David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jason Heyward … they all have the option of again being free agents in a few years if their performances rate raises on the open market. Underperformers have the protection of the back-end of their pacts.
These one-sided deals must really chafe Huntington. He scored over Andrew McCutchen (two years to go on his six-year, $51.5M deal), Charlie Morton (three-year, $21M) scored over him. But at least they were all sitting at the same table.
Opt-out deals are nothing new (Alex Rodriguez famously exercised his during the 2007 World Series, Zack Greinke just used his as a bridge to the D-backs) but are becoming more frequent.
They have the attention of Commissioner Rob Manfred, who the other day seemed to take the words right out of Huntington’s mouth when he told FOX Sports:
“The logic of opt-out clauses for the club escapes me. You make an eight-year agreement with a player. He plays well, and he opts out after three. You either pay the player again or you lose him. Conversely, if the player performs poorly, he doesn’t opt out and gets the benefit of the eight-year agreement. That doesn’t strike me as a very good deal. Personally, I don’t see the logic of it. But clubs do what they do.”
Hmmm … doesn’t that sound like the next Geico commercial?