A good reflection of that approach was the Pirates' bye in the Major League phase of Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft. For the first time in Huntington's six Winter Meetings, the team did not make a selection.
Selections in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the team's 25-man roster for the entire season or be returned to their original club at a financial loss. The Bucs have one opening on their roster, and Huntington considered it too valuable to commit it to a "maybe."
"We're in a different stage as an organization than we were a few years ago, when we were willing to carry a high-ceiling guy for future considerations," Huntington said. "We need someone who can contribute, be a factor. Even a high-ceiling guy could handcuff us and make us play with a 24-man roster."
So the Pirates passed on the Rule 5 guys still available when their turn to pick came up at No. 13. This, after they'd already passed on all the trade inquiries floated by them. But Huntington was keeping notes and taking names, and his sleeves remain rolled up.
The Bucs acquired left-hander Andrew Oliver from the Tigers for catcher Ramon Cabrera in a swap of players who spent all of the 2012 season in the Minors. The move did tip off the Pirates' eagerness to unearth a second southpaw for their rotation, as Oliver has limited big league experience and is a hard-throwing project. At worst, he becomes a placeholder as Huntington continues to explore veteran lefties remaining on the market. Oliver, lefty Jeff Locke and right-hander Kyle McPherson -- the three ranking rookies to crack the rotation -- have a combined record of 1-13 in their limited Major League exposure.
Also, right-hander Kyle Kaminska was identified as the player to be named in the deal with the Red Sox for righty Zach Stewart.
Rule 5 Draft activity:
As noted, zip, on both sides of the Major League ledger. In the Triple-A phase, the Pirates took right-hander Ethan Hollingsworth from Kansas City, while losing infielder Elevys Gonzalez to the Dodgers. A pitch-to-contact guy who relies on eliciting grounders with a sinker, the 25-year-old Hollingsworth has recently gravitated more toward relief work, but the Pirates intend to return him to a regular starting role at Triple-A Indianapolis. "We still like the kid and hate to lose him, but we can't protect them all," Larry Broadway, Pittsburgh's director of Minor League operations, said about Gonzalez, a 23-year-old Venezuelan who hit .322 for Class A Advanced Bradenton in 2011 but followed that up with .206 while splitting 2012 between Class A and Double-A.
The biggest one was checked off a couple of days before the Bucs even got here, the signing of Russell Martin.
The top priority remains starting pitching, with lures also dropping for veteran infield help and an on-base specialist for the top of the order.
Team's bottom line:
Huntington has been able to stay the course, adding to, rather than breaking up, a team with consecutive second-half collapses in its rearview mirror. Plenty of work remains, but when Huntington alludes to possible future payoffs for groundwork done here, you remember the mid-February landing of A.J. Burnett, and thus you listen.