Nutting visits Pirates camp, supports team's off-season moves

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Visiting Pirates camp Wednesday, chairman Bob Nutting expressed approval of the team's offseason and the players on the current roster but acknowledged the need to "keep pushing."

"Were there some areas we talked about being able to build and supplement, whether it's right field or first base? Absolutely," Nutting said. "Are we in a strong position to go out and put a team I have faith that's going to not only compete but can excel in 2014? Absolutely."

Nutting spoke to the players and coaching staff Wednesday before workouts and had dinner Tuesday night with the coaches.

Spring Training Report: Owner Bob Nutting

Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting talks to the media from the Pirates' spring training camp in Bradenton, Fla. (Video by Peter Diana; 2/19/2014)

"We're in a stronger place than we've been, but we need to be moving forward," Nutting said. "We need to get better. We can't be satisfied. Every team in the league, every team in baseball, is now aware of us and pushing forward."

The Pirates signed right-hander Edinson Volquez and brought back shortstop Clint Barmes in the offseason, spending a combined $7 million to do so. They also made some minor trades and minor league free-agent signings. The roster looks similar to the one the Pirates ended the 2013 season with, minus A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau, who left via free agency.

"I think the process was strong, the additions were strong," Nutting said.

Six weeks remain before opening day, so there is time to make a move.

"I think we're not at a point where we're over," Nutting said.

"As we showed last year, whether it's the trading deadline or after the trading deadline, I don't think we should ever be in a position where we say we're done and we go on autopilot."

Nutting echoed previous statements by general manager Neal Huntington regarding signing a player tied to draft-pick compensation as a result of declining a qualifying offer. Huntington has not ruled it out but said it is unlikely and would depend on the situation.

"Nothing is off the table, but, at the same time, we need to be smart, we need to recognize that with a first-round draft pick, it's a meaningful source of talent for a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates," Nutting said.

Free-agent first baseman and designated hitter Kendrys Morales, shortstop Stephen Drew and right-hander Ervin Santana remain unsigned, partly because their acquisition also would dictate draft-pick compensation.

Nutting said it was too early to discuss exercising manager Clint Hurdle's 2015 club option or extending his contract. Hurdle and Huntington are entering the final year of their contracts, though each has a club option for 2015.

"We're early in spring training," Nutting said. "It's not a time to have that discussion or that announcement."

The Pirates extended Hurdle's contract almost exactly one year ago, in spring training.

"Having talked with both of them, I don't think that's the first topic on anybody's mind right now," Nutting said.

Hurdle, for his part, said an extension is not important to him.

There are still unknowns, Nutting said, regarding how much each team will receive from Major League Baseball's new national television contracts. The new Fox, TBS and ESPN deals are worth about $12 billion over eight years according to multiple reports, but diversions to MLB's central fund, MLB Advanced Media and streaming rights will dilute the payout to the teams. The yearly escalation of those diversions will further reduce the impact.

"We're going to make sure we're never focused on total dollars, but how do we really invest effectively so we're getting the right mix of our development system, the right mix of talent coming into the organization, and a real commitment to make sure that the 2014 team knows they're our top priority and we need to perform and win in Pittsburgh," Nutting said.

Nutting reiterated his stance that the organization should seek to improve internally -- meaning he would prefer, when adding to the major league roster via trade, to take on additional salary rather than part with young prospects -- but noted the need to be flexible.

"There's no question that it is easier and more impactful, especially at the trading deadline, to write an extra check rather than give up prospects," Nutting said. "At the same time, not everybody in the organization can stay in the organization."

Nutting pointed to Baseball America ranking the Pirates as the best minor league system in the league as an exciting part of the offseason and as a tangible result of the organizational plan.

Bill Brink: and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published February 19, 2014 12:14 PM

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