Nutting: Bucs would love to keep core intact

Pirates owner expresses desire to retain Huntington, Hurdle, McCutchen beyond '17

Nutting: Bucs would love to keep core intact

BRADENTON, Fla. -- As the Pirates ramp up their Spring Training workouts, the futures of three organizational pillars remains uncertain. But owner Bob Nutting said Monday that the Bucs would love to keep general manager Neal Huntington, manager Clint Hurdle and right fielder Andrew McCutchen beyond the life of their current contracts.

Perhaps coincidentally, all three are signed to similar deals: Their contracts are guaranteed through 2017 with club options for '18. McCutchen spent the offseason surrounded by trade rumors, fueling speculation that this may be his last season in Pittsburgh. The club has yet to extend either Huntington or Hurdle, or pick up their options for next year.

In his annual spring meeting with the media at Pirate City, Nutting expressed profound appreciation for the Pirates' organizational architect, on-field leader and franchise player.

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"Neal and Clint are both really strong, really good. I love working with them. I'm very comfortable with them," said Nutting, now 10 years into his tenure as the club's chairman. "I think they're very comfortable with us and the organization. The contract extension is not something that's top-of-mind for me. It's not an issue at this point. But they are tremendous talents who I love."

Pirates president Frank Coonelly said the club would approach Huntington and Hurdle about their future "at the appropriate time" and expressed optimism about keeping both in place. Neither Huntington nor Hurdle has even hinted at a desire to leave.

"We're looking for them to be Pirates for a very long time," Coonelly told MLB.com. "The great thing is they want to be Buccos, and we want them to be Buccos. As long as they're passionate about continuing to be Buccos, I think we're going to have a long-term relationship."

Huntington has been in his current position as GM since September 2007, hiring Hurdle as manager in November 2010. Together, they helped snap the Pirates' 20-year under-.500 streak in 2013 and made the first of three straight trips to the postseason. In April 2014, they signed three-year extensions that included an option year.

Hurdle echoed Nutting's sentiment that his contract is not exactly a front-burner issue right now.

"I don't even have a burner. I'm taking care of today," Hurdle said. "I like where I'm at. I love the organization. I'm humbled to get the opportunity to do it. It'll get figured out."

McCutchen's status may be of greater immediate concern. The Pirates listened to trade offers for their franchise player over the winter, but were not persuaded to deal him. McCutchen came to accept the rumors as part of baseball's business while frequently expressing his preference to remain in Pittsburgh for the rest of his career.

That is an unlikely outcome, given the Pirates' payroll and the type of contract McCutchen should merit. This is the final guaranteed season of the six-year, $51.5 million extension he signed in March 2012. The deal includes a $14.75 million option for 2018.

Coonelly called it a "great start" that McCutchen wants to remain in Pittsburgh, and Nutting reiterated his desire to keep McCutchen if such a scenario becomes possible.

"He's been tremendous on the field and off the field. I appreciate him. I could spend the rest of the morning saying nice things and wonderful anecdotes about Andrew," Nutting said. "If there were a way to keep him, clearly it would be wonderful to see him in a Pirates uniform. He loves Pittsburgh and [his wife] Maria loves Pittsburgh, and we love Andrew."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.