J-Hay desires trade if Bucs won't contend in '18

With Cutch, Cole gone, 2B says also dealing him could 'be better for all involved'

January 16th, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates traded two franchise cornerstones over the long weekend, giving up and for young players and prospects. If their roster "retooling" takes them out of the postseason picture, Josh Harrison doesn't want to be a part of it.

In a statement released Tuesday to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, Harrison effectively asked to be traded "if indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next." Harrison, 30, is under contract for $10.25 million this year, with club options for 2019 ($10.5 million) and '20 ($11.5 million).

Harrison has been mentioned in trade rumors throughout the offseason, but the Pirates are thought to be seeking a high return for the super-utility man given his versatility and three remaining years of club control.

"Baseball is a business, and I understand that trades are part of the business," Harrison said in a statement published on The Athletic. "While I love this game, the reality is that I just lost two of my closest friends in the game. Cole and Cutch were not just friends, they were the best pitcher and best position player on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now, I am the most tenured member of the Pirates, I want to win, I want to contend, I want to win championships in 2018, 2019 and beyond.

"My passion for Pittsburgh, what it has MEANT to me, what it MEANS to me, can never be questioned. I love this city, I love the fans, I love my teammates. Saying that, the GM is on record as saying, 'When we get back to postseason-caliber baseball, we would love our fans to come back out.' If indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next, perhaps it would be better for all involved that I also am traded. I want what is best for the organization that gave me a chance to be a big leaguer."

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he addressed the issue in an interview on KDKA-FM, the club's flagship radio station. Huntington said he spoke with Harrison on Tuesday and walked through the veteran's thoughts and concerns.

"We love Josh's passion, love the fire and what he's done for this team and this organization. We want what's best for this organization. Josh wants to win, and so do we," Huntington said. "We've had a lengthy exchange today. We agree with him. We want what's best for the organization. We want to win, and we want to win sooner than later."

Even after trading Cole and McCutchen, Pirates management insisted Monday the team intends to compete this year. The Bucs have stayed away from the term "rebuild" -- instead calling it a "retool" -- primarily because they believe they are not far away from being postseason contenders again.

"What I can tell you is there's a group of players that's going to show up every day to defy the odds," Huntington said Monday. "In our minds, a rebuild implies you're looking five years down the road. This team is going to show up ready to go in Spring Training, ready to compete, ready to defy odds, just like that 2013 Pirates team did."

Harrison was the Pirates' most valuable player last season, according to Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Replacement formula, with 3.3 WAR. McCutchen was Harrison's best friend on Pittsburgh's roster. When McCutchen was dealt to the Giants on Monday, Harrison became the Bucs' longest-tenured player.

Drafted by the Cubs in 2008, Harrison made his Major League debut for the Pirates in '11. After a few up-and-down years, he established himself as an everyday player with an All-Star season in '14. In April '15, Harrison signed a four-year, $27.3 million extension with two club options.