"This has been a challenging season on many levels," general manager Neal Huntington said of the move. "We are committed to assessing and improving upon our operations on all levels in order to return Postseason baseball to Pittsburgh."
This represents an apparent reversal from the team.
The Athletic's Stephen J. Nesbitt reported Wednesday the Pirates were "expected to make changes to their front office and coaching staff" in the offseason but that Hurdle had "received assurance from the organization" he'd be back for 2020.
Ken Rosenthal @Ken_Rosenthal
Hurdle told The Athletic’s @stephenjnesbitt Wednesday that the organization had assured him he was returning. Possible explanations: 1. There was a misunderstanding within the organization. 2. Hurdle misunderstood what he was told. 3. Hurdle attempted a power play of sorts.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale noted Hurdle had two years left on his deal with the team.
Nesbitt's report aside, his departure doesn't come as a surprise.
Heading into the final day of the regular season, the Pirates are last in the National League Central at 69-92, a year after having finished 82-79.
Hurdle helped guide Pittsburgh to three straight playoff appearances from 2013 to 2015 and he leaves with a winning record (735-720-1). However, the team's stagnation following its last postseason trip raised questions as to his continued suitability as manager.
Fans will likely be more perplexed to hear team owner Bob Nutting signal a commitment to Huntington and the front office:
Failing to recoup adequate value for Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole is one reason for the Pirates' bleak outlook. Bryan Reynolds is at least helping the team salvage something from the McCutchen trade.
Still, Neither McCutchen nor Cole returned the kind of elite prospect haul to lay the foundation for the team's rebuild. Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked Pittsburgh's farm system 18th in MLB in August.
Using Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows to acquire Chris Archer has backfired spectacularly as well.
One could argue Huntington is more responsible for the Pirates' current state than Hurdle.
Pittsburgh doesn't have the pieces to contend next season, nor does it have the young talent that points to a brighter future in a few years. That combination is likely to limit the pool of candidates the front office and ownership can target as it replaces Hurdle.