chazguzzo: What are the expectations for the 2009 season?
Coonelly: Our expectations are high. We are very excited to get the 2009
season started. We believe that our starting pitching was clearly our Achilles' heel last year, and we feel
that we will be much stronger in that area in 2009. We added several quality arms to the organization in
the deadline trades last year, including Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen, who will
have an opportunity to make our starting rotation in 2009.
In addition, we are looking for bounce-back
seasons from Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny, both of whom have shown in the past that they can be
quality starting pitchers at the Major League level. We are also excited to have the opportunity to have
Andy LaRoche and Brandon Moss in our camp from the beginning of spring. Both are healthy now and
have worked extremely hard this offseason.
I would never want to make predictions as to the number
of games that we will win, but I am confident that we will play better than we did in 2008 and surprise a
lot of people with our performance.
1swing3: I was wondering if you've considered going after any Type-A free agents
this year (of the Juan Cruz variety). The ones that are left don't seem to be getting many offers, as
teams are hesitant to give up a Draft pick.
Coonelly: That is a great question. We will typically be reluctant to look at a
Type-A free agent for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Type-A free agents typically command
top-of-the-market salaries. As we have said, we need to build our team from a core of premiere
players signed and developed here in Pittsburgh. Secondly, because we value our high Draft choices so
highly, it would be very difficult for us to lose a first- or second-round Draft choice as compensation for
signing a Type-A free agent.
Having said that, there are Type-A free agents such as Adam Dunn who
were not offered arbitration and thus would not cost a Draft pick who we would consider if such a
player fit within our budget. Right now, Dunn would not fit within our budget. Cruz, who
you asked about specifically, was offered arbitration and thus would cost us a Draft choice. As a result,
he is not on our radar screen.
dsnelqendo: Dunn is 29 years old with a big lefty power bat. He may be available at a
discount. Why not offer him a four-year deal?
Coonelly: As I indicated above, Dunn is an interesting free agent
because he would not cost us a Draft pick. Right now, the salaries that he is expecting do not fit within
our budget. If other moves were made and Dunn fit within our budget, he is someone who we would
realist1: Have there been ongoing negotiations between Nate McLouth's side and
the Pirates geared toward structuring a long-term contract?
Coonelly: We have not had any discussions on a long -term contract with
Nate's representative since we exchanged arbitration numbers. It looks like those discussions have
ended for this year and we will likely have a one-year deal with Nate. Having said that, I have seen
situations in the past where multi-year discussions were resurrected prior to an arbitration hearing, and
we have not closed any doors.
chaz2108: Given that there are gaping holes at third base, left and right fields,
shouldn't filling those voids be more of a priority than rounding out the bench?
Coonelly: Thanks for your question, chaz2108. I respectfully disagree that we have
"gaping holes" at third base, left field and right field. We are very excited, as I mentioned above, to
have LaRoche and Moss in the system from the start of Spring Training. Both players are
healthy and have worked extremely hard in the offseason. Both Andy and Brandon were top
prospects in the Dodgers and Red Sox systems, respectively. Both of these young players have proven
Minor League track records, and we believe can perform well at the Major League level.
While it is true
that both struggled in their two months with us last year, it is not at all unusual for young players to
struggle in their first extended Major League experience. With respect to left field, Nyjer Morgan is
currently the frontrunner and we are excited by what Nyjer brings to the ballclub. After struggling in a
pinch-hitter role at the beginning of last season, he performed very well at Indianapolis and then
played very well for us in August and September last year. In fact, Nyjer hit .347 with a .391 on base
percentage after being called back to Pittsburgh last year. He covers tremendous ground in left field
and provides speed on the bases.
jm_bucsfan: Are you expanding your scouting efforts in Korea, Taiwan and other
emerging talent markets?
Coonelly: Welcome back to the chat. Yes, we have expanded our
scouting department to include scouts in Korea, Taiwan and other emerging markets. As you saw this
past year by our signing of a highly talented player from South Africa and the two interesting young
arms from India, we are very much looking at all international markets as potential avenues for
acquiring young talent.
dan71: Morgan is not good enough to play every day, shouldn't Andrew
McCutchen start the year in left field and gain experience? This team won't be competitive this year and it
would help to get him experience.
Coonelly: dan71, as indicated by my answer to a previous question, I would
disagree that Nyjer is not good enough to play every day in left. Nyjer performed extremely well in
September of 2007 and then again when he came back in August of last year. Andrew McCutchen is an
outstanding young talent and a young player who we believe will be a cornerstone of the organization
for years to come. We will not rush Andrew to the Majors before he is ready simply to "gain
Too many good young players have been hampered by being rushed to the Major
Leagues too early. Very few have been hampered by receiving the appropriate amount of
development at the Minor League level. Having said that, if Andrew McCutchen proves in Spring
Training that he has done everything he needs to do to start in the Major Leagues, he will have a
chance to make the Major League club out of camp.
dogs717: Will Eric Hinske get a chance to start?
Coonelly: dogs717, we signed Eric Hinske as a bench player who can provide us with
quality starts at all four corner positions, first base, third base, left and right fields. Eric should receive
considerable playing time in light of his versatility. Certainly if any of our corner players become injured
or do not perform, Eric provides us protection in those areas.
brian921: I think you have done a great job locking in talent through their arbitration
years with a free agency option and addressing the 2010 problem. How probable is it to think we will
have a contender by 2012?
Coonelly: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address how we're
building this team. While we certainly have been and will continue to acquire young talent, we are not
targeting 2010 -- or 2012, for that matter -- as the year in which we think we will win. Six of the eight
players we acquired in the deadline trades last year are (or shortly will be) ready for the Major
Leagues. We expect to win in 2009 and would not find it acceptable to attempt to build a team that will
not win until 2010 or 2012.
dogs717: The Pirates have a low payroll, so how do we get talent within Pittsburgh?
Coonelly: dogs717, we are building this team in the same manner as the Minnesota
Twins have built their clubs over the last several years and as the Tampa Bay Rays built their World
Series team. You are correct that we are unlikely to have a payroll that is in the top 10 in baseball, but
that does not mean that we will not have premiere players. We are aggressively spending money on
the Draft and in the international markets, and in the Dominican Republic in particular. We have also
acquired premiere players via trade. In short, we need to sign and/or develop our own premiere
players and then retain them in the system for as long as possible.
pittguest: Thank you, everyone, for your questions. Please join Frank again next
month on March 4 at 2 p.m. ET.