Reading Between the Lines: Coonelly Chat

Frank Coonelly did his monthly chat yesterday. While my opinion is that most GMs and CEOs in baseball (Pirates included) won’t come out and say everything in these situations, I believe we can read between the lines in certain cases and take a guess as to what the plan could be. So in an attempt to do that, let’s read between the lines for yesterday’s chat with Coonelly:

stwoods53: I think you’re doing a great job. Do you see any trades for Jack Wilson?

Coonelly: Thank you very much and welcome to the chat. I do not see a scenario at this time in which we will trade him. I expect Jack to be our Opening Day shortstop this year.

What We Know: The Pirates tried very hard to trade Jack Wilson at the start of the off-season, with no success. The Pirates have set a $54 M budget for the 2009 payroll.

What We Think We Know: The 40-man projected payroll is going to be around $51.5 M with Wilson’s 2009 salary. Without that salary, the total would be around $44 M, leaving about $10 M to spend right now.

Between the Lines: I don’t think the “no scenarios” comment is an endorsement of Jack Wilson. I think it’s more of “I don’t see a scenario where we would find a trade partner for Jack Wilson”. Too bad we can never get offers like Jair Jurrjens for Wilson. Oh wait…

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 consider.

What We Know: They were trying to deal Wilson. They have a $54 M budget. They’ve said they will entertain trade talk for Adam LaRoche later this year.

What We Think We Know: Dunn will probably cost less than $10 M a year, but more than the $3-4 M the Pirates have left under the budget.

Between the Lines: The big part here is the “if other moves were made and Dunn fit within our budget…” part. I think the “if other moves were made” part is in reference to the slight chance that they could trade Wilson or LaRoche, clearing up salary to make a move for someone like Dunn. Personally I wouldn’t mind if they signed Dunn to a multi-year deal. A 4 year, $32 M deal would pay about $6-7 M in 2009. That would put the team about $3-4 M over the $54 M budget. Chances are they will deal someone like LaRoche, Sanchez, or Wilson by mid-season, which will save them a few million (dealing LaRoche alone at the deadline would save $2.3 M). This is a rare chance for the Pirates to land a good free agent at a reasonable price. I say go for it, and worry about making up the budget later.

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 experience.”

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.

What We Know: The Pirates have said Morgan is the front runner for the left field job. Andrew McCutchen has one more year remaining before he needs to be added to the 40-man roster.

What We Think We Know: The Pirates will probably keep McCutchen in the minors to delay his arbitration clock.

Between the Lines: Chances are, no matter what type of Spring Training McCutchen has, he will go to AAA. That’s a smart move. If they bring him up to start the season, they control his rights through the 2014 season. If they bring him up in June, they control his rights through the 2015 season. I don’t know how competitive we will be in the 2015 season, but I do know how competitive we will be in the 2009 season, and it won’t be a competitive season. If the options are to have McCutchen for a full year in 2009 and lose him after the 2014 season, or trade two months of 2009 for an extra season down the road, I’m trading those two months for one extra year every time.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Fla Pirate

    I agree with your comment about Dunn or any quality FA. If there was ever a year to make a move and ignore the budget constraits, this is the year. You can always dump quality FAs at the trade deadline if you are so worried about budgets later and your team is tanking horribly. Or better yet, draw more fans because they want better players therefor making more money?

  • The Jello Phone

    Eh, spend the money on Harden and/or Myers next year. We’ve got plenty of players to fill 1B/OF for the next few years.

    We should be able to find 4 guys out of McLouth, Morgan, Moss, Pearce, McCutchen, Tabata, Grossman, Miller, and Freeman (and maybe even Alvarez) to fill those spots.


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