miz1: Mr. Coonelly. When you talk about building a championship-caliber team, what is your time frame? I honestly hope this isn't another five-year plan.
Coonelly: Miz1, yours is a question that we get quite often. What I can tell you is, we are working as hard as we can to build a winning team as fast as we possibly can. We have not put together another "five-year plan" but instead every transaction we have made was done to build a winning club as fast as possible. I hope that you have been able to see from the improved starting pitching that we have gotten this year that several of the players who we have received in trades that have been made to date have given us the ability to compete in virtually every game we play. I understand that each time we make a trade to infuse the organization with talent, fans want to know when is now. That is a great question and one that you certainly deserve an answer to. What I can tell is, that we are much closer today to having the type of foundation necessary to be a winning team than we have had in a long, long time. Once a solid foundation is built, we will not need to trade veteran players for multiple players.
gyg5012: Frank, are any of the current players "un-tradable," or would you consider dealing any player if it were a good deal?
Coonelly: gyg5012, that is a great follow-up question to the previous question and my answer. As Neal and I have said from the day that we got here, we are simply not good enough to have any "untouchable players." Having said that, however, there are certainly players on the roster who would be extraordinarily difficult to move.
pirategirl71: I don't understand the reasoning for the Morgan/Burnett trade. I'm sure I'm not the only one. It doesn't seem that we got as much back for Nyjer.
Coonelly: While Lastings comes with some risk, we had done extensive background work on his make-up and character and are convinced that, with appropriate structure and direction, he will be a positive addition to our club. We are confident that our development staff and JR and his staff will make clear to Lastings what it means to play Pirates baseball and to be a good teammate. In Joel Hanrahan, we received a hard-throwing right-hander who has the ability to pitch at the back end of the bullpen for us. Hanrahan had a very successful rookie season last year, converting nine of 13 save opportunities and posting a 1.83 ERA when pitching in save situations. Hanrahan, a former 2nd round draft choice by the Dodgers, was so highly regarded that he was selected to Team USA for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, and pitched effectively as Team USA's closer, posting a 1.80 ERA in six games.
BigB23: Will you guys pursue a shortstop of the future at the deadline like a Brandon Wood from Angels or Reid Brignac from Tampa? Or do you feel you already have one in the minors with Chase D'Arnaud and Brian Friday?
Coonelly: BigB23, while we are very excited about the futures of Brian Friday, Chase D'Arnaud, Jordy Mercer and other young shortstops in our system, we are certainly interested in adding middle infield talent to the system. To date, neither the Angels nor the Rays have indicated any inclination to move Wood or Brignac.
heffis: I understand the "upside" that is possible in this trade. And no doubt Hanrahan has more talent and upside than Burnett. But how can you see any good in bringing in one of the biggest cancers in the Bigs for one of the better role players on our squad?
Coonelly: heffis, I think it is a bit unfair to Lastings Milledge to characterize him as one of the biggest "cancers" in Major League Baseball. As I indicated, Milledge has at times demonstrated immaturity on and off the field. He made it to the Major Leagues as a 21-year-old, and has at times, not comported himself in a manner that will be acceptable in this organization. As I indicated, we spoke with scores of people inside and outside of baseball who know and have worked with Lastings over years, and are convinced that he is a good individual that has made some mistakes. As a result, we are comfortable acquiring Lastings and providing him with the structure and direction that he needs to reach his vast potential. That process has already begun.
malls07: Mr. Coonelly, what is this plan for the future? As a fan, the only plan I have seen is a revolving door of proven players leaving and prospects coming in. Please help all us fans to understand this plan.
Coonelly: malls07, thanks for giving me an opportunity to reiterate our plan for success that I hope we have articulated consistently and repeatedly. That plan does not involve a "constant revolving door." Instead it is premised on building a strong and deep foundation from within the organization, relying on aggressive and extensive scouting and player development. To win in this market, we must have the type of quality and depth that teams have built in Minnesota and Tampa, other markets that cannot rely on free agent acquisitions to build the core of their organizations.
gorillagogo: Frank, Coming out of Spring Training, Huntington stated McCutchen was given a list of specific things he needed to work on. Are there similar areas you'd like to see Milledge improve, or is it a situation where he'll move up once he shows he's healthy.
Coonelly: gorillagogo, just like all of our minor league players, Lastings will be given a very detailed development plan that he will need to execute. Following a short stay in Bradenton to finish up his rehab work, Lastings will go to Indianapolis. He will come to Pittsburgh when he demonstrates that he is ready to help us win games in Pittsburgh.
bobsbucfan: What are the chances of Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez being September call ups?
Coonelly: bobsbucfan, thanks for asking about some of the talent in the system that we are extremely excited about. Pedro was just recently promoted to double-A Altoona and Jose missed a fair amount of time at Altoona as a result of a hamstring injury. We are very excited to see Pedro and Jose play together in Altoona, along with Gorkys Hernandez and some of our other exciting young talent. The play of Jose and Pedro, including their ability to make the development strides that we have challenged them with, will determine when they make it to Pittsburgh. In both players, we believe that we have talented young men who will have long and productive careers in Pittsburgh.
new_era: I know you and Neal Huntington are taking a beating from the fans and the press with some unpopular moves, but I think everything you have done to this point has been outstanding. There is a lot risk in the plan in place, but at least there is a plan.
Coonelly: new_era, thank you for the kinds words and I do not believe that we are related. What all Pirates fans should understand is that every decision that Neal and I make has one and only one purpose, and that is to build a winning team that all Pittsburghers can proudly call their Pirates again. I understand why trades involving popular players are not always popular, but EVERY decision we make is made to give Pittsburgh Pirates fans the one thing that they deserve -- a team that can again compete for championships and cement for Pittsburgh the title of City of Champions. If Neal and I need to take some criticism along the way, that is understandable and part of the job. And while it is every fan's right to question our judgment with respect to any transaction, all Pirates fans should understand that we are intent on returning this proud organization to greatness.
Coonelly: I really appreciate all of you taking the time to participate in my chat today. I hope you will all join me again on Wednesday, August 5 at 2 p.m. Thanks again, and Go Bucs!