Coonelly: Hello everyone and thank you for joining me today. I apologize for the slight delay, but let's get to the questions.
bucsin09: Frank, what does the front office do during the months of October and November? Is it a time of analysis and planning? Vacation? Evaluation? It always seems to be the "slowest" time from a fan's perspective.
Coonelly: Bucsin09, vacation is the only option that is not part of our October and November. This time of year is, in fact, one of our busiest times of the year as all members of the staff, in particularly the baseball operations staff members, meet to evaluate what went right and what went wrong in 2009, evaluate talent on the free-agent and potential trade markets and set forth our strategic plan for 2010 and beyond. Those sessions have already begun and will continue throughout the offseason. In addition, we are conducting instructional league in Bradenton, Fla., and administering and monitoring players' offseason workout programs.
groat2maz: Mr. Coonelly, with Pedro [Alvarez] and Neil Walker options at third base, are there any plans to put Andy LaRoche at second next year? It's talked about on blogs but has management discussed what looks like a good move; no offense to Delwyn Young.
Coonelly: Groat2maz, LaRoche worked extremely hard on his defense at third base and played Gold Glove caliber defense all year for us. LaRoche also hit extraordinarily well in September. As you mention, we do have several potential options at third base, and as a result, we did approach LaRoche about working at second base to provide us and him with options as we move forward. LaRoche has played second base some as an amateur and was open to a potential move to second base if we view that to be in the best interest of the club.
jgolz: What do you see happening at first base next year?
Coonelly: Jgolz, Garrett Jones certainly made a very strong impression with us following his callup on June 30. We are fortunate that we are the only club in baseball that has two very legitimate Rookie of the Year candidates, and Jones is certainly a legit candidate for that award. In addition, Jeff Clement, who we received in the Seattle trade, has been working at first base. Steve Pearce did not perform up to his or our expectations over a fairly extended look in 2009, but we are not prepared to give up on Pearce and look forward to him arriving in Bradenton prepared to compete for the first-base job. As a result, we have at least three legitimate options at first base as we sit here today and the players' work over the offseason and during Spring Training will dictate who will win the first-base job in 2010.
RoninBuc: I am realistic about how long it will take to fix many years of mismanagement of my beloved franchise, as Syd Thrift said, "Raising the dead ain't easy." How will the loss of not signing Miguel Sano affect your efforts in Latin America to sign elite talent?
Coonelly: RoninBuc, I appreciate your recognition that building a championship club does not happen overnight. We have made tremendous progress in terms of adding talent to the organization over the past two years and are now in a far stronger position than we have been in years. With respect to our initiative to become a leader again in Latin America, our inability to sign Sano will not impede our success in Latin America. While certainly disappointed that we were unable to sign Sano, we made an offer that exceeded by several multiples the dollars this organization has spent on any player in Latin America. As a result, we demonstrated our willingness to be a major player in Latin America and will continue to aggressively pursue players in all international markets, including Latin America. In the Sano case, Sano's representative found a club that was willing to meet his objectives and decided against attempting to exceed that objective by coming back to the Pirates or any other club. And that is a representative's prerogative, and we move on to other targets in Latin America and the other international markets.
besbol: Can you tell us what did go right and go wrong in 2009?
Coonelly: Besbol, that is obviously the very question that we are asking and evaluating during all of our offseason meetings. In short, however, the 2009 season was one in which we continued to acquire talent and significantly upgrade the talent level across the entire organization. We are very pleased with the talent we were able to add through the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, international signings and through trades at the Major League level. 2009 was also a year in which there were tremendous development strides taken by individual players both at the Major League and Minor League levels. In particular, Andrew McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf, Jones, Zach Duke and LaRoche are all players who took meaningful developmental strides in 2009. In addition, we at times saw outstanding performances by pitchers like Charlie Morton and Daniel McCutchen. At the Minor League level, players like Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln, Chase D'Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, Rudy Owens and Starling Marte, just to name a few, made tremendous strides. Nevertheless, our objective is to win in Pittsburgh and we fell far short of our expectations in this regard. While the starting pitching was much better than last year and will improve even further in light of the midseason acquisitions, our offense was inconsistent, at best, all season. As we evaluate our moves during the offseason, a primary objective will be to improve our offensive production.
jvlumbo: Do you think you finally have the stability necessary or will we see young players traded again for even younger prospects?
Coonelly: Thanks again for joining me. This will be the last question for this session. Jvlumbo, we are certainly in a far stronger position today than we were a year ago and certainly two years ago. As we said at the Trade Deadline this year, we now have a core of players in Pittsburgh and at the upper level of the Minor Leagues that we believe provides a strong foundation for winning baseball in Pittsburgh. We are certainly beyond the need to move veteran players approaching free agency for multiple young players. We will aggressively look to supplement this core through free agency and the trade market as we continue to develop players in our system. Between the players who ended the season in Pittsburgh and the players who are poised to join the Major League roster in 2010, we are extremely optimistic about our future. I appreciate and respect that these past two years have been difficult on our fans that have so loyally supported us, but the decisions that we made with the roster are not at all similar to decisions that had been made in the past. Indeed, many of our great fans have told me that the wholesale changes that we have made over the past two years should have been done years ago. The good news for Pirates fans is that the days of wholesale changes are over and, with a far superior talent base, the Pirates organization is poised to return to its rightful place in the National League.
Coonelly: Thanks again for joining me today, and I look forward to our next chat in November. I continue to appreciate your support as we head into the 2010 offseason.