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Coonelly addresses offseason needs

Coonelly addresses offseason needs

Pirates president Frank Coonelly participated in his monthly live online chat with Pirates fans on Wednesday. During the chat, Coonelly answered questions about the acquisition of Akinori Iwamura, a variety of potential offseason moves, the status of the club's top prospects and more. The complete chat transcript follows.

Coonelly: Welcome everyone and thank you for joining me today. Let's get to the questions.

jerh1: Regarding the Akinori Iwamura trade: most media sources are saying that the Rays intended to decline their option on Iwamura and allow him to become a free agent. Given that, why did the Pirates choose to give up a valuable reliever rather than wait a few days?

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Coonelly: jerh1, it was clear to us that the Rays were intent on moving Iwamura given their payroll considerations and potential replacements at second base. It was also clear to us, however, that there was considerable interest in Iwamura from other clubs and that he would not have been a free agent if we did not reach an agreement with the Rays. Iwamura was a player who we had targeted this offseason to solidify our middle infield and we were very pleased with our ability to secure him. Jesse Chavez is a solid relief pitcher, but we had to give up some talent to secure a player of Iwamura's stature.

manitou14_2: Is it probable that both Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata are called up on June 1, 2010, to complete the Pirates team?

Coonelly: manitou14_2, both Alvarez and Tabata are exciting young prospects who we believe will be important parts of our future. We have not set any particular date as the date on which either player will be called up to Pittsburgh. Jose is currently performing very well in the Arizona Fall League and Pedro has played for Team USA in the World Cup, gone to the instructional league and is now working hard in a conditioning program during the next several months. If both players continue to do the things that are necessary to become Major League players, we would expect both players to make an impact at some point in Pittsburgh. It is simply too early to tell when that will be.

billyboy89: Are there are any players that you and your staff will be targeting to get this offseason? If not, at what positions do you hope to improve?

Coonelly: billyboy89, general manager Neal Huntington and his staff have been working since the last game of the season preparing their offseason strategy. They have identified both position needs and targeted players at each of those position needs. Neal and his staff are targeting both free agent players and players who might be available via trade. As the Iwamura trade reflects, we have transitioned from a very aggressive talent acquisition stage to a concerted effort to build a club that can win in 2010 and beyond. We certainly will not mortgage our future for short-term solutions, but we are looking for players who can help us win now.

pdonati1: What do you project the roles will be for Iwamura and Delwyn Young?

Coonelly: pdonati1, we acquired Iwamura to be our starting second baseman. DY will go back to the bench role in which he performed so well last year. DY's ability to play the outfield and second base and hit off the bench makes him a very valuable piece of the ballclub.

bucsfan57: Mr. Coonelly, I want to be the first to say, great move on acquiring Iwamura to play second. What are some other areas you see as needing attention?

Coonelly: bucsfan57, thanks for the comment on the Iwamura acquisition. We continue to look to improve the ballclub for 2010 and beyond and, in particular, are looking at bullpen arms and potentially another position player. While we like our options in the starting rotation, there is always a chance that a potential trade might provide an upgrade there as well.

realist1: Is there an outfielder that the Bucs are targeting among the free agents?

Coonelly: realist1, there are several outfielders, both potential free agents and potential trade acquisitions, who we have been evaluating. Time will tell whether any of those potential targets would provide us with an upgrade. Assessing our outfield needs depends at least in part on whether Garrett Jones is playing first base or the outfield.

everettk: Are there any plans to bring in a power bat to play outfield/first base or an ace for the rotation?

Coonelly: everettk, it is very difficult to secure a true ace in the rotation or an elite power bat either in the trade market or the free agent market. Our focus from the day we got here was to develop that type of elite talent internally. We have both drafted and acquired players via trade who we believe can perform those roles for us in Pittsburgh. Alvarez and Tabata both have the potential to be power bats when they have developed into Major League players. Jeff Clement, who we secured in the Jack Wilson trade with Seattle, certainly can be a left-handed power bat. In terms of aces, we made starting pitchers, particularly power pitchers, a priority in our trades over the last two years. We also made this a priority in our 2009 First-Year Player Draft class.

denimvest: What do you say to the people who think the Pirates pocket money, especially since they receive enough money to make payroll through the luxury tax?

Coonelly: denimvest, it is frustrating to hear those charges, particularly when precisely the opposite is the case. We have invested every dollar that we receive in revenue sharing in the ballclub, including in the Draft where we have spent more money than virtually any other club in the last two years, Latin American in a new academy and in players and in our scouting and development systems. We do not receive any money from the luxury tax that the Yankees pay. Instead, that money goes to fund player benefits and for other central baseball initiatives. The revenue sharing that we receive is well below the dollars that we spend on payroll, let alone all of the dollars we spent on amateur players, the Minor League system and our other baseball investments. Therefore, I say that it is difficult to understand why anyone would think that the Pirates are simply pocketing luxury tax money that we do not receive.

stoneypoint711: Frank, do you foresee the Pirates being active on the tier 2 free agent market, especially towards lefty relievers?

Coonelly: stoneypoint711, I would hate to characterize the free agent market by tier, but we are aggressively evaluating relief pitchers, including left-handed relief pitchers, in both the free agent market and the trade market. With Matt Capps, Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek, we have three pitchers who we believe can pitch at the back end of the bullpen. We are working hard to add several additional arms to the bullpen mix.

buccosjm: Carlos Garcia took over first base coach. Is he in charge of fielding, too?

Coonelly: buccosjm, Garcia has been promoted from our infield coordinator, a job he held for the last two seasons, to first base coach and infield coach of the Major League club. In the last two years, Garcia has helped develop our young Minor League infielders and has made tremendous progress with our young players. Prior to joining us as our infield coordinator, Garcia served as the third base coach and infield coach for the Seattle Mariners. Garcia is a quality infield instructor and we are very happy to have him with the Major League club.

blzr409: Word during this offseason is that a larger than usual number of quality players may be non-tender candidates. With some payroll flexibility, is there a chance the Pirates may be interested in exploring either trades or free agent pickups of some of these players?

Coonelly: blzr409, that is an excellent question. It is always difficult this time of year to predict the players who might be available as non-tendered free agents. It is true, as you suggest, that several clubs felt the brunt of the economic downturn and may find it necessary to non-tender some quality players. We are fortunate to have significant payroll flexibility and fully intend to aggressively pursue quality players who fit our needs who become available on the free agent markets, including the non-tender free agent market. Quality players were available at significant value in last year's free agent market and there are certainly reasons to believe the same will be true this year. Neal and his staff have certainly prepared themselves to pursue players that fit our needs as they become available.

Coonelly: I appreciate the great questions and I look forward to talking with you all again next month.

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