Pirates president Frank Coonelly participated in his monthly live online chat with Pirates fans on Wednesday. During the chat, Coonelly answered questions about potential free-agent signings, Pirates TV broadcasts, the Rule 5 Draft and more. The complete chat transcript follows.
piratefan11: Do you have a reaction to Jayson Stark's article about the amount of money the Pirates receive before selling a single ticket?
The millions of dollars that a club spends in the Draft and in free agents and international signings, the millions that a club spends to support its entire Minor League system, the millions a club spends on its Major League team operations such as travel, medical expenses, are all over and above what is spent on a Major League payroll. A club like ours pays considerably more in player-related expenses than even the inflated numbers that several have speculated we receive in revenue sharing and from the central fund.
And, of course, all of this is before considering all of a club's other expenses such as stadium operations, front office, marketing, community and other expenses. In short, the effort by some to shift the debate from the real competitive balance issues in the game to assertions that low-revenue clubs are not properly utilizing revenue sharing receipts is a canard. I can only speak for the Pirates, but we utilize all of our revenues in an effort to build a winning baseball club by investing in all aspects of the acquisition and development of players.
gorillagogo: On paper, Jeff Clement and Steven Pearce would appear to make a good platoon at first base. Are the Pirates seriously considering such a scenario?
Coonelly: gorillagogo, Jeff Clement and Steve Pearce will both certainly be given an opportunity that they both deserve playing time at first base. With Garrett Jones able to play first base and right field, we have flexibility at the corner positions. Both Jeff and Steve will see considerable time at first base this spring.
jm_bucsfan: Why did you move a Minor League team from Lynchburg to Bradenton?
Coonelly: jm_bucsfan, actually we did not move from Lynchburg to Bradenton. We had an affiliate agreement in Lynchburg, but we had an opportunity to purchase the Sarasota Reds and move that club to Bradenton. By purchasing a Minor League affiliate for Bradenton, we were able to stabilize our high-A team at our Spring Training home. This investment in Bradenton will allow us to more fully utilize all of our resources that we have at Pirate City, in terms of both personnel and facilities. the purchase of a Minor League team in Bradenton also allows us to have a greater presence in the Bradenton community on a year-round basis.
banny76: Happy Holidays, Mr. Coonelly! I really hope that you may spend a dollar or two on Rick Ankiel, the outfielder, of course, presently of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Coonelly: banny76, I appreciate your support of the Pirates and your keen scouting report. As has been noted in several newspaper reports, Rick Ankiel is a free agent who we have some interest in. Rick certainly had an off-year at the plate for the Cardinals in 2009, but we believe that the Pirates could provide Rick with an opportunity to re-establish himself. We have let Rick's representative know of our interest.
Kidspud: Mr. Coonelly, do you think the club will bring in any free-agent pitchers for the rotation or the bullpen? And if so, are there any particular tools that the club is looking for in a free-agent pitcher?
Coonelly: Kidspud, we are looking for opportunities to upgrade our ballclub and we are certainly looking to upgrade our pitching. While we feel good about our internal options for the starting rotation, we are making inquiries with several pitchers who have started in their careers. Obviously, we have several opportunities in the bullpen and we are aggressively pursuing players to fill open bullpen positions. In terms of tools, we have certainly looked to upgrade our staff in terms of hard throwers, but we have also looked to give [manager John Russell] and [pitching coach] Joe Kerrigan several different looks in the bullpen. While we much prefer bullpen arms who can retire both left- and right-handed batters, we are looking hard at several left-handed options.
Mongoose: Hi, Frank. How does Liberty Media's recent sale of FSN to DIRECTV affect the television broadcast of Pirates games? Or, will fans see no visible effect?
Coonelly: Mongoose, we have been in close contact with the Liberty Media executives regarding the sale of FSN Pittsburgh to DIRECTV and have been assured that if anything, the quality of our relationship and the production of Pirates games will improve under DIRECTV. The senior management team of Liberty and FSN is remaining in place and has been great partners of the Pirates. DIRECTV is an innovator in sports television and we are looking forward to its experience and innovation applied to Pirates baseball on FSN.
bringbacknomar2bostn: What has been the best part of being the president of the Pirates?
Coonelly: bringbacknomar2boston, thanks for your question. There are many fabulous pleasures that I am honored to enjoy as the president of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The best part of my job, however, is getting to meet the passionate fans of this organization. Day-in and day-out I meet Pirates fans who support the organization and are helping us return a winner to this city again. Everyone at the Pirates' organization works extraordinarily hard to accomplish this goal because of the passion and loyalty of our great fans.
jm_bucsfan: What's the strategy heading into the Rule 5 Draft? Is there a spot available? What would you look for?
Coonelly: Thanks everyone for your questions. This will be the last one of the day. jm_bucsfan, we have the No. 2 selection in the Rule 5 Draft this year and [general manager] Neal [Huntington] and his staff have been carefully studying all of the players who are available to be selected in the Draft. Our roster is at 40, but we are able to move players off the roster in order to select a player in the Rule 5 Draft. In each of the last two years, we've selected a relief pitcher [Evan Meek and Donnie Veal] and believe that both players were productive acquisitions. In light of the players who are available in the Draft this year, it is entirely possible that we will again make one or more selections.
Coonelly: Thank you again, everyone, and I look forward to talking with you all again after the new year. Neal Huntington will be online to answer some questions the week following the Winter Meetings.