Pirates president Frank Coonelly participated in a live online chat with Bucs fans on Wednesday, answering questions regarding the team.
bucsin09: Frank, is it true that Evan Meek was recently added to the
40-man roster? Can we expect other such moves in the near future?
Coonelly: bucsin09, Evan was added to the 40-man roster recently. If we had not added him, he would have become a minor league free agent. Other players will be added to the 40-man roster prior to November 20 to protect them from selection in the Rule Five Draft.
jm_bucsfan: What's the scoop from the GM meetings? How often do you talk to Neal H. and what are you trying to accomplish there?
Coonelly: jmbucsfan, I have spoken with Neal several times a day while he's been at the General Manager's meeting in California. Quite simply, we are working hard to get better for both 2009 and beyond. As we have indicated, we are pursuing potential trades and/or free agents signings in an effort to improve the club. We have targeted a right-handed bat and pitching as our top priorities.
jm_bucsfan: Q: Do you think McLouth will get a Gold Glove?
Coonelly: Nate had a solid season, both at the plate and in the field. I certainly believe that he deserves serious consideration for a Gold Glove Award.
piratefan11: Will management pull any of the "out-of-the-box" pages from the management playbook of the Rays?
Coonelly: piratefan11, I'm not sure what moves by the Rays you would describe as "out-of-the-box," but I believe that the Rays have done an outstanding job of building a strong foundation from within that propelled them to the World Series this year. From the time that Stuart Sternberg took over control of the club three years ago, the Rays have followed a plan to build from within and have refused to deviate from that plan. I see a lot of similarities in the plan we have implemented here and continue to execute. Like the Rays, we have pursued high ceiling players in the draft and, like the Rays, will attempt to retain those players for as long as possible.
stargellstars_2: Q: Is it realistic to think that Jim Negrych makes it as a regular in the bigs, or is a utility role more likely? Is there any options in the organization that you see as a down the road replacement for Sanchez?
Coonelly: stargellstars_2, thanks for the question. Jim Negrych, our 2008 Minor League Position Player of the Year, is an outstanding hitter. He profiles more as a second baseman and, as a result, we have moved him to second base in an effort to develop his defensive skills at that position. We certainly believe that Jimmy has the potential to be a regular big league player. In addition to Jim Negrych, Shelby Ford, who is playing in the Arizona Fall League right now, is a fine prospect at second base. We are excited about Shelby's potential to develop into an outstanding Major League second baseman.
schnoah2: Will the Pirates reallocate the money that will be saved on Payroll this season into international players and draftees?
Coonelly: schnoah2, I am not certain what payroll will be saved this season, but I can assure you that we have already reallocated resources into signing high profile players in the international markets and in the draft. Most publications rated our draft this year as one of the best in baseball and we had total spending in the draft at the upper echelon of all the clubs. Our priorities are clearly to secure high-ceiling talent in the draft and in the international markets.
schnoah2: What are the Pirates thinking about pursuing Tazawa?
Coonelly: Tazawa is a very interesting player, as you probably know schnoah2. Tazawa is an amateur who played in the Japanese Industrial League last year. The Japanese Professional Baseball League has frowned on Major League clubs pursuing amateurs in Japan. Nonetheless, we had several scouts evaluate Tazawa this season and certainly consider him to be a prospect.
gwhodge: Why a RH power bat if building for future with McCutchen, Andy LaRoche, Tabata, and Pearce arriving soon?
Coonelly: gwhodge, we are extremely excited about McCutchen, Andy LaRoche, Tabata and Pearce arriving soon, but still would like to add a power right- handed bat for at least the 2009 season. We would not add a free agent player who we think might block the arrival of one of our top prospects.
bucsfan_1: Q: Can you update us on the progression of the Dominican facility?
Coonelly: bucsfan_1, the Dominican facility is proceeding on schedule. I will be making a trip to the Dominican during this offseason to evaluate the progress, but we are on schedule to open a first-class facility this spring. We will continue to show Pirates fans our progress by posting pictures on pirates.com over the course of the offseason.
piratefan11: Joe Kerrigan has had previous success, but also previous personality conflicts. Were the personality conflicts taken into account when hiring him?
Coonelly: piratefan11, Joe Kerrigan is an outstanding pitching coach who has had success with each club with whom he has worked. We think that Joe will be particularly effective here working with our young, talented pitchers. Like all of us, Joe has learned from his past experiences and we are confident that "personality conflicts" will not be a factor as Joe helps our young pitchers get better.
barnesyb: Hi Frank, I really like where this team is going and I like what Neal and you have done especially with the June amateur draft by selecting Pedro Alvarez I am very excited about him what is the chances of signing a guy like Derek Lowe?
Coonelly: barnesyb, thank you very much for your comments. We too are extremely excited about Pedro Alvarez' entry into our system. With respect to potentially pursuing Derek Lowe, we are looking at Major League free agent starting pitching and Lowe is one of the more accomplished starters on the market. It is too early to tell whether he will be a top priority for us.
schnoah2: With the Rule V draft coming soon, will the Pirates be players in this process again this year? There has been word that Chuck Lofgren could be available.
Coonelly: This will be the last question of this month's chat. Thank you all for your passion for the Pirates and outstanding questions.
Coonelly: The Rule Five Draft is an opportunity for us to add a player or two to the Major League roster who has been left unprotected by another club. Our plan is to put ourselves in a position where we have roster slots available if we see the right player or players available in the draft. While Evan Meek struggled at the Major League level last year, he performed very well in the minor leagues and we remain excited that we were able to add him to our system.
pittguest: Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Our next chat with Frank Coonelly will take place on Wednesday, December 3 at 2:00 p.m. ET.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.