Dejan Kovacevic's Pirates chat transcript: 9.20.2010
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Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all. We will start in about five minutes.
CH: So, do they Buccos make it 4 straight or will they find some incredible way to lose on Tuesday?
Dejan Kovacevic: If they lose tomorrow, it won't be incredible, based on ample precedent. And given that St. Louis' Jake Westbrook will be coming off eight scoreless innings in his last outing, it most certainly would not be an upset.
But the Pirates did have a nice weekend, no question.
Bucsin2011: You might have seen that Ken Rosenthal today accused Frank Coonelly of being "GM in all but name." Have you ever experienced anything like this?
Dejan Kovacevic: I did not see that, but I'll take your word on that report. Two years ago, I wrote that Coonelly vetoed the Pirates' initial trade package involving Jason Bay, a five-player exchange with Cleveland that would have brought Cliff Lee, Franklin Guttierez and Kelly Shoppach for Bay and Ronny Paulino. That was the most powerful example in this vein.
But Coonelly was hired to be a check and balance on the GM, in part to avoid Matt Morris-scale fiascos, and that was made clear to all concerned, including the public, at the time. The above scenario might have overstepped that in some eyes, maybe not in others.
As for his essentially functioning as the GM, no, I have not seen that to be the case. As an example, every agent with whom I have spoken in the past three years -- and that's a lot -- will attest that all of their dealings with the Pirates, 100 percent of them, are with Neal Huntington. That does not mean Coonelly is not aware of the talks, or updated on them, or maintaining veto authority on them. But it does mean that he is not acting as GM. Same goes for dealings with other teams. All of it is done by Huntington.
JAL: Dejan, Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder will makes over $10 million combined next season. Are the Pirates likely to keep both and if so will Doumit be a regular RF?
Dejan Kovacevic: That will be part of a much broader look at the team's 2011 roster situations running in tomorrow's paper. I have a hard time imagining the Pirates being able to trade either one.
SterlingCooperDraperPrice: If Duke has a couple more follow up outings like the last, would the team tender him an offer, or is he going to be non-tendered no matter what?
Dejan Kovacevic: A couple starts in September, one way or the other, will not change management's outlook on Duke. He would make around $6 million through arbitration next year.
NancyZ: Have the Pirates decided yet which pitchers will participate in the Arizona Fall League?
Dejan Kovacevic: They have, but Huntington said yesterday he would prefer that announcement comes from the AFL.
Guest: Dejan--what criteria are used to determine whether to use a pitcher as a starter or in relief? For example, Tony Watson was a very good reliever in the minors yet they moved to starter. Are the number of quality pitches a player has a major factor? Stamina? Mental makeup?
Dejan Kovacevic: It's mostly quality and versatility of pitches, though the Pirates also value what they call "physicality." That involves size, strength and stamina, which is why you have seen the team's pitchers get generally bigger -- if not better -- over the past three years.
Watson had a terrific season in the bullpen and a nice finish -- a great finish, actually, if you look at the Curve's very last game -- as a starter. Management remains open-minded about him.
smyers: With the Curve's recent triumph in mind, what pitchers from that team move up to Indy to start next year? You mentioned Owens and Morris as locks in the Notebook today. Do Locke and Wilson get serious consideration with Crotta, likely Lincoln and major league depth (Burres types) already there?
Dejan Kovacevic: Locke was a late arrival in Altoona this season, so he probably will stay. Wilson's status -- along with other players -- could be dependent on the makeup of the Indianapolis rotation.
Bear in mind, what is now in Indianapolis is not what will be there next year, and there have to be enough starting slots. Wilson was an aggressive placement in the system from the outset because of his success at Fresno State, and he has fared quite well in that context. But Morris and Owens take two spots in Indianapolis, and there have to be at least a couple of Pittsburgh-ready guys in that rotation, too. It can't be all prospects, if only because you need to be able to call up someone already stretched out without impacting development.
Brian: Have we seen the last of Lastings Milledge in a Pirates uniform?
Dejan Kovacevic: No, I don't think so. It might be a hard negotiation, but I get the idea the Pirates would like to have him back.
Skip: I get a kick when NH talks about players being accountable -- where's the accountability with upper management? Will the decision to retain or fire JR reflect such accountability (or lack thereof)?
Dejan Kovacevic: A decision to fire Russell -- and, as I have written, his chance of returning would appear bleak in the context of the team's record -- would not represent some concept of public accountability nearly as much as it would a lack of confidence that he is the right guy for the game.
You've seen pretty glaringly that the Pirates, under current management, haven't exactly made a ton of moves aimed at PR. If they were looking for PR, Russell might have been out quite a while ago.
John: Is the PG's recent coverage of John Russell's plans for 2011 a cruel joke or is he blindly offering this stuff up?
Dejan Kovacevic: If you're referring to Russell being quoted about minicamp, spring training and the like, some of those answers have been independent, some in response to questions.
He is under contract for 2011. So is Neal Huntington. Until Coonelly says otherwise, they're the right people to ask questions on things like Milledge's future, Garrett Jones in platoon, spring training, whatever.
Fat Jimmy: If Neal Huntington is to be fired, does it have to happen this week? They'll need to have a GM in place by the start of the offseason, and I can't imagine Czar Bud allowing teams to fire the FO during the postseason or stretch run.
Dejan Kovacevic: Most such firings happen almost immediately after the season ends. There is a two-day window between the regular season and all those games that I hear happen after the regular season.
Gerard: How meaningful are these wins late in the year, by call-ups against call-ups, regarding an appraisal of the Bucs' hopes for next year?
Dejan Kovacevic: I try to provide some context in the game stories in this regard, whether they are wins or losses. If Chan Ho Park pitches great, and the Pirates win as a result, it means next to nothing. If Neil Walker steps to the plate with the game on the line and drills a ball into the visitors' bullpen to win it, that matters. If Evan Meek takes the ball three days in a row, and all of them are wins, that matters.
Bucsin2011: Link to Rosenthal piece today, with a whole section about the Bucs: http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/maple-bats-need-looked-at-before-theres-a-tragedy-092010
Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks. Again, nothing about my answer above changes. I deal with people who deal with the Pirates' front office on a daily basis, including people who have no particular fondness for the Pirates to simply say the politically correct thing. Coonelly has veto authority, but he most definitely does not do any of the day-to-day GM work.
John: Am I the only one not buying the Andy LaRoche as a victim stuff? The guy could have hit his way into the Bucs plans just as easy as he folded up tent in June.
Dejan Kovacevic: LaRoche has an awful lot of opportunities within the bench role, and he has done next to nothing with those. It's very clear that he either cannot perform in a bench role or that he simply has stopped hitting.
zebman22: Dejan, the Pirates are in a dire need of a power bat/contact hitter as well as a pitcher is there anyone out there that you might feel the Pirates might be able to attain considering there budget for 2011?
Dejan Kovacevic: Free agency is really thin in right after Werth. There are a lot of first basemen. But I still think a trade is more likely than the open market.
Guest: I saw Kieth Hernandez on SNY talking about how he thought the Mets' 2007 collapse may have had lasting results on both David Wright and Jose Reyes. I wonder if a season like the Pirates' 2010 season could have long term lasting negative effects on their up and coming young core or do they appear to be the type of players that won
Dejan Kovacevic: There long has been a tendency in New York to stress the psychological aspect of sports, perhaps because the New York teams can afford to buy all the talent needed, so the psychology can represent the largest variable -- in their minds -- between winning and losing.
The Pirates need better talent.
Ian: What are Pirates evaluators expecting from Neil Walker in the future as a hitter and at 2B? Can he play there, and do they see a significant change in his approach at the plate now?
Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates did not see Walker as a second baseman entering this season, so this was not an evaluation they had correct at the outset.
Kyle: Do you expect Argenis Diaz and Pedro Ciriaco to compete for a bench role in spring training? Would either player benefit more from playing everyday in Indy?
Dejan Kovacevic: Ciriaco needs to play, and he'll start for Indianapolis. I could see Diaz being a backup-type, but the Pirates have tended to go outside under this management team for backup shortstops. (With awful results, from Luis Rivas, Ramon Vazquez and Bobby Crosby.)
Ian: Has the Pirates 'aggressive' draft spending, including going over slot in signing their picks, resulted in any "ill will" from those in the commish offices? Will there be any consequences, as have often been threatened?
Dejan Kovacevic: Well, considering that Bud Selig answered just about every one of my questions a couple weeks ago in Milwaukee about the Pirates' finances and profits by praising them for draft spending ... it sure didn't sound like it.
Couple more ...
Jason: Any concern expressed by the FO regarding Pedro's lack of success?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'd say it's short-term concern rather than long-term. I was told a month ago in Houston that the Pirates basically were going to keep to a minimum any changes they would make in Alvarez's swing. And it does appear there could be a hole or two to address, inside.
But there also is a respect for the fact that Alvarez is still new to the level and that his swing got him to the point where he was the consensus best bat in the 2008 draft, and they do not want to address that meaningfully while the games are still going on.
Fat Jimmy: Whoa...can you clarify what you just wrote? Is it possible that the Pirates will not go into 2011 with Neil Walker as the 2B?
Dejan Kovacevic: Not sure how you read it that way. Not at all what I meant.
Bucsin2011: Hi Dejan. It seems appropriate to ask, as the season winds down, for a reminder. How long is your break after the season ends?
Dejan Kovacevic: I will shut down a day or two after the season ends, then return sometime after Thanksgiving. That's the usual amount of time that piles up over the summer, but this year started out for me with the Olympics, too. In all honesty, I stopped tracking the days a while ago.
Actual baseball Q ...
Jason: Do you know whether the mental coach retained before the season has worked with Charlie Morton or Andy LaRoche? If he can't figure it out, I don't think anyone will be able to.
Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates need better talent. No one is advising mental coaches for Walker or Jose Tabata or James McDonald.
Brian: Good to see Freddy Sanchez playing so well during a pennant race, is it not?
Dejan Kovacevic: Very hard to pay attention to other teams in-season, so I haven't seen much at all of Sanchez other than that he popped up on the highlights the other night. And Jose Bautista is on there a lot, too.
Saw Jason Bay the other day in New York for a good, long talk. That's pretty much the only time I can see or talk to those guys.
Gerard: Ronny Cedeno in next year's plans, do you think? I like him, and think, with Management support & coaching (does he take coaching well?) that he could be really good.
Dejan Kovacevic: Cedeno is an odd case. As we were discussing at the PBC Blog some in recent days, if you mention something you like about Ciriaco or Diaz or even some other teams' shortstops, a baseball evaluator can come back quickly and say, yeah, but Cedeno can do that better. And he probably can.
But he has to put it all together, and some never do.
That's covered in the story tomorrow, too. Q&A returns in the blog, and the attempt at a four-game winning streak comes shortly thereafter with one version of Paul Maholm or the other taking the mound for the home club.
Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, just got the Fat Jimmy thing. That was a joke.
Should have known. Funny man.
First Published September 20, 2010 2:11 pm