Coonelly On Budget, Draft Picks, Payroll, Extensions

Kevin Creagh of Pirates Prospects recently interviewed Pirates team president Frank Coonelly, who spoke about a number of hot stove topics. Let's recap…

  • If GM Neal Huntington wants to make a move that would cause the team to exceed its budget, whether it be a trade, free agent, draft signing, etc., Coonelly said "Neal and his staff will make a case for such a decision and I will then take that case to [owner] Bob Nutting. If Bob agrees that the case has been made and that exceeding the budget for the proposed signing will not hinder our ability to make the other investments that need to be made, he will approve the acquisition."
  • Nutting and Coonelly will bring the fans' interest into the equation if a trade involves a popular player, such as Nate McLouth or Jason Bay.
  • "We need to reduce the compensatory selections so that the second selection of the club drafting first in the country is not 58 or 60 instead of 31," said Coonelly, with regards to the draft pick compensation system. "Now, [the Rays] received those selections because it lost good players in free agency but it is difficult for the draft to serve its purpose when there are so many compensatory selections before the second round."
  • The team would not be able to support a $70-80MM payroll right now, but they "will be able to support that payroll very soon if [their] fans believe that [they] now have a group of players in Pittsburgh and on its way here in the near future that is competitive."
  • Nutting told Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that payroll is not dependent on attendance. "We're not artificially handicapped by extreme limitations on dollars, as we have been in the past," said the owner. "I don't see there being an artificial constraint as we move forward."
  • Factors such as track record, health, makeup, and character go into the decision about whether or not to sign a player to a long-term deal. "We need to be convinced that we can count on the player over the long term and that requires trust in the player as a person and as a teammate," said Coonelly.

Coonelly also spoke about his day-to-day responsibilities, minority partners, and how he spends his free time.


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43 Comments on "Coonelly On Budget, Draft Picks, Payroll, Extensions"


4 years 6 months ago

Sorry Pirates, It’s been proven over and over again. You have to spend the money and put a competitive team out there before the fans will show up. Just the way the world works.

Todd Smith
4 years 6 months ago

Actually, that’s exactly how it DOESN’T work in small markets. Take a look at the Brewers – their team payroll in 2004 was $24MM, they finished in last place and had a 60% attendance which was a 10% increase from their 2003 attendance figures. In 2005, the Brewers draft Braun, Fielder makes his MLB debut, the payroll increases to $39MM and attendance increases to 64%. 2006, the payroll increases to $57MM, attendance increases to 68%. 2007, the payroll increases to $70MM, attendance increases to 83%

1. Build a winning team through the draft.
2. Increase attendance and make more money.
3. Spend more money.

The last time the Pirates tried the spend-it-before-you-earn-it approach, they got so far in debt that they had to dump the salaries of their best players like Aramis Ramirez when it didn’t work. That’s how you end up with 18 straight losing seasons.

4 years 6 months ago

You don’t attribute any of the Brewers increase of attendance to Northsiders finally discovering it’s cheaper and nicer than Wrigley and just as close?

MarkInDallas
4 years 6 months ago

The Brewers have gotten a boost from Cubs fans, definitely. I looked at it a couple of years ago and it adds two or three thousand extra per game when averaged over the season.

4 years 6 months ago

“It’s been proven over and over again.”

By whom? Cite 3 examples.

You can’t.

4 years 6 months ago

How about the KC Royals, the Pirates and the Marlins?

Notice how the Marlins spent money, made the playoff/WS and their attendance jumps?

4 years 6 months ago

The Pirates?

When?

MarkInDallas
4 years 6 months ago

There are no examples of teams that were successful both on the field and economically when they raised payroll and expected attendance revenue to catch up to it. It’s been done successfully when going into a new stadium, but that’s it.

The Marlins won the WS in the 90’s when raising payroll beyond revenue, but then had to sell that team off because attendance did not rise to make up for it. The second WS they won was with a cheap roster made of the prospects they got from the first firesale.

The Diamondbacks also bought a championship, but then had to sell off the team because it was hugely in debt and the owner lost the franchise because of it.

Both the Royals and the Pirates are examples of how raising team payroll does not guarantee putting a competitive team on the field, so I don’t understand those examples at all.

The Pirates raised payroll substantially when they opened PNC Park and the team sucked badly. Attendance fell off and that made the Pirates have to go way in debt and sell Aramis Ramirez to the Cubs for nothing.

The Royals have indeed raised payroll beyond what their attendance revenue would likely support, but they haven’t gotten any better because of it. They renovated Kauffman for 2009 and experienced a slight attendance rise because of that, but it had nothing to do with either raising payroll or getting better on the field.

So, I have no idea why you think those examples support your contention that spending money will put a competitive team on the field and people will then show up. You pretty much apparently don’t know what you are talking about.

4 years 6 months ago

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. Keep your good young players and pay some solid vets to come play for you.

Green_Monster
4 years 6 months ago

That’s the problem, no one wants to play for them.

rainyperez
4 years 6 months ago

good thing Bob Nutting’s name wasn’t Richard Nutting…

nhsox
4 years 6 months ago

The Pirates are the laughingstock of the MLB for a reason.

Smrtbusnisman04
4 years 6 months ago

More than the Mets and Omar Minaya?

Steve_in_MA
4 years 6 months ago

Sadly, yes.

Smrtbusnisman04
4 years 6 months ago

Really? I don’t see Luis Castillo or Oliver Perez paying the Mets’ liabilities!!!!

Maybe, but the strategy the Pirates are using certainly isn’t laughable.. It’s intelligent; its a long road less traveled but they are going to contend for a long time if these players work out. They have an extremley impressive farm system thanks to Huntington that has produced Alvarez, Tabata, Walker, Meek, and Andrew Mcutchen in the past 2 years!!

Steve_in_MA
4 years 6 months ago

Uhm, to say that the Pirates farm system is impressive is nothing short of delusional. No major source has ranked it above 25th in the last 3 years, and it is presently ranked 27th or 28th, depending upon which major ranking service you want to believe.

Yeah, Neal has done decently in the last 3 years in terms of the draft, and even in the international free agent market, which led to the examples you’ve given. But there are only 3 prospects in the Pirates system ranked in the top 100, and there’s vitually nothing there to build upon.

The fact remains that its EIGHTEEN seasons since the last winning season. The objective is to compete for a championship. The Mets have AT LEAST competed for the championship within the last 18 years. The Pirates have not.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Pirates basher. I long for the days of Manny Sanguillen, Dave Parker, Kent Tekulve, and God Bless, Roberto Clemente. I simply am demanding more from a team that has not done what it can do to make itself better. Neal is fantastic. My blame lies with Bob Nutting. He has no sense of the historic franchise that he has inherited, as caretaker. He needs to be more committed to building a self-sufficient and winning team.

Smrtbusnisman04
4 years 6 months ago

Okay. But please understand that the Pirates were in shambles when Neil got there in 2007. Right now, they’re rank either 18th or 22nd. Still low i know.

Their former GM Dave Littlefield was TOO short sighted and sacrificed organizational depth for short term success. Yes, he did draft Andrew McCucthen, and he acquired Jason Bay, but thats really the only good choices he made. Neil Walker took too long to develop into a good player. Paul Maholm and Zach Duke weren’t dominant enough to be front-tier starters, and signing Jeremy Burnitz was just WRONG!!!

I miss the good old days too, and I’m still confident the Pirates can be contending in 2-3 years.

Steve_in_MA
4 years 6 months ago

I understand they were a shambles. I contend that they remain not too far above a shambles. Despite Neal’s wisdom, until Nutting commits to spend every dollar that comes in on players and player development, the Pirates will remain also-rans. Last year, the Pirates left $24MM on the table, taken as “profits” rather than spent on development. My argument is, do something with that money. Buy a few low-risk, high reward, rehab project players. Improve the scouting and assessment departments. Expand the international free agent scounting staff to cover more places, outside of the Dominican and Cuba. I’m not asking them to do anything stupid or extremely costly. I’m asking them to buy in, fully, to an aggressive development strategy that has worked for others. I hope they will contend as you’ve suggested, but I have my doubts.

Smrtbusnisman04
4 years 5 months ago

Well I think this offseason was an improvement. Plus they made competitive offers to Carl Pavano, Brandon Webb and Jorge De La Rosa. The Free Agent market just isn’t deeply stocked with talented pitching. Maybe they can accumulate $24 million over the next 3 years to make a competitive offer for Jered Weaver. Other than that, i think were stuck growing our own aces.

goner
4 years 6 months ago

“No major source has ranked it above 25th in the last 3 years, and it is presently ranked 27th or 28th, depending upon which major ranking service you want to believe.”

Baseball America ranked the Pirates’ system in the high teens the last two years. Get it right.

“But there are only 3 prospects in the Pirates system ranked in the top 100, and there’s vitually nothing there to build upon.”

You do realize that the Pirates promoted half of their starting 8 position players from the minors in the last 2 years, right?

notsureifsrs
4 years 6 months ago

the pirates simply cannot cry foul while referencing the rays, who have made themselves contenders in the AL East of all places for three consecutive years now with the same lowly revenue levels

pittsburgh does have a distinct disadvantage, of course. the same one the rays do. but it’s just difficult, not impossible

4 years 6 months ago

Comp picks for reliever signed as free agents is what he’s talking about. The comp system was set up to compensate teams for losing players they drafted, groomed and brought up, not someone they rented for half a year.

notsureifsrs
4 years 6 months ago

i accept his point; that’s why i didn’t mention it. but the system cannot be blamed for the stagnation of that organization when a team just like theirs has thrived in it

4 years 6 months ago

So Frank, you think that the fans would be giddy over getting Nate McLouth back into Pittsburgh? Has Frank Wren been wearing out your cell phone already this morning? I think we can make that happen for you…

JayTeam
4 years 6 months ago

So they want to do away with the free agent compensatory system and have teams do it the Pirate way i. e. trade away any good players before they reach free agency.

Todd Smith
4 years 6 months ago

The draft should be the same way it works in the NFL. It should be a tool to help the worst teams in the league restock their systems – not the best teams. The Pirates had the worst record in baseball last year, and they have 1 pick in the first round. The Rays were 1 game off from the best record in baseball and they have 11 picks before the Pirates make their next pick in the 2nd round. There is absolutely a flaw there.

4 years 6 months ago

Uhhh except the NFL draft historically hasn’t helped the bad teams. The Pirate like teams of the NFL, the Lions, Raiders, Bengals, etc. have consistently had top picks and have chosen mediocre players who have large signing bonuses and have strapped them financially. The great teams, like the Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, and Colts have chosen from the back of the rounds but still out draft people. In fact the NFL teams realize the financial impact of the top picks and it’s almost impossible to trade the top pick with the amount of money that pick gets.

Basically the Pirates claim they can’t support a 70 million dollar payroll, but they receive more than that in revenue sharing. It’s sad they had to trade a lot of their key guys like Bay, but they made a few horrible deals and received crap back in return. They haven’t been terrible for decades because the MLB is screwing them…to be that terrible for that long shows incompetence from the owners on down to the players. It’s hard to be noncontenders for this long.

Todd Smith
4 years 6 months ago

Choosing poorly in the draft is a completely different issue than not having as many picks as the better teams. Yes?

The Pirates actually just claimed they CAN support an 80 million dollar payroll with an increase in attendance. Yes, it’s not totally MLBs fault that the Pirates have been this bad for this long – the last owner, team president and GM take a good chunk of that blame as well. The current front office is certainly on the right path to turning that trend around, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the draft is severely flawed.

4 years 6 months ago

Perhaps you should know what you are talking about before you hit the “post” button.

JayTeam
4 years 6 months ago

Explain?

4 years 6 months ago

“trade away any good players before they reach free agency. ”

I hope you aren’t referring to ARam, who was traded because the Pirates had to pay down debt.

Perhaps Bay? They weren’t going to be able to pay him what got in FA.

Jack Wilson? Freddy Sanchez? World beaters. Yeah.

JayTeam
4 years 6 months ago

Nady a few yrs ago and Dotel (who would have netted the Pirates the 43rd pick in the upcoming draft) come to mind as well. Maybe they preferred McDonald and Lambo to Dotel. Tabata looks like a good young player. But the Rays and Jays among others held on to their relievers and will get the picks. When was the last time the Pirates got a supplemental pick? I didn’t say one way or the other is wrong, but the Pirates had the same opportunity as other clubs to hold onto players until they reached free agency and get picks, but choose not to. Just don’t whine about it afterwards.

4 years 6 months ago

Nady hasn’t done squat since the trade (and yes, Tabata & Ohlendorf are a good return), and Yes, McDonald and Lambo are more than adequate return for Dotel, who the Dodgers didn’t even see fit to keep.

Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Yeah luckily for the Pirates, the Dodgers don’t use common sense while on the trade market.

Flharfh
4 years 6 months ago

The numerous ways of gaming the compensation system need to be eliminated. Look at what the Blue Jays did with Miguel Olivo – he didn’t play a game for them and they got a compensation draft pick for “losing” him. That example embodies the abuse of the system going on.

NickinIthaca
4 years 6 months ago

the thing is that they are going to find any way they can to game the system. I feel like taking advantage of this compensation system is just another example of a market inefficiency that teams are looking to exploit. There is always going to be the necessity of compensating for Free Agents that have been lost, and within the time period of that collective bargaining agreement teams will find ways to exploit it. Thats why businesses pay accountants – find loopholes in the tax code so you can pay as minimal taxes as possible (and I’m a business owner saying this….)

4 years 6 months ago

Trade Alvarez and Andrew MC off to the CUBS Now before arbitration starts we can use them both,since the pirates can’t afford them soon.Aramis would look good in a Lineup with Alvarez and Andrew :)

4 years 6 months ago

How about the Cubs split the season series with the pirates before their fans make stupid comments

4 years 6 months ago

Better hope ARam can stay in the lineup for more than 100 games…

jb226
4 years 6 months ago

Strange comments by Nutting. Not having the money (“extreme limitations on dollars”) is not an artificial constraint — that’s a very real constraint. An artificial constraint is saying how you aren’t limited by things that make you money but you still won’t spend it.

MarkInDallas
4 years 6 months ago

I agree. Very weird. It’s like saying the reason I don’t buy a Porsche isn’t because I don’t have the money, it’s because of something else I’m not going to tell you.

4 years 6 months ago

Ah, tom p. Perhaps you should stick to the Bob Smizik blog at the P-G and MLB.com, instead of advising what posters should do and not do regarding public discourse.

Or, perhaps you are simply P.O.’d that I get more “likes” than you. How very, very childish.

4 years 6 months ago

Oh, and my girlfriend and I are getting a nice laugh out of your homophobic slur…