Frank Coonelly hosted an on-line chat today, and these are a couple of the topics he covered:
On the budget and free agency - We have not set a budget at $54 million (as reported) for 2009. We have indicated that our budget will increase from the 2008 budget, but we will only spend the additional money if we can secure appropriate talent.
We have as many as nine players eligible for arbitration and those players, on the whole, will receive significant raises. We have no intention of signing "past-prime veterans" to fill any gaps or simply to say that we spent more money than we did in 2008 (and) not for the purpose of mollifying members of the press who concentrate only on the size of our payroll.
The free-agent market often overvalues players, and clubs that meet the price demanded by free agents in terms of dollars and length of contract often live to regret those decisions. However, there are players of value, and we will be pursuing at least a right-handed bat and a starting pitcher who can help us win in 2009.
On Sean Burnett - Burnett found his role in the bullpen and can be an effective back end of the bullpen pitcher for us. I expect him to make a major contribution to our club in the bullpen in 2009, whether or not we add a free agent or two to the mix.
On Andrew McCutchen - McCutchen will have an opportunity to make the club out of spring training and we will not leave him in Indianapolis simply so his clock for arbitration and free agency will not begin to run.
On Tanner Scheppers - We did not put a radar gun on Scheppers before he threw for us shortly the Draft, because his representative told us he was only able to throw 70 percent.
Despite representations from his agent that Scheppers would be ready to compete, he was left off the Fresno State roster throughout the College World Series and was not able in mid-August to throw at 70 percent or throw any breaking balls. Despite the uncertainty with his health, his representatives insisted upon high first-round money.
On Neal Huntington and his job rating - In terms of evaluating Huntington's performance, we look at the successful draft that we had in June, the increase in spending in the international market on players who we think will help us build the foundation necessary to compete for championships and the trades that Huntington has made.
As we do that, we will look at all of the trades and not simply the two high-profile trades made around July 31.
Huntington was able to add players like Tyler Yates, Phil Dumatrait and Jason Michaels through trades in which we gave up very little and he made wise free-agent signings such as Doug Mientkiewicz.
Of course, the Jason Bay and Xavier Nady trades were the two largest transactions and we will continue to evaluate the return we received in those transactions.
I think it would be unfair to assess those trades based on two months of performance by three of the eight players that received significant time in the Majors in 2008.
I remain confident that Brandon Moss, Andy LaRoche and Craig Hansen can become important parts of our success in the immediate future and that Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens have a legitimate opportunity to make our starting rotation in 2009.
In addition, Jose Tabata, Daniel McCutchen and Bryan Morris are among our best prospects in the system.