Here are highlights from the brief interview that Vlad and I, along with several other Pirates bloggers, did with Frank Coonelly yesterday.
-P- I asked how increased attendance this year would affect payroll going forward. Coonelly said that he was grateful to the fans who have come out this year to support a competitive team, and that he was happy to have been right that Pittsburghers would support a competitive team. He said that this year's increased attendance would give the team additional financial "flexibility" this year and in the future.
-P- Vlad asked whether ticket prices would rise in the near future. Coonelly essentially responded (without saying so outright) that yes, the Pirates would be raising ticket prices. He said they've kept ticket prices at the same level since 2002 while other teams have raised their prices several times, which leaves the Pirates "well behind in terms of gate receipts." He said that ticket price increases have been considered for a while, and not only since the Pirates started playing better.
-P- Coonelly agreed that what has happened this year was exactly what he imagined when he said before the season that the organization would be able to increase payroll once it was able to send out a competitive team and get fans excited about that team. He emphasized that he hadn't been saying that the payroll would only rise once Pirates fans came out in droves to see a substandard product.
-P- Tim asked whether Coonelly would still be interested in moving the Pirates back to the NL East, given that the Bucs wouldn't be a contender if they'd been in that division this year. Coonelly said that this year's circumstances had not changed his opinion, but that a move to the East is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
-P- Coonelly said the Pirates want to sign "a significant number of additional players" in the draft, and that most remaining signees would be high-school players. He also said there weren't any agreements being held up by Major League Baseball.
-P- Coonelly repeated that he is in favor of a hard-slotting system in the draft because it would ensure that teams would pick the best players rather than signable ones. He also said a hard-slotting system would prevent players from waiting to sign until mid-August and thus missing development time, which is especially problematic for pitchers.
I suggested that the Pirates had an advantage in the draft right now due to, essentially, picking talented players rather than signable ones, whereas many organizations don't do that. So why would the Pirates be willing to give up that advantage, rather than simply, say, making the draft signing deadline to July 15 rather than August 15?
"Moving the deadline makes a lot of sense as well," said Coonelly.
"I don't think it's true that most other teams are not selecting players on the basis of talent any longer," he continued. "Maybe that was true three or four years ago."
Coonelly said that a hard-slotting system would prevent agents from gaming the system and also prevent other teams from making promises to players they hadn't yet drafted, thus disappointing players who might end up being offered smaller bonuses from the teams that eventually drafted them.