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In the middle of 18th straight losing season, Pirates planning "meaningful" payroll increase for 2011

Aug 20, 2010, 2:47 PM EDT

Craig noted this morning that the Pirates are one defeat away from their 18th straight losing season and their current 109-loss pace would be the team’s worst record during that horrendous stretch.
But fear not, Pirates fans, because today team president Frank Coonelly said the following to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

We have the capacity to add to payroll in a meaningful way. We’ll be evaluating the trade market and free agency and, if we see a player or players we like, we’ll be aggressive in pursuing that player.

However, he also added that the Pirates “are not going to be in the market for Cliff Lee” or similarly expensive free agents because “when we bring in players at that level, they have to be the Jameson Taillon and Pedro Alvarez types through the draft.”
All of which is reasonable, because certainly other small- or -mid-market teams that have experienced success recently haven’t done so by spending a ton through free agency. Pittsburgh has the lowest payroll in baseball this season at $39 million, but Coonelly was quick to note that a “meaningful” increase for 2011 would still not get them into the same range as, say, the Reds and their $76 million payroll.
Also of interest from the interview is that Coonelly replied “nobody’s job is absolutely safe” when asked if he still had confidence in manager John Russell and general manager Neal Huntington. “I hate the vote-of-confidence questions, but I do still have confidence in Neal and JR,” Coonelly said. “But we need to figure out why we’re underperforming the way we are.”
I don’t mean to pick on poor Pirates fans, but can it really be called “underperforming” when it’s happened for 18 straight seasons? And is it really “underperforming” to have MLB’s worst record when you also have MLB’s lowest payroll? Isn’t that just “performing”?

  1. Bill@TDS - Aug 20, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    It will be amazing if they deep-six Huntington–who actually knows what he’s doing, more or less–and then spend $20 million on, say, Lance Berkman, Miguel Olivo and Jhonny Peralta. It’s probably possible to be even more wrong than that, but I’m not sure how.

  2. CJ - Aug 20, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    I can just imagine Coonelly saying “Hey guys, great news! We’re increasing payroll. No, not like that, who do you think we are, the Yankees?! We increased our payroll department by one intern, which will help us pay our players sooner! Unfortunately, we’ll have to trade Andrew McCutchen away to be able to afford him. You know, those 5th graders make a lot more than they did when I was a kid.”

  3. phlockar - Aug 20, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    WOW!!! 39 million dollar payroll?!?!
    I’m a Reds fan and wouldn’t know what to think if our payroll was a shade under 40 mil.

  4. Secretary Cleary - Aug 20, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    Let’s hope they don’t lock up suspect homegrown “stars” like they did in the 90’s with Kevin Young, Al Martin, and Jason Kendall. They used a lot of cash to copy the 90’s Cleveland blueprint, yet the Pirates had 1/10th the talent of the Indians. Nobody could match Lofton, Baerga, Belle, Thome, Manny, Giles, Sexson, Nagy, Wright, Mesa, etc coming up at the same time.
    I hope their fortunes turn soon. The Bonds, Bonilla, Van Slyke, Drabek, and Gott teams of the late 80’s early 90’s teams were great memories.

  5. Old Gator - Aug 20, 2010 at 6:26 PM

    I was going to comment, but as a Feesh fan, I have no real experience with meaningful increases in payroll and therefore will demur.

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