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Wednesday November 25 2015
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In The Dugout with Frank Coonelly

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PSR's David Golebiewski caught up with Pirates president Frank Coonelly to discuss Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement.

David Golebiewski: How will the restrictions and taxes on draft spending in the new CBA affect the Pirates' recent strategy of paying well above-slot for top talents who fall due to signability concerns?
Frank Coonelly: We implemented our draft strategy with a clear understanding that these changes were likely coming in 2011-12. Going forward, signability should not be a driving force on selections; it was not for us at least since 2008. Rather, players will be selected on the basis of talent rather than a concern over who the club can afford. This is good for the game in the long term as the best talent should get to the teams that are drafting high. The new system will reward the best scouting departments because now decisions are made on talent rather than signability. This is a positive development for the Pirates because while we do not have as much revenue as other clubs, we have, in my judgment, one of the best group of scouts in the game. We will use superior scouting to find the best players without concern that such players can be bought by a large market club promising large signing bonus dollars. We will continue to find ways to creatively employ our scouts and allocate our resources to add premier talent to the system.

David G: Do you believe that prospects like Josh Bell, Stetson Allie and Robbie Grossman would be in the Pirates' system had the new CBA been in place when those players were draft eligible?
Coonelly: It is very hard to speculate on who would have been available, how our selections would have been different and the decisions regarding signing or going to college that these young men would have made under the current rules. Each may or may not have been drafted higher and each may or may not have decided to attend college. We may have had access to other players. It is likely that more high school players who are not drafted in the first round may decide to go to college in an effort to improve their draft status. This is not necessarily a bad thing as some draft mistakes will be avoided and the young men will be in a position where they can secure a quality education. We also may see more college juniors returning to school for their senior years in an effort to move up in the draft. Again, this is not a bad thing as the player will have an opportunity to secure his degree.

David G: What impact do you think the new CBA's draft changes have on competitive balance?
Coonelly: I believe that they will make incremental improvement to competitive balance. The teams with the worst records will have better access to the best players and clubs in low revenue markets will receive a sandwich selection between the first and second or the second and third rounds and potentially lottery selections from clubs that lost first or second round selections by being over the spending cap. In addition, the new rules will severely limit if not eliminate the large market clubs ability to use its large resources to buy the best talent in the draft despite drafting at or towards the bottom of the draft. Indeed, clubs selecting at the bottom of the draft will only have $4 million to spend without incurring severe penalties making it very difficult for these clubs to bring premier talent into their systems through the draft. Finally, the additional selections that low revenue clubs receive are the only draft selections that may be traded, giving low revenue clubs additional assets that they can use to secure prospects or major league talent.

Neil Walker’s contract expires after the 2016 season. The Pirates second baseman is due for a big raise in arbitration this offseason—likely to $10 million—and signing him to a long-term extension will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$15 million annually.
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