I was invited to PirateFest last night (along with Kevin and Matt from Pirates Prospects, Charlie and Vlad from Bucs Dugout, Tom from RumBunter, and Jon from The “Mc” Effect) for a private interview session with Clint Barmes, Chris Resop, Frank Coonelly, and Neal Huntington. Here are the highlights:
Natually, one of the main things we wanted to talk to Barmes about was his decision to come to Pittsburgh. He talked about Clint Hurdle’s influence and made it very clear that the Pirates were far more aggressive than anyone else in pursuing him. It sounded like the Pirates were really the only offer he had at that point and he reiterated how easy of a decision it was to sign with them, calling their offer “too good to pass up.”
He agreed that last year’s success made it a more attractive destination. He also discussed his experience playing at second (alongside Troy Tulowitzki), but noted that shortstop is his primary position. He also gave us a good overview of his offseason workout programs, noting that he works out in Colorado with former Bucs pitcher Javier Lopez.
Barmes was asked about his potential role as a leader, since he’ll be one of the older guys on the team. He called himself a “lead by example” guy as opposed to a vocal guy. He said he had talked to his new double play partner Neil Walker and looked forward to getting to know him (and the rest of the team) more in the offseason, particularly in an abbreviated minicamp in the near future.
Overall, Barmes seemed like a really down-to-earth guy that’s very happy to be here and focused on his goals this season.
RumBunter has full videos of the entire interview here.
We started off asking Resop if he had heard anything about potentially becoming a starter, and he said no (although he wouldn’t be opposed to it). He talked about some of the ups-and-downs of being a reliever as opposed to a starter, and it seemed like he prefers to come out of the bullpen because it gives him a chance to get into the game every day.
We asked him about his thoughts on the non-tender deadline and if he was concerned at all – he said he didn’t follow it closely, but that he felt he was in a good position regardless of whether or not he was tendered.
The most interesting thing we talked to Resop about was his time in Japan. He did not have a good experience pitching there, some of the reasons being inconsistency in baseballs and mounds from park-to-park (I did not know this – apparently there is no standard ball or field in Japanese leagues, meaning in some stadiums pitchers throw off completely flat ground and in others they have large mounds). He also didn’t seem to like the emphasis pitchers had on off-speed stuff there (not surprising since Resop tends to throw the fastball a lot). He talked about how hitters that couldn’t catch up to heat would practice fouling the ball off just so they could constantly waste fastballs until the pitcher finally threw something else, which didn’t sit well with him.
Resop also talked about the highs and lows of the 2011 season, saying how much fun it was to be in first-place and how rough it was when they started to tank and the Brewers caught fire. I liked his quote saying “we got a taste, we didn’t get a meal.” That makes him and the rest of the team more hungry going into this season, he said.
Here’s full video of the Resop interview. He was a fun guy to talk to and we could’ve interviewed him for a lot longer.
As you might expect, the main talking point with Coonelly was the new CBA. A lot of people asked him about that in the public Q&A as well, but we didn’t see much of that because it was going on when we were talking to Barmes and Resop. He seemed sure that the draft pool would be around $10M with the two supplemental picks, although there was some confusion on the math that led to that number. When the CBA was released–and multiple times at PirateFest–Coonelly disagreed with the notion that the new deal hurts the Pirates. I don’t know if that’s just what he wants to say publicly, but he reiterated that it puts everyone on a level playing field in terms of the draft (noting that rich teams like the Yankees won’t have the ability to blow everyone away, even though they haven’t done so yet). The new deal places a much bigger focus on amateur scouting since teams will be closer financially, and he seemed extremely confident in his scouts to get the job done against those of other teams.
When asked about something that he was lobbying for that he didn’t get, he said he had hoped for more market-based advantages in the draft pool formulas. He mentioned that he didn’t get everything there, but the new part of the revenue-sharing agreement is more beneficial to teams in smaller markets. He also talked about how the new CBA will affect the international market.
When asked the big question (2012 payroll), Coonelly answered vaguely, saying the Opening Day payroll will be higher than it was at the end of last season, but will also allow the team flexibility to add during the season.
Here is video of Coonelly.
Huntington discussed the questionable Rule 5 pick of Gustavo Nunez, and seemed to indicate that there wasn’t a very good chance of him sticking around. He did note that Nunez’s injury might “work in [their] favor” in keeping him, but I’d still doubt it. He cited his infield defense as the primary reason for picking him up. Huntington also said that he really doesn’t like the Rule 5 draft in general because it hurts players’ development.
Huntington revealed that he did not submit a bid on Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish and that the team is interested in Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (without disclosing details).
He talked about the situation at first base with Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee, as well as the likelihood of Derrek Lee returning or players like Nick Evans, Matt Hague, or Jake Fox getting a chance at first. It seems to be a very fluid situation.
Huntington also discussed the rotation and how he feels good about the current group of Charlie Morton, Jeff Karstens, Erik Bedard, James McDonald, and Kevin Correia . He said that Morton has indicated that he’ll be healthy and that Brad Lincoln is a good option to be a fifth starter if he’s not. He also pointed out that because of the schedule, they won’t need a fifth starter for a couple of weeks and admitted he made a mistake last year rushing McDonald back (and that he wouldn’t do anything like that again). He mentioned that Chris Leroux and Tony Watson could be emergency starters and might be stretched a bit in spring training .
One very interesting thing I took from Huntington was his response to a question from Kevin about what has changed in his thought process since taking over as GM. He said he undervalued the “non-quantifiable” element of a player, such as clubhouse leadership and such. I know a lot of the blog/numbers crew won’t like to hear that, but it sounds like Huntington has a better understanding now after possibly placing TOO much emphasis on numbers alone in the past. He agreed that may have factored into the acquisitoins of Barmes, McGehee, and Rod Barajas.
Just as we were leaving, Huntington said that Gerrit Cole would most likely begin the year in Bradenton. There was also a funny moment late in the interview when Pedro Alvarez walked into the room, was surprised to see us, and ran up the stairs. (A couple of other players followed him later and ignored us.)
Here is the rest of the Huntington interview.
©2011 Raise the Jolly Roger. All Rights Reserved..
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