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Bucs president: Trade demands not excessive

| Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pirates president Frank Coonelly was firm Tuesday in denying reports that the Pirates are asking for too much in trade talks with other major-league teams.

Coonelly, who was in Greensburg to speak to a Rotary Club meeting, said he'd heard a discussion of the subject yesterday on a Pittsburgh talk radio station and he quoted a guest's comments, with which he agreed.

"(The guest) said, 'It sounds to me like sour grapes from general managers who haven't been able to consummate deals with the Pirates,' " Coonelly said. "I think that we're fairly valuing our players."

Unlike the Pirates' lot in 2003, he said, "We don't have to make any trades because of financial limitations; because of poor economic conditions. We're only going to make trades if they make good baseball sense for the organization and its future. That means that if we're going to move a player who we highly value, we're going to need to receive significant value in return."

The Pirates continue to receive what Coonelly characterized as a "high level" of interest from would-be trading partners.

"For several of our veteran players: corner outfielders, relief pitchers, particularly left-handed relief pitchers," he said, "the level of interest has been quite active."

The Pirates have a glaring need to shore up a minor-league system short on talent, which Coonelly acknowledged. Trading established players from the current roster is one way to jump-start that process.

"All along, we've said that while we want to give this team a chance to win in 2008, we need to build a deeper system," Coonelly said.

Trade winds

Pirates players and some teams they've been linked with in trade speculation:

OF Xavier Nady: Mets, Yankees, Rays and Braves

OF Jason Bay: Mets, Braves, Rays and Diamondbacks

SS Jack Wilson: Dodgers

LHP Damaso Marte: Phillies, Yankees, Cardinals and Brewers

A potential complication is a Pirates fan base short on patience after 15 consecutive losing seasons. Dealing away Xavier Nady, Jack Wilson, Jason Bay, Damaso Marte or others prominently mentioned in trade speculation would be widely interpreted as giving up on 2008.

"We're never going to give up on any season or any team," Coonelly said. "If we think a trade of a more veteran player for younger players and prospects can help the organization, both in the short term and the long term, we'll make that type of trade. But, when we do it, it will not be a signal that we're putting up the white flag and giving up on the 2008 season."

There are no untouchable players who would not be traded under any circumstances on the Pirates roster.

"There are certainly players who would be more difficult to trade than others," Coonelly said, "but I don't think that an organization in the situation that we're in can have any untouchable players."

Coonelly, in his first full season with the organization, said he and general manager Neal Huntington agree philosophically regarding possible trades. Coonelly also understands fan frustration as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears, with the Pirates once again saddled with a losing record.

"We have come into a situation where the team has failed to perform on the field for certainly an extended period now," he said. "The fans are frustrated by the lack of success on the field. We understand why they're frustrated, and we're committed to turning it around."

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