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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Friday, July 29, 2011

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon to all. Nice to be back in the good place after a handful of days with the family in Florida. Much ground to cover, so let's go ...

Curt: The perception out there is NH is too attached to his prospects to make a trade, is this a fair assessment of him?

Dejan Kovacevic: Most GMs are going to like their prospects better than other GMs like them. Comes just from knowing them, nurturing them, and being aware of all the work that goes into finding them and landing them. That might be a fair charge against Huntington, but I'm guessing you could levy it against almost anyone.

If you're asking if the Pirates will top with one of their very top prospects, my feeling continues to be they will not.

Check my column this morning as to why.

Edward Lacy: What are the Pirates chances of upgrading 1st base or rightfield• I think Willingham would be a nice fit this and next year. I am not as big on a Pena type trade but even he would be a upgrade over Oferbay. Unlike most fans I am against a blockbuster deal that takes away our top prospects.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's almost impossible not to upgrade the production they've gotten from 1B/RF, again as noted in the column, though it's worth pointing out that Alex Presley probably will be in RF once Jose Tabata returns. First base is the thing.

James: If we make no trades, why not spend the money internally by locking Cutch up for a long time, sign Maholm and spend in the offseason?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've not yet seen where the saved money directly correlates into other spending, James. That's not being cynical or conspiratorial, just factual. If the Pirates spent on a player at the deadline -- and they were willing to do that on Beltran, as I reported the other day -- that will represent an obvious additional expenditure. Holding it for future investments ... not so easy to track.

And I'm not suggesting they spend just to spend. Just pointing out that clearly they have it. And just as clearly, they're better off giving up money than prospects.

yinzer in va: Dejan, I guess Big Ben can't be too upset at James Harrison since he was invited and came to Ben's wedding.

Dejan Kovacevic: No, and if you read some of our reporters' tweets coming out of Latrobe in the past hour, you'll already have seen that Ben said he and James pretty much joked about the comments the day they became public. Both totally blew it off.

Can't say I'm surprised. As I've written from the start, these types of things are said all the time in a football locker room. It's just rare that they're aired in public.

mike from baltimore: Hi There. Is Adam Jones and/or Derek Bell on the Pirates RADAR screen• Would they give up Jameson Taillon for Jones?

Dejan Kovacevic: I assume you mean Derrek Lee of the Orioles. When any of our reporters hears information about any name, believe me, we won't keep it a secret and we won't be saving it for a chat. It will be in our news coverage. And you haven't seen Lee attached to the Pirates, really, anywhere at all, which kind of surprises me.

I mentioned Lee in a speculative sense a month ago, even asked some questions about him at the All-Star Game in Phoenix, and got nothing in return.

I don't think you'll see the Pirates give up Taillon, to put it mildly.

GeltzJG: Is there any chance that the Pirates make a more lateral move and trade Maholm or Lincoln for a legitimate hitter?

Dejan Kovacevic: Maholm, no. Lincoln, yes. If your goal is to win something in 2011, it's hard to imagine you wouldn't need Maholm to do it.

BRS97: DK, I can't imagine Scott being the Steelers LT. Please tell me they will explore other options. I would be a welcome change to not see Ben running for his life.

Dejan Kovacevic: Sure sounds like that for now. He's had quite a few holding penalties on top of being inconsistent at blocking, so it's going to take some work.

There aren't many great left tackles available to the outside -- Sports Illustrated lists only once above-average in free agency -- so he'd better improve quickly.

Matt T.: Dejan, This is more of a fun question: It got me thinking in the 19 inning marathon game if the Pirates ran out of pitchers, what position player would be the first to take the mound• Any idea?P.S. You seem to be the only one who has faith in the Front Office to make the right deal in the Pittsburgh media. Everyone needs to take a step back and relax, some kind of upgrade will happen.

Dejan Kovacevic: Would it put you at ease if I told you I've seen Lyle Overbay do some playful pitching on the side before games?

As for faith in the front office ... I have faith that they're trying and that they're genuinely willing to pick up cash. I'm not sure they're casting a wide enough net to produce mere upgrades, as opposed to hitting home runs.

Bear in mind this is a whole new process for these guys. Huntington has special assistants doing things they haven't done under him, looking at major-leaguers for the purpose of immediate help. Clint Hurdle even acknowledged it's a change for a lot of them.

We'll see how they do. As I laid out in the column, I get that it's not going to be easy. But it still strikes me as doable, particularly when I look at some of the other transactions already taking place. Not all would have been a match for the Pirates, but some might have.

Mike C.: Dejan, a long time fan. Pedro Alvarez - called up too soon as the FO originally said or is it too small a sample size• If so, what's his problem• seems more mental than mechanical/physical.

Dejan Kovacevic: I wrote last week that the Pirates were completely justified in keeping Alvarez in the minors as long as necessary, and I promptly was shouted down by the masses. Not hearing that so much now that he's up and struggling.

When it comes to instructional things, numbers aren't all that matters. Nor, even, is the occasional solid contact. It's about approach, about addressing weaknesses that are most easily exploited at the major-league level. The Pirates' development people -- and Huntington -- felt strongly that Alvarez wasn't addressing those to their satisfaction, and it looks like they were right.

I don't have a problem with Alvarez coming up to take Presley's place. He might have been the best bat to help the major-league team, and that's a priority. But it will be interesting to see how they handle more struggles from Alvarez.

Jack Street: What about packaging Tony Sanchez and Starling Marte for a bat like B.J Upton or Pence?

Dejan Kovacevic: Package deal• No soup!

I got one from a reader the other day that suggested Matt Diaz, Lyle Overbay, Garrett Jones and Rudy Owens for Pence. Apparently, these things are based on the notion that quantity somehow trumps quality. In baseball, it doesn't. Teams have 40-man rosters and are inconvenienced greatly by trades where one player goes out and four come back, especially if four have to go right onto the 40-man.

Eddie: With the latest cuts of Starks and Adams do you see anymore OL cuts coming and who are the most likely starting 5 when the regular season opens?

Dejan Kovacevic: Who's left to cut, Eddie?

Scott and Willie Colon will be the tackles. Chris Kemoeatu and either Ramon Foster or Doug Legursky will be the guards. (Sean Kugler confirmed the latter this morning) And Maurkice Pouncey is the center. If Trai Essex gets involved, that's fine, too, even just to regularly spell guys.

And the way these guys were dropping last year, he might see more time than a typical backup.

I'm not really all that alarmed by the constitution nor depth of this line, but I can understand where some might be. We'll probably find out a lot about them in the very first game. If Scott can keep Terrell Suggs down, that would be a whale of a start.

John in Richmond: have you heard if management is concerned that the starting pitchers may be tiring?

Dejan Kovacevic: They've discussed the possibility of going to a six-man rotation as September nears, but it's never gotten past the talking stage. Lincoln and Ross Ohlendorf will be in that equation.

Sammich: How far in advance are umpires' schedules made• Do we know when Jerry Meals will appear in Pittsburgh?

Dejan Kovacevic: No. The umpires' schedules are not made public. I can tell you that up in the press box, we don't know who the umpires are for a given series until about an hour or so before the game.

Besides, jeez, really?

The guy made a mistake. It was a terrible mistake, but it was a mistake. We've all made them.

Chris: Is Pirates top management flirting with a PR disaster nationally if it does nothing to better this team for the stretch run• They have ticked off the locals for years and now that this team is drawing national attention, could lack of an addition draw more attention to the ownerships lack of committment to winning?

Dejan Kovacevic: Why would the Pirates be more concerned about a national PR disaster than a local one?

This is where they sell the tickets.

rick: Do you only choose to answer dumb questions because this is live, or are no legitimate questions submitted?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, I take all kinds. How would you classify this one?

Edward Lacy: How serious are we about signing Plex?

Dejan Kovacevic: Mike Tomlin's a busy man, especially now. Can't imagine he'd take time out of his schedule to meet with Burress if there wasn't a sense that both are serious.

This is Burress' initiative, really, even though Roethlisberger publicly spoke up for him earlier this summer. So, it might be a case where the player really wants to come back to a place where he was comfortable and, you know, not shooting himself in the leg. Could be that's more of a priority for him than a couple extra bucks.

Does anyone else get a Jagr Watch sense to this story?

mattheworres: I know we traded tweets that touched on this a little earlier this week, but can we, as a fanbase/media together agree to stop stating that "the Pirates must make a move!"• The issue is not whether they need help - it's at what cost. Comments on specific rumors - valid. Comments on whether a player would be an upgrade - let's be honest just about anyone we look at for 1B is an upgrade, right?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, look at what you just wrote there, Matt.

1. People should stop saying that the Pirates must make a move.

2. Just about anyone would be better than Overbay.

How difficult could it be for the Pirates to upgrade on Overbay?

However you feel about that question should address how you feel about the first point. In my view, as outlined this morning in the column, not finding an upgrade at that position is unsatisfactory. It's unacceptable. The handful of names that we hear about aren't the only ones out there. Even in the past handful of days, the Twins' Jason Kubel and other nice options have come up.

That's been my point all along. Those who relentlessly stand behind the front office on every occasion -- Robinzon Diaz and Tim Alderson, yes! -- will paint the trade market as hopelessly barren. Those who bash the front office at every opportunity -- Nutting is cheap! -- will paint it as overly rosy, as a simple matter of opening the wallet.

My column this morning, at the risk of plugging it to death, gets into all sides of that. And my position is that, yeah, it's tough, but there's no reasonable excuse not to upgrade on Overbay. None. I'm OK with right field once Presley returns. Not first base. And a little pitching depth wouldn't kill anyone, either.

If all the Pirates do leading up to the deadline is get Jason Grilli from the Phillies' minor-league system, that's not enough.

Shearer: The Penguins have stockpiled a bunch of defenseman and two way players on their roster this year. Is their money guaranteed if they dont make the team and count against the cap• Are we expected to keep all these guys?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Penguins are OK with the cap, actually. That was evident with the Steve Sullivan signing, which couldn't have been made if they had cap issues.

Barring further health issues, especially with the big two, I'd be surprised if you'll see the roster change a whole lot the rest of this offseason.

Ron S.: Is there a city in better coaching shape than Pittsburgh• Hard to top Tomlin, Bylsma, Dixon and now Hurdle.

Dejan Kovacevic: Boston's not doing too badly, either, but I see your point and agree. It's a pretty nice quartet right now, to put it mildly.

Joe: Is there anything more annoying than all the media types trying to scoop every story. Whereby, printing and posting every tiny he said she said about every trade possibility

Dejan Kovacevic: That's the Twitter world in which we live, Joe. I'm part of it, too. When I found out about the Beltran offer the other day, I moved about as quickly as a human could move to pen a blog item on the Trib and put a link on Twitter. It's what we do.

And fact is, if Twitter and/or the Internet had been around 50 years ago, those old-school reporters with the hats would have been doing the same thing.

The catch, especially this time of year, is to track those that are most reliable. Nationally, I long ago learned to trust Ken Rosenthal, Buster Olney, Jon Paul Morosi and others on the major sites. They exist for this stuff around the clock, unlike the local beat guys and gals who have to keep covering games and traveling and all that stuff.

Edward from Texas: You are right on the money Dejan, he made a mistake, move in people Dejan Kovacevic: If you mean Meals, I concur. The man didn't exactly fall to his knees and beg forgiveness or even outright apologize, but I do believe he was honest in saying he saw the play the way he saw it.

My concern at the time -- one that still lingers -- is that umpires and referees in any sport will have a tendency to give that call to the better team, the one with the better reputation. That's been true forever in sports.

This one particular summer, it shouldn't be true for the Pirates.
Mike: DK, always the best man. I see Carlos Quentin's name being pushed around a lot today and supposedly Ramirez said he'd now be open to a trade. Either a possibility• I'm also still a big fan of getting Pena for the right price!

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, here's your bonus for going this deep into the chat today: Read my column this morning, and insert one of those names into one of the paragraphs near the end.

Couple more today. We're absurdly past time ...

Mike from Connecticut: Do you think that NH is afraid of making a mistake in a trade and setting the team back a few years?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not sure about the term "afraid." Clearly, he's made moves that were risky to the franchise already, to say the least. But deeply concerned• Yeah, how could he not be?

And again, that's why I stress this is a whole new world.

When I called for Huntington to be extended last month, I did it almost entirely on the work he and Kyle Stark have done in building up the system, as well as Greg Smith and Rene Gayo. I'd hate to see that disrupted.

But longtime readers know I'm not nearly as sold on Huntington's ability to evaluate veteran talent at the major-league level. We've seen a big positive in the Kevin Correia signing, but we're also seeing two blanks in Overbay and Matt Diaz. Batting 1 for 3 doesn't cut it in signing free agents.

Naje: Bob Bradley... gone. Thank the heavens. You campaigning for Klinsmann?

Dejan Kovacevic: No. I want someone who rose with the U.S. system in charge of the national team, a true face and spirit of American soccer. Not suggesting they get Alexi Lalas just to make a statement, but someone with that background, and yet the international pedigree to add more creativity to the attack.

I respect Bradley for having been bold in that regard. No American teams ever attacked like his. But the rest of his work, and some player choices, left much to be desired.

Wow, I'll get killed here if I end with a soccer entry, so let's do one more ...

Mike: DK, why aren't they looking at bringing Hague up from Indy to put some splinters in Overbay's rear?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hague's an interesting case. He'll turn 26 in August, so it's not like he's a kid. But this is his first experience in Class AAA. He's hitting well, even after cooling off a bit from his superhuman June.

When I was researching the top 30 prospects for Baseball America last winter, there seemed to be a tendency to downplay Hague, mostly because he's not a really toolsy guy, especially on defense. But he has a short swing path, he goes to all fields, he doesn't strike out much, and he has legit power. To me, all those things would trump defense, especially at first base. Big kid, too, at 6-3.

And hey, the bar is set pretty low around here these days, right?

Thanks to all for participating. This stuff goes on all the time on the blog. Hope to see you there.

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