Bucs president Frank Coonelly took time on Wednesday to field questions from Pirates fans, discussing last year's big trades and the Rule 5 Draft among other topics.

bucco9600: Mr. Coonelly, I for one have been a big fan of the trades that were made last year. Do you think given an offseason to acclimate to their new surroundings that some of the young players we received in return will improve on their performances?

Coonelly: Welcome to this month's chat and thanks for joining us. Bucco9600, your point is an outstanding one. It is not unusual for a young player to struggle in his initial time as a Major League regular. It is particularly difficult for a player to come into a new situation in the middle of a season and perform at a high level. I think that players like Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen will perform at a much higher level in 2009 give an opportunity to work with Don Long, our hitting coach and Joe Kerrigan, our new pitching coach during the offseason and in Spring Training in Bradenton, Fla. I expect to see good things from each of these players in '09.

bucsin09: Frank, Thanks for the chat, as always. Does the fact that our 40-man roster is full mean we are ineligible to draft in the Rule 5 Draft next week?

Coonelly: No, bucsin09, we have the ability to make a roster move or two to give us an opportunity to select a player or players in the Rule 5 Draft. I fully expect us to be below 40 on our 40-man roster when we are in Las Vegas for the Rule 5 Draft.

jm_bucsfan: How important is clubhouse leadership and, if you think it's important, shouldn't you do everything possible to bring back Doug Mientkiewicz?

Coonelly: Clubhouse leadership is, in my view, extremely important to a club's success, jm_bucsfan. It is an area that Neal Huntington, John Russell and I have stressed and, you are correct, Doug was one of our veteran leaders in the clubhouse last year. We are working hard to convince Doug that returning to the Pirates is an outstanding opportunity for him. We remain optimistic that Doug will want to return to the Pirates where he was so embraced by our fans.

storm77: Mr. Coonelly, I am sure you been asked this already, but can you give me some good reasons to get excited about the 2009 ballclub, it seems after some of the July deadline trades this team looks much weaker and 100 loses looks possible.

Coonelly: There are several reasons, storm77, that I think Pirates fans should be excited about the 2009 season. We have a young team that is, I believe, developing some outstanding players in several important areas. Ryan Doumit, Nate McLouth and Paul Maholm all took a large step in their development last year and acted as very clear examples of how a young player can establish himself in our organization. I believe that there are several other young players on our roster who will have similar breakout seasons in 2009. As we all know, we struggled last year principally because of our inconsistent and largely ineffective starting pitching. Joe Kerrigan is an outstanding teacher and one of the finest game-planners among pitching coaches in Major League Baseball. I continue to believe we have talented young starting pitchers who, with the right leadership and teaching, can be effective Major League pitchers.

gleash: Are you close to getting a replacement for Lanny Frattare?

Coonelly: We are in the final stages of the interview process for the new play-by-play announcer. It has been an exhaustive search, and we have narrowed the field to a handful of outstanding candidates. I expect that we will be in a position to announce Lanny's successor in the very near future.

21sarge: What part of your job have you enjoyed the most, and least?

Coonelly: 21sarge, this is a question that I've been asked on a number of occasions. Without question, the part of the job I have enjoyed the most has been getting to know a large number of our passionate Pirates fans. I knew that Pittsburgh was a great sports town before coming here, but I have learned that this area is full of passionate, intelligent baseball fans who very much want the Pirates to succeed again. There really has not been an aspect of my job that I have not liked, the only days that are difficult have been those days in which we have disappointed our fans by not performing up to our or their expectations. My desire to help this organization produce winning baseball clubs again is better today than ever because of the passion that our fans show the Pirates on a daily basis.

btown25: Mr. Coonelly, I genuinely appreciate the straightforward approach you take to your job. I need to ask you how the organization's stance on accountability has reshaped the Pittsburgh Pirates. Thank you for your time.

Coonelly: I appreciate your comments, btown25. I believe that the insistence on accountability at all levels of the organization has helped to change the culture of the organization. Everyone in the organization understands that our mission is to return this proud franchise to the championship-caliber club that we all remember. Each of us has a responsibility to help us reach this objective, including everyone in the front office and everyone who plays on the field. I also am confident that every department within the organization is working with this common goal as its guiding force. When we are all accountable for performing at the highest possible level in each of our areas, we will be successful as an organization.

schnoah2: What are the Pirates' priorities for the Winter Meetings quickly approaching?

Coonelly: Quite simply, schnoah2, our priority is to add talent to the organization. We continue to look at every avenue to accomplish this objective, including the free-agent market and the trade market. We have been relatively transparent that we would like to add a veteran starting pitcher and a right-handed bat off the bench. More importantly, however, we are continuing to try to add talent at all levels of the organization.

larryden: Do you place any value in Sabrmetrics in your evaluation of talent for the Pirates?

Coonelly: Our organization certainly values the statistical evaluation of players, including amateur players who we are considering drafting and/or signing, Minor League players and Major League players, larryden. We have added Dan Fox to run our analytic department. Dan brings an excellent background in developing and analyzing the most sophisticated measures of player performance. Neal and his staff are charged with utilizing Dan's analysis and the objective evaluations provided by our scouts to make the best evaluations possible. I am a believer that both objective and subjective measures must be given full consideration in the evaluation of player talent.

WieterLess: Do you believe the 2008 team underachieved?

Coonelly: This will be the last question of the chat. Thank you all for your interest in the Bucs and your passion for Pirates baseball. Wieterless, I think that the 2008 club did not perform up to its capacity largely as a result of our inability to get consistent performances from our starting pitching. We had offensive production that should have put us in a position to be competitive and we were not a competitive club largely as a result of our inability to get quality starts from our rotation. We will need to improve the production that we received from our starters in 2009 to be competitive and I believe that the competition that we will have for the rotation this spring will put us in a much better position than we were in 2008.

Coonelly: Thanks everyone for joining me. I'll see you again next month.

pittguest: Thank you, everyone, for participating. The next web chat with Frank Coonelly will be Wednesday, Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. ET We hope to see you all there.