In the middle of 18th straight losing season, Pirates planning "meaningful" payroll increase for 2011


Craig noted this morning that the Pirates are one defeat away from their 18th straight losing season and their current 109-loss pace would be the team’s worst record during that horrendous stretch.
But fear not, Pirates fans, because today team president Frank Coonelly said the following to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

We have the capacity to add to payroll in a meaningful way. We’ll be evaluating the trade market and free agency and, if we see a player or players we like, we’ll be aggressive in pursuing that player.

However, he also added that the Pirates “are not going to be in the market for Cliff Lee” or similarly expensive free agents because “when we bring in players at that level, they have to be the Jameson Taillon and Pedro Alvarez types through the draft.”
All of which is reasonable, because certainly other small- or -mid-market teams that have experienced success recently haven’t done so by spending a ton through free agency. Pittsburgh has the lowest payroll in baseball this season at $39 million, but Coonelly was quick to note that a “meaningful” increase for 2011 would still not get them into the same range as, say, the Reds and their $76 million payroll.
Also of interest from the interview is that Coonelly replied “nobody’s job is absolutely safe” when asked if he still had confidence in manager John Russell and general manager Neal Huntington. “I hate the vote-of-confidence questions, but I do still have confidence in Neal and JR,” Coonelly said. “But we need to figure out why we’re underperforming the way we are.”
I don’t mean to pick on poor Pirates fans, but can it really be called “underperforming” when it’s happened for 18 straight seasons? And is it really “underperforming” to have MLB’s worst record when you also have MLB’s lowest payroll? Isn’t that just “performing”?

Miguel Cabrera, Dee Gordon win AL and NL batting titles, respectively

Miguel Cabrera
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Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera didn’t play in the Tigers’ season finale against the White Sox, but he has officially clinched the AL batting title with a .338 average following Sunday’s action. It’s Cabrera’s fourth batting title in his last five seasons.

Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon entered Sunday’s season finale with a bit more pressure. He was in a tight race with Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper for the NL batting title, trailing only by rounding to the fourth place, .3307 to .3306. Gordon went 3-for-4 in a loss to the Phillies while Harper went 1-for-4 in a loss to the Mets. As a result, Gordon officially won the NL batting title with a .330 average. It’s the first batting title of Gordon’s brief career. Hanley Ramirez was the Marlins’ last batting champion, doing so in 2009.

Report: Angels to announce Billy Eppler as new GM on Monday

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels are expected to announce Billy Eppler as their new general manager on Monday. Eppler had been serving as the assistant general manager with the Yankees.

Jerry DiPoto had been the Angels’ GM but he stepped down on July 1. DiPoto later joined the Red Sox in an advisory role, then was named the Mariners’ new GM last week.

The Angels lost to the Rangers in Sunday’s season finale, which eliminated them from contention for the second AL Wild Card spot. They finished 85-77. Most of their regulars are under contract for the 2016 season, but Eppler will have to decide whether to tender contracts to seven arbitration-eligible players while filling in the rest of the roster.