Pirates Notebook: Funding the 2009 Draft

There has been a lot of talk about the Pirates 2009 draft, the international signing period, and of course the money it will take to fund these two events. I discussed the rumor that the Pirates would draft based on “signability” so that they can make an offer to Miguel Angel Sano, the top Dominican prospect. That rumor was later put to rest by Neal Huntington.

So where do we stand on the draft/international signing issue? Let’s run down the list:

-Miguel Angel Sano will probably command at least $4.25 M. The Cardinals are apparently ready to make a $4 M offer to the number three prospect, which means Sano would sign for more. That doesn’t necessarily mean he would require a lot more. $4.25 M is what last year’s top prospect, Michael Inoa, received.

-The Pirates spent about $2 M in the international signing period last year. I can only assume they’d spend outside of Sano, so I’m going to assume they spend the same $2 M this year.

-If Dustin Ackley fell to us, we’d probably see a $6 M bonus. If Aaron Crow fell to us the bonus would probably be around $4 M.

-If we drafted a high school arm (Shelby Miller, Zack Wheeler) I don’t think we’d spend more than $2.5 M. Only 5 high school pitchers have received $2 M or more in the first rounds of the last four drafts. Those players were Clayton Kershaw ($2.3 M as the 7th pick in 2006), Jarrod Parker ($2.1 M as the 9th pick in 2007), Madison Bumgarner ($2 M as the 10th pick in 2007), Rick Porcello ($7.285 ML contract as the 27th pick in 2007), and Casey Kelly ($3 M as the 30th pick in 2008…although Kelly was a RHP/SS).

-The one exception this year with the high school spending is Jacob Turner. Turner is represented by Scott Boras. Boras is rumored to be seeking a $7 M deal similar to Josh Beckett and Rick Porcello. Porcello received his deal as a $3.58 M bonus, and $3.705 M spread out across six seasons (with the final two seasons being option years). Turner is rated as the top high school pitcher in the draft by Baseball America, and the fifth best prospect in the draft.

-I think the college arms would cost the same amount as the high school arms: $2.5 M max.

-The Pirates have two second round picks, numbers 49 and 53. They receive no compensation if they fail to sign pick number 49. If they take a normal approach, they would be looking at $1.5 to $2 M with these two picks. It could be more if they take another “Tanner Scheppers” approach and actually sign the player this time.

-The Pirates spent $3.445 M after the first and second rounds last year.

So let’s assume the Pirates were to take this approach:

-Sign Sano for $4.25 M
-Spend $2 M extra in the international signing period
-Spend $2 M in the second round (might be a little high, but then again the Sano figure might be a little low)
-Spend $3.5 M in the remaining rounds of the draft

Without the first round pick, we’re looking at 11.75 M total. That’s about what the Pirates spent on the 2008 draft and international signings combined. However, we haven’t included the first round yet in the 2009 figures, which could raise the price anywhere from $2-6 M. So that leaves two possibilities:

1. The Pirates will have to cut spending somewhere (possibly in the later rounds, which means no Robbie Grossman or Quinton Miller type signings).

2. The Pirates will be spending a lot more in the draft and international signing period this year (maybe $14-18 M, which is $2-6 M more than last year…pretty much the difference would be the first round pick).

If you ask me, the Pirates should go for option number two. It’s also easily obtainable when looking ahead to the 2010 payroll.

We’ve done a lot of assuming in this post already, so why stop now. Here is a projection of the 2010 payroll, with the assumptions listed below the chart:

1. Freddy Sanchez has his option picked up (he’s on pace for it to be guaranteed, and I still don’t think they would have included the option in his contract if they didn’t intend to consider it).
2. Jack Wilson is brought back at a reduced rate, with a $3 M salary in 2010.
3. Matt Capps receives $5 M in arbitration (based off Huston Street’s arbitration figures for his final two arbitration years)
4. Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Burnett each receive $1.3 M in their first year of arbitration (this could be less, since the Pirates have paid this amount to John Grabow and Tyler Yates in their second arbitration years).
5. Zach Duke receives $4.5 M in his second year of arbitration (matches Paul Maholm, which seems likely if Duke continues this pace).
6. I added a free agent variable for $750 K, similar to the Craig Monroe deal.
7. Brandon Moss and Steve Pearce platooning at 1B until mid-season when Pedro Alvarez gets the call.
8. Andrew McCutchen starting in CF, Brad Lincoln in the rotation.
9. Tyler Yates non-tendered for his third arbitration year.

The Pirates have a $54 M budget for the 2009 season. If we assume they keep the same budget, the above projection has them ending up about $4.5 M short of their payroll budget. Of course I over-estimated in some cases, so the amount could be greater. The important thing is that the Pirates have a lot of salary coming off the board (Adam LaRoche, John Grabow, Tyler Yates, Jack Wilson salary cut), and don’t have many people going to arbitration (Capps, Gorzelanny, Burnett, and Duke).

Also, if the Pirates were to trade Adam LaRoche at the trade deadline, they’d be saving about $2 M in 2009. If they traded John Grabow, they’d be saving about $750 K. Trading Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez would free up about $3.5 M this year, and $11 M in the 2010 projection, although it would leave us very weak up the middle.

We know that the Pirates can afford to spend $12 M in the draft and international signing period. With their pursuit of Miguel Angel Sano, and two second round picks, the Pirates could easily top that figure. My ideal situation would be Sano, Dustin Ackley or Aaron Crow in the first round, signing both second round picks, and making a few over-slot signings late in the draft like Grossman and Miller in 2008.

That could put the Pirates spending a few million over the 2008 results, however there are plenty of ways to come up with the extra money if it’s not available. I’d be fine with dealing Adam LaRoche at the deadline to help the situation, because I don’t see him returning next year. I also wouldn’t mind cutting the 2010 payroll back a bit, as it wouldn’t be a hard thing to do with the structure of the team.

The most important thing for the Pirates right now is building up their weak farm system. This year they have the opportunity to add an elite hitting prospect (Sano), another good hitting prospect if Ackley falls to them or a good pitching prospect in the first round, and a few more top picks with five selections in the top 115 overall picks. Due to the potential impact on the Pirates’ farm system, they can’t afford to go cheap in the 2009 draft and international signing period.

The MVP Tracker

Really bad game tonight. The MVP Tracker will be updated with the results tomorrow, but here are the biggest impacts:

1. Ross Ohlendorf: -.128 WPA
2. Jason Jaramillo: -.128
3. Nate McLouth: -.071
4. Brandon Moss: -.059
5. Nyjer Morgan: -.056

Other Stuff

-Baseball America released their rankings for prospects 101-200 in the 2009 draft (scouting reports here for BA subscribers). Noteable name: Mark Fleury, catcher, ranked #125. I say we draft him in the fifth, trade for Bobby Crosby, and bring back John Malkin, former minor league catcher who was with the Pirates in the early 80s.

-BA also did their second Mock Draft. They’ve got us taking Aaron Crow, with San Diego passing on Crow to take Vanderbilt starter Mike Minor. They mention that the Pirates are looking at Crow, Kyle Gibson, and high school pitcher Zach Wheeler with the #4 pick.

-Speaking of Aaron Crow, he made his third start of the Indy season tonight, going six innings and allowing six hits, two runs, and three walks, with four strikeouts. Crow now has a 1.06 ERA on the season after allowing his first two runs tonight. I expect Crow to make one more start before the 2009 MLB draft.

-Tyler Matzek pitched six scoreless innings in his recent start, with seven strikeouts and three walks. Matzek has a 1.49 ERA on the season, and a 97:28 K/BB ratio in 72.1 innings. Crow and Matzek are still in the hunt for the Draft Elimination Series of articles I’ve been doing. Next one will be up Monday.

-Dustin Ackley went 3 for 5 tonight. Rich Poythress isn’t in the running for our first round pick, but he went 4 for 4 with three homers against Ohio State tonight. He might be a solid selection if he falls to us in the second round (BA’s mock draft doesn’t have him going in the first).

-Keith Law had this to say in his recent blog post: “Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington flew up to Boston earlier this week to meet with Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez. Sanchez won’t be on the board when the Pirates pick for the second time at No. 49, so this almost certainly was for the No. 4 overall pick.”

Considering Law was big on the whole “signability” rumor, I wouldn’t give much credit to this, as it sounds much of the same. I feel this is Huntington covering his bases. No guarantee that Sanchez won’t fall to the second round. Law has us taking Sanchez in his mock draft of the top ten picks. Considering he’s the only mock draft that has us taking this route, I don’t buy it.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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