Pirates Notebook: Draft Signings Will Take Patience

As many of you are aware, I’ve been keeping track of the draft every step of the way this year, including my Draft Pick Signing Tracker. You are also probably aware that the Pirates have been kind of quiet on the signing front.

Recently I added a spreadsheet to the tracker which not only lists the bonus information for every team in the top ten rounds, but also lists the signing status of each team in the draft.

The Pirates currently rank last in the majors in the amount of players signed. This is probably due to their draft strategy, which was to reach in the first few rounds, so they could load up on high school talent that fell due to signability concerns in the later rounds. The strategy isn’t one for the weak at heart. Apparently, it’s not a strategy for the strong at heart either, as I’ve seen throughout a lot of Pirates forums.

Rather than go on about how no one is signing above slot deals, or pointing out that the Pirates did the same thing last year, and ended up making a lot of progress close to the deadline, I’m just going to focus on the issue. The Pirates’ goal is to load up on high school talent that fell to them in the draft. So why haven’t they been doing this?

Yesterday I linked over to a post on Jennifer Langosch’s blog about the current draft signing process for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The post pretty much outlines why the Pirates haven’t made a big splash.

Frank Coonelly has said that the MLB Commissioner’s office doesn’t have the power to stop teams from signing players to above slot deals, that doesn’t mean that the Commissioner’s office doesn’t play a role in the process. According to Langosch (and several other sites I’ve read, such as Baseball America and Peter Gammons, support this statement), the commissioner’s office frowns on above slot deals, and prefers that clubs follow a designed procedure before handing out above slot money.

I’m just going to be honest here. The slotting system is a total joke. It’s designed to help small market teams by limiting the spending of the big market teams, in theory. In reality, the small market teams are the teams with high picks, and are the teams who have to deal with above slot demands more often. As we can see at the signing deadline every year, the slotting system doesn’t limit teams. Rather than fix the problem, or get rid of the system, the Commissioner’s office requests that teams pretend to follow the system, offering the above-slot offers late in the bidding process, to give the appearance that it was more of a last resort, rather than a pre-conceived plan to go above slot with certain players.

Neal Huntington had this to say, in the post I linked to above:

“We’ve continued to be respectful of Major League Baseball and the process that they’ve put in place,” GM Neal Huntington said. “We’ve hit a little bit of a wall in terms of getting our tougher signs through that process. We’re losing a little bit of momentum because we’re being held up. But we still feel optimistic we’re going to be able to get these deals done. It’s going to cost us some dollars, and those dollars may end up costing us another player that we can’t sign, but we’re trying to work through the process appropriately.

“They can’t stop us from doing it, but there is a process we’re trying to be respectful of. When we sign a player for above-slot dollars, it does have an affect industry-wide and that’s the Commissioner’s concern.”

When it comes down to it, the Pirates can sign above slot deals, and the Commissioner’s office can’t stop them. The Commissioner’s office asks that they sign those deals later in the game (which explains why there aren’t many above slot deals right now, and the ones that are above slot are barely above slot). The Pirates could sign those deals now, but it seems they’re choosing to follow the wishes of the Commissioner’s office.

Look at this in another way. If tomorrow I decide that I’m not going to mow the yard, and that I’m not going to get the oil changed in the car, and I decide that I’m just going to watch baseball all day, there’s nothing my wife can do to stop me. My wife would prefer that I mow the yard and get the oil changed before I watch baseball. I can make the choice to follow her preferred schedule, or I could just go on my own schedule. At the end of the day, even though I can do whatever I want, I still have to live in the same house with her, and that wouldn’t be a friendly house if I decide to get right to watching baseball, without following her designed procedure.

The same goes with the Pirates. They can choose to sign guys like Zack Dodson right now, but they run the risk of getting the angry wife treatment from the Commissioner’s office. So they’re going to end up mowing the yard, changing the oil in the car, and maybe doing some dishes. After that, they’ll be free to sign whatever player they want to whatever contract they want, and there’s nothing the Commissioner’s office can say about it, because the Pirates would have followed their designed procedure.

The whole process will take patience, something that’s not really flowing amongst Pirates fans these days. I wish MLB would come up with a better system. Unfortunately this is it, and we’re going to have to wait until the middle of August until we start seeing a lot of our picks signed.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated through the 7/19 loss. Here are the top performers from tonight’s victory:

1. Delwyn Young: .209 WPA
2. Adam LaRoche: .094
3. Andrew McCutchen: .080
4. Jeff Karstens: .066
5. Ross Ohlendorf: .049

Other Stuff

-The Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch for 7/20 is up.

-I’ll be heading out of town on Saturday, and will be gone for a week. There won’t be any updates to the site until I return. I might do some prospect profile posts for the guys on the Prospect Tracker, and set them up as scheduled posts, but no guarantee right now. I will be posting Twitter updates if anything happens, and if there’s anything big (like a trade, draft pick signing, or notes on Sano) I’ll probably log on for an update.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

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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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