Pirates got a raw deal with Sano

UPDATE 12:56 AM: Check out this post by DK on the PBC Blog. A great recap of the entire timeline of events, including some stuff we haven’t heard already. And for those of you who feel this will hurt the Pirates in Latin America, Jorge Arangure says this will help the Pirates, as trainers and agents now know the team is willing to spend.

Miguel Angel Sano, the top prospect in the international signing period, and prime target by the Pittsburgh Pirates, has signed a deal with the Minnesota Twins for $3.15 M, according to several sources. If you ask me, the Pirates got a raw deal from Sano’s agent, Rob Plummer. Let’s review the timeline here:

-The Pirates opened the international signing period with a $2 M offer. They were the only team reported to make an offer.
-The Pirates upped their offer to $2.6 M in August, still with no other teams publicly bidding.
-St. Louis voided their deal with Wagner Mateo, who had received $3.1 M, the previous top bonus on the market this year.
-Not long after, word got out that Sano lowered his asking price.
The news today that Sano signed with the Twins was a huge surprise, as the Twins weren’t mentioned as serious bidders, in the sense that they had made such an offer. It seems that the Twins made the offer today, and Plummer accepted it. A series of Tweets by ESPN’s Jorge Arangure lead me to further believe that the Pirates got the short end of the stick here:
NOTE: All of these Tweets are from Jorge Arangure
Tweet #1: Sano Orioles offer never went past $2.5m. Pirates offer was $2.6.
Tweet #2: Basically, the Pirates didn’t sign Sano because of the fractured relationship between the Pirates and Sano’s agent
Tweet #3: My read of the situation is that the agent did not like the close relationship the Pirates had with Sano’s family
Tweet #4: The Pirates were absolutely stunned by Sano’s signing today. They had no clue this was coming.
Tweet #5: From my understanding, the Orioles were given a chance to match. The Pirates were not given that chance.
There’s two things to look at here: before the Twins offer, and after the Twins offer.
The Pirates were the high bidders for a long time. They were also the only bidders for a long period of time. The Pirates had out-bid the Orioles by $100 K. Plummer rejected the Pirates’ offer, wanting more, and saying Sano had interest from other teams.
Here’s the situation. Sano did have interest, but he didn’t have bidders. That’s a huge difference. Interest doesn’t imply a certain price, which means the Pirates would have been foolish to outbid themselves, since they had the high bid at the time.
Then comes the Twins offer. Arangure reports that the Pirates were shocked by this, having no clue it was coming. He also reports that Plummer gave the Orioles the chance to match, but didn’t give the same opportunity to the Pirates.
This isn’t like the draft signing process. Agents in Latin America have a lot of influence in where their client can go, which means Plummer can pretty much cut the Pirates out of the bidding, and that’s what appears to have happened here.
This isn’t a case of the Pirates being cheap. This is a case of the Pirates getting a raw deal. We don’t know if the Pirates would have matched the offer to Sano, because they were never given the opportunity. You could say that they could have offered more initially, but that’s in hindsight, and wasn’t the right move at the time. Not only were the Pirates the high bidders, but they were the only bidders for the longest time.
I’m sure the Pirates assumed that Plummer would get a chance to match any offer, probably because a month ago, Plummer agreed to give them such chance, according to Dejan Kovacevic. What’s even more interesting is that, in that same post, Plummer says that he wouldn’t have signed with the Pirates, even if they came back with more money, because he appreciates how the Twins dealt with him.
Bottom line, the Pirates got a raw deal by an agent who developed a grudge against the management group, and missed out on a top prospect as a result. It’s no wonder why the Red Sox and Yankees don’t deal with Rob Plummer.
More on Sano from other sites:

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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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Some follow-up Sano craziness

  • Dan

    Tim, I love your work, but I have to disagree here. I don't think the Pirates were nearly aggressive enough with this agent. Had we signed Sano, he would've immediately been a top 5 prospect in our system, no? This is an area where we can't afford to be outbid. As I say in my blog post today, we didn't knock Plummer's socks off, and we needed to.

    The Pirates needed this kid, for their farm system, their credibility, and to show the fan base they mean business. They can't compete on the Major League open market, so they are going to have to swing for the fences on the international markets and in the draft. It's their only chance. Besides, Sano accepted an offer $1 million below the record for an international under-18 signing. We should've gone to Plummer two weeks ago and offered $4 million. We barely offered the kid more than what Capps is making. So what if Neal was afraid he was bidding against himself and if they would've spent a needless extra million–they would've got the kid and helped shave their nickel and dime label a bit more.

    I am very upset by this news, if you can't tell.

  • Tim Williams

    I just didn't see the need for the Pirates to be more aggressive. Consider:

    -They were the only team with an offer before the age investigation completed in late July
    -They had the highest offer after they upped it to $2.6 M
    -Not everyone was sold on Sano. The O's refused to go beyond $2.5 M, even when given the chance to match the Twins offer.
    -The Pirates were promised a chance to match any higher offers.

    If I'm sitting with the highest offer, with no other bidders going against me, and a promise that I can match anyone who out-bids me, then why would I be more aggressive? That's the way I look at the situation the Pirates were in.

    Unfortunately, Plummer didn't fulfill his promise of allowing the Pirates to match the better offer. In hindsight, they should have been more aggressive, but that's an unfair stance, because back in August I don't think anyone could have predicted Plummer's actions today.

  • Dan

    I understand exactly what you're saying, so I'm only going to address your question here–"If I'm sitting with the highest offer, with no other bidders going against me, and a promise that I can match anyone who out-bids me, then why would I be more aggressive?"

    Because the guy didn't say yes to the $2.6 million offer. They obviously were gonna give someone a chance to top it. I would've, two weeks ago, gone to Plummer and Sano and offered the $4 million, the second-highest bonus ever for a guy like Sano, and dared them to say no. If someone beats that number and they don't come back, fine. But I feel they needed to knock Plummer's socks off and they didn't do that.

    By the way, I did read that Plummer gets 5% of the bonus and Sano's "trainer" gets 25%. So Sano walks away with only around $1.7 million with out $2.6 offer right there (I know, my math is far from exact), so I just feel we needed to grease the palms more on this one. Guys like him don't come around often.

    I've defended Huntington and Nutting a lot this year. I feel for them, but they didn't do enough. The bottom line is Sano didn't sign because of money, and they couldn't afford to let that be the sticking point this time.

    We probably won't see eye to eye on this, but hey, at least the Pirates know how to keep us talking about them!

  • Tim Williams

    "Because the guy didn't say yes to the $2.6 million offer."

    At that point the Pirates had the highest offer, Plummer declined, so the Pirates either needed to:

    1. Up their offer
    2. Wait for Plummer to accept their offer
    3. Wait to see if anyone else outbids them, and act accordingly

    They were also promised a chance to outbid any offers that came along. With this information, option #1, upping the offer, seemed foolish at the time.

    In hindsight, it would have been the right move, which is what I think you're saying, and I'd agree. I also think that this was a play by Plummer, kind of like his "Scott Boras/Tim Belcher" moment. In future negotiations, teams are going to be more willing to up their offer, even if they are the high bidder, in order to avoid this potential situation.

  • Dan

    Yes, Tim, your last paragraph is exactly my point. And it goes double for a franchise like the Pirates, which needs to take risks and be aggressive in order to turn themselves around.

    It's one thing if the Mets get outbid trusting a guy's word that they'll get a second chance. They can always go sign a free agent. It's just a different animal with the Pirates.

    Oh, well.

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