An important topic with the upcoming draft will be the budget the Pirates have to sign players. In the past two years, the Pirates have shelled out $18.7 M in bonuses, which ranks number one in the majors. They’ve taken two different approaches, first shelling out big money for Pedro Alvarez, then drafting for signability with Tony Sanchez, and in each case they ended up spending around $9 M or more a year.
In 2008 the Pirates selected Alvarez, and eventually gave him a $6 M signing bonus. They also went over slot for high school talent that fell to them, such as Robbie Grossman, Quinton Miller, Jarek Cunningham, and Wesley Freeman. In 2009 the Pirates took Sanchez, and with the savings they were able to go over slot on a ton of high school arms, such as Zach Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, Zack Dodson, and Trent Stevenson.
As I pointed out Monday in my weekly draft prospects rundown, a lot of mock drafts have the Pirates taking Manny Machado, a Scott Boras client. Machado will probably command a bonus of around $5-6 M when it’s all said and done. That would suggest a 2008 approach, with only a few over slot signings in the later rounds, but the reported budget for the Pirates suggests they could spend even more this year.
Last August, Neal Huntington announced through the Post-Gazette that the Pirates have a three year draft budget of $25-30 M:
“Huntington also cited increased spending on additional scouts, player development as well as a three-year draft budget of $25 million-$30 million that he described as possibly the biggest in baseball history in such a span.”
Based on the spending over the last two years, that gives the Pirates as much as $11.3 M to spend in the upcoming draft. You’d have to figure that Machado will take up half of that, but that still gives the Pirates a lot of room for spending in the middle rounds. Last year the Pirates spent $6.4 M outside of their first round pick, although if you also take out their compensation pick (Victor Black) in the first round, they spent $5.7 M in the remaining rounds. The Pirates could definitely do the same this year, even if they draft Machado and give him $6 M.
Neal Huntington has said in the past that the Pirates aren’t going to spend just to spend. I agree with that approach, and I think anyone who successfully maintains their own household budget would also agree with the idea of avoiding an approach where money burns a hole in your pocket. That said, there seems to be a lot of opportunities this year for spending in the later rounds, or even in the second round.
Austin Wilson, for example, is a highly touted prep outfielder, rated by Baseball America as the 27th best player in the draft. Wilson has a strong commitment to Stanford, and Baseball America says he has the tools to match any position player in the draft, outside of Bryce Harper. Wilson hit for a .500 average this year, with five homers and 24 steals in 90 at-bats. Jim Callis recently called Wilson one of the toughest signs among the top prep talents.
The Pirates could be faced with a situation where a first round talent falls to them in the second round, kind of like Tanner Scheppers in 2008. They probably will be faced with a situation where a sandwich round prep talent falls to them in the sixth round or later, like Grossman and Von Rosenberg. If the Pirates stick to the budget they talked about last August, they would definitely have enough to sign a guy like Machado, along with a Grossman/ZVR type in the sixth round, and maybe even a first round talent in the second round.
Considering their low payroll this year, there should be no reason they can’t spend up to the $11.3 M remaining on the budget, especially if they run in to some fortunate luck in the draft with a lot of talent falling to them after the first round.