2011 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Signing Deadline Preview

All is quiet with one day remaining to sign players from the 2011 draft.  Some may view that as a bad sign.  I happen to think it’s a good sign.

Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates signed three players the day of the deadline.  They signed shortstop Drew Maggi, who had been close for days on a deal.  They also signed their top two draft picks: Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie.  However, the significant signings came earlier in the week.  The Pirates signed 17th rounder Ryan Hafner for $450,000, and signed 23rd rounder Jared Lakind for $400,000, with both signings coming around August 10th.

The signings were significant not because of the talents that were added, but because of the talents that weren’t added.  By signing Lakind and Hafner, and getting close to a deal for Maggi, the Pirates were moving on from 6th round pick Jason Hursh, 7th round pick Austin Kubitza, and 10th round pick Zach Weiss.

The only signing that has come in the last week has been 12th rounder Candon Myles.  That’s not a sign that the Pirates are moving on from anyone.  A sign would be the Pirates signing a number of players in the 11-20 rounds, and signing them last week.

The fact that things are quiet right now is a good thing.  It means that the chances of signing Josh Bell aren’t totally ruled out.  At the same time, the Pirates aren’t putting all of their eggs in one basket.  Let’s take a look at what we can expect on the final day of the draft pick signing period.

Gerrit Cole

With Cole, the question isn’t whether or not he will sign, but how much he will sign for.  We heard that he was looking for Stephen Strasburg money.  With Trevor Bauer getting $7 M, and with Scott Boras always pushing for a shocking bonus, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cole ends up with an eight figure major league contract.  The Pirates’ record for a draft signing was set last year by Jameson Taillon at $6.5 M.  Only two players in the history of the draft have received eight figures, and both were college pitchers.  Strasburg received a $15.1 M major league deal as a first overall pick, and Mark Prior received a $10.5 M major league deal as the second overall pick in 2001.

While it’s almost a guarantee Cole will sign, I don’t expect him to sign until close to midnight.  It’s the Scott Boras way.

Josh Bell

I’ve been saying since the draft that I don’t buy Bell’s stance that he didn’t want to be drafted.  In fact, here’s five reasons why his stance makes no sense.

1. His adviser is Scott Boras.  This sounds more like a negotiation ploy from Boras.

2. There are the rumors that MLB asked if he wanted to be removed from the draft list, and his mom said no.  Those rumors make too much sense, as it would be easier to appeal to MLB to remove his name from the list, rather than asking all 30 teams to pass on him 50+ times.

3. Speaking of that letter, why bother with it?  If you don’t intend to sign, what does it matter if someone drafts you?

4. I never buy the “school is important” line. If you’re being offered millions of dollars, and you pass that up to go to school (which you can attend later in life), then maybe you really need the education.

5. If Bell receives $5 M this year, paid over two payments (one in September 2011, one in September 2012), and invests that money at a conservative 5% APY rate, compounded annually, then by the time the 2014 draft rolls around, he would have made an extra million in interest.  To beat that, he’s going to need to get at least $6 M in 2014.  That means he’s going to have to be a top five pick, and that’s no guarantee, even with his talent level.  Just look at Anthony Rendon this year.  He was a lock to be first overall coming in to the year.  He slipped to sixth overall, costing him millions.  In short, guaranteed money now is more valuable than the chance of slightly more money later, especially when we’re talking about $4-5 M.  I know this, and I’m not a finance professor, unlike Bell’s mother.

All throughout the process we’ve been hearing that there’s no chance that Bell signs.  A lot of that is because of the “don’t draft me” letter, combined with the lack of news on negotiations (which isn’t unusual with Boras).  We’ve seen imaginations running wild, to the point where people would suggest that Bell wouldn’t accept $10 M to sign.  I’ve never thought it was a guarantee either way, but the night before the signing deadline I find myself inexplicably optimistic.

I’m optimistic because the Pirates are still at the table.  They haven’t moved on like they did with Hursh, Kubitza, and Weiss last year.  There’s been talk that the Pirates’ top offer is lower than what Bell wants.  That’s not really unusual.  It’s part of the negotiation process.  If the two sides weren’t apart right now, Bell would be signed.  The question is: can they meet in the middle?  The fact that this is a question is what also has me optimistic that Bell will sign.  None of this sounds like “I don’t want to be drafted” or “I won’t sign”.  I don’t expect anything until close to midnight, and I’m not saying it’s a guarantee.  It doesn’t seem like a safe stance, but I’m cautiously optimistic after taking a logical look at the whole situation.

The Backup Plans

Last week I provided an update on the remaining picks in the top 20 rounds.  Nothing has changed from that update on the signing side of the equation, although there is one move that could be close.  Clay Holmes, the 9th round pick, is in Pittsburgh tonight, and is expected to sign.  I mentioned in the article last week that the Pirates and Holmes were expected to meet to discuss signing, and that a deal was close, but not a guarantee yet.  With Holmes in Pittsburgh, it sounds like the deal is all but official.

I don’t think Holmes alone means anything in terms of the Pirates’ chances of signing Bell.  However, I’d be a bit concerned if the Pirates suddenly signed Holmes, 15th round pick Kody Watts, and 17th round pick Aaron Brown.  They’ve made a push for all three in the last week or two.  That’s not saying it’s either Bell or these three.  I think the Pirates could sign all four players.

Guys like 11th round pick Joel Bennett, 14th round pick Jordan Dunatov, and 16th round pick Erik Skoglund are all signable, but I don’t see them signing unless the Pirates miss out on Bell.  The same is true for 13th round pick Brandon Platts and 19th round pick Taylor Nunez.  Outside of the top 20 rounds, the guy I’d keep an eye on is Jordan Deluca.  The prep outfielder met with the Pirates yesterday, which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s signing, but definitely means he’s still in the mix.

Live Chat

I will hold a live chat tomorrow at 1:00 PM EST to discuss the signing deadline, and any other topics on the Pirates.  You can submit your early questions here.

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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