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.

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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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  • http://twitter.com/hoosierIUdaddy Chris O’Rorke

    if money is sucha concern then why not pass on signing Cole (who has minimal negotiating leverage) and guarantee the #2 overall pick in ’12. I know it sounds ludicrous but the Bell situation is so rare that a talent like that falls in your lap. If strategy pertaining to financial resources must be at a premium to be a Contender, then give a good chunk to Bell (5.5-7 mill) and allocate rest of draft funds to FA. Then, with strict slotting system next year you get TWO (#2, #14 overall) cap friendly contracts. Bell is better than ANY second rd player drafted in the next ten years. Cole is a potential ACE and workhorse . I’m all for signing both (for say 17 mill combined) but with strategy, money, talent, NEED for hitters in system all in one I’d rather have Bell than Cole.

    I’d also let all: Diaz, Ludwick, Snyder, Doumit, Cedeno, Maholm, Lee leave as FA. … which is say 28+ mill in salary. 

    Use that money to sign Jose Reyes.

    • John DiVito

      Diaz has a 2 year deal :(  We either keep him on the roster next year or eat his $2 mil.

      I agree with you for the most part.  I think without question, Bell is the best second round pick we will see for years to come with the new draft slotting.  I think we have to sign both… after the struggles of our top prospects this year (Allie can’t throw strikes, Sanchez can’t hit anymore, Owens fell apart), we need a significant infusion of talent.

      • http://twitter.com/bucco_resist Ian Rothermund

        Seems a bit impetuous; like the opinions of a football fan demanding instantaneous success at the highest levels.  This was Sanchez’s first full year in the minors, he’s still considered a great defensive prospect regardless, and after only a little over half a season in A ball, was immediately moved to AA, in summation; let’s see how he does next year.  I say start him in Altoona, move him to Indy if he’s doing well.  Owens is a control lefty and has been the minor league pitcher of the franchise the last two years, this is his first in AAA, also, let’s see how he does next season, hell, let’s see how he does in September call-ups.  As for Allie, he’s still only 19, or 20 maybe, this is his first season, and he still throws in the high 90’s with a great slider.  Maybe he does project as more of a closer type. 

        I would also agree with the release of those players mentioned above.  I have to strongly disagree with the decision to hold on to Paul Maholm, as it’s incredibly unlikely he will be as productive next year, and spare me the innings eater cliche, he’s just not all that good.  I think I may agree with the idea of Bell being a more valuable sign than Cole, however, if we continue getting the pitching prospects we have been, soon we’re going to have more than enough in the minors to structure various trades for batting prospects.  When you’re looking at the potential for Morton, McDonald, Cole, Taillon, and whoever at #5, as the starting rotation in a couple years, there’s not a lot of room for all of those “high ceiling,” “overslot” draft signs at the top levels; this equals trade bait.

  • http://twitter.com/the_wizardofwoz Steven Wozniak

    As to Bell’s talent.  He is a talented player, but he is nowhere close to Cole.  Ranked somewhere in the mid teens for the draft.  Sure, its nice getting the #15 or so guy at pick 61, but it would be silly to not sign a top 5 talent in order to sign a top 15 talent.  Especially when the 15 guy is a prep player whose value comes as much from projection as from current talent.

    • Anonymous

      I mentioned this on Bucco Talk this past Saturday….
      If a person steps back and looks at Josh Bell, they will see a guy without the arm to play RF or the range to play CF.  He’s a LF long-term, so there goes some defensive value.

      Yes, he would be the best power hitter in the system, but he is still 18.  He has a very gangly look about him in the draft videos.

      Bell is a great talent and would be my #5 prospect if he signs, but he’s not a generational talent like Harper.  The max I would spend is $4.5M and even that would make me queasy.  And definitely no ML contract if that is a requirement.

  • Anonymous

    Q: Is it likely that Bell and Boras used the letter as a ploy to thwart the bad teams from drafting Bell and Boras covertly signaling the Yankees, Red Sox , Cubs and big $$ teams that he might be available after all?

    Q: How many midnight deadliners does Boras represent? He can’t be on the phone with them all.

    NOTE: Diaz is signed to a 2-yr conract. Unless he’s traded, there’s no savings by letting him go.

    Reyes would be a great catch, but he’s not over 35 or washed up, thefree agent type of preference for this F.O.

    • Anonymous

      If Boras was trying to tell the big market teams to draft Bell, they didn’t get the message.  He lasted all the way thru a huge 1st round and supplemental round to get to the Pirates with the 61st pick.

      The Cubs don’t overspend in the draft anyway.  It’s the Yanks, Red Sox, and Tigers among the big market teams that also spend big in the draft.

      • Anonymous

        Kevin:  for the record, the Tigers first pick was in the 2nd round.

        I agree with you on the Yankees and Boston — but Detroit could have been the wild card.

        • Anonymous

          Yes, understand about DET.  I was just saying that in general, in recent years, they have snapped up high bonus guys like Porcello/Turner/Castellanos.

    • http://twitter.com/bucco_resist Ian Rothermund

      Yeah, because that’s the only reason big name free agents don’t come to Pittsburgh, are you dumb?  People like Diaz and Overbay sign with Pittsburgh because other people won’t, not just because the F.O. won’t pony up the cash.  Reyes won’t come to Pittsburgh, A) because they probably won’t or wouldn’t offer as much as New York or L.A., and B) because it’s the Pirates, and they’re more than just one player away, and C) because it’s Pittsburgh, not New York or L.A..  Maybe you should try making logical decisions and actually thinking critically about all of the moving pieces involved.  If you were the G.M., we’d probably look like a ghetto Cubs organization, blowing money on free agents just to lose 95 games.  We still wouldn’t get the kinds of players Chicago does because of our market.  Looking at our relative size to other cities and financial means we’re limited to compared to other teams in the league, we should be asking ourselves what Tampa Bay would do, not what the Cubs would do with their broken system of spending entirely too much money on players that don’t contribute to the ultimate goal; winning. 

      • Anonymous

        A little better reading comprehension would eliminate about 1/2 your commnts directed to me. I did not at any poit say we should do what the Cubs do. The Pirates have made one above average free agent position signing in I don’t know how many years and that was a minor league deal for Jones. Name anyone else who hasn’t flopped. Everyone knows Reyes isn’t coming to Pitt, just like Fielder and Pujos. I’m not dumb, how ’bout you?

  • Anonymous

    Who the Pirates sign greatly depends on the draft budget. If the team has $18M or more set aside for this draft class, then the team ought to have the money available for Cole, Bell and the high-ceiling later round picks. The preference of Pirates fans should be obvious. But, it’s not our money. And the Pirates should not pay Brown or Watts or whomever millions of dollars over market value just to get those players signed. So, it’s still a tough situation for Huntington and Coonelly. They have to use their money wisely.

  • Anonymous

    I still say that if Bell doesn’t sign its not a total loss….We would get a 2nd round pick next year which would give us a minimum of 3 picks in the top 2 rounds, free agent compensation picks not withstanding. With next years draft having a hard slotting system it will be easier to sign your picks, therefore we could get a couple nice looking picks in the system. Next years draft is looking like it could turn out to be a prep hitter heavy draft, so that could work in our favor.

  • Anonymous

    I still say that if Bell doesn’t sign its not a total loss….We would get a 2nd round pick next year which would give us a minimum of 3 picks in the top 2 rounds, free agent compensation picks not withstanding. With next years draft having a hard slotting system it will be easier to sign your picks, therefore we could get a couple nice looking picks in the system. Next years draft is looking like it could turn out to be a prep hitter heavy draft, so that could work in our favor.

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