The International Signing Period starts on Monday, July 2nd. This year all teams will be limited to spending $2.9 M on the international market. That shouldn’t impact the Pirates much. Their budget the last few years has been $3 M, and they mostly prefer to go with lower bonus guys, rather than spending it all on one player.
They have made a few exceptions in the past few years to go over their $3 M budget. Luis Heredia’s $2.6 M bonus put them at $5 M in 2010, and Harold Ramirez’s $1.05 M bonus last year put them at $4 M in spending. This year there will be strict penalties for teams that go over the bonus pool, which will prevent the Pirates from such an approach.
That won’t prevent the team from signing a top prospect, and they’ve already been linked to one of the top guys on the market. Ben Badler of Baseball America has released his top 20 international prospects in preparation for the upcoming signing period (scouting reports for subscribers here). Badler mentions that the Pirates have been linked to third baseman Julio de la Cruz out of the Dominican Republic.
De La Cruz is represented by Luis Polonia, who the Pirates have worked with a lot recently. The Pirates signed Edwin Espinal from Polonia last year, and signed his son, Rodney Polonia. Others signed from Polonia include Willy Garcia, Leandro Rodriguez, Isaac Sanchez, and Adrian De Aza.
De La Cruz is an athletic third baseman who makes good contact, has average power now and projects for more power going forward, and has a good arm on the field. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of Cruz. About a month ago we first heard that the Pirates were linked to him. The Mets, Cubs, and White Sox have also been linked to him, but considering the relationship with his agent, you’ve got to think the Pirates have the inside track.
Also of note, the 18th ranked prospect — Sergio Alcantara, a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic — is the nephew of Anderson Hernandez, who is currently playing for the Indianapolis Indians.