Morning Report: Should We Expect a Quiet July 2nd?

The new international signing period begins on Thursday and if it’s anything like last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be busy. Usually it isn’t though and last year was more about quantity than quality. Under the new rules for signing international players, the better you do during the previous regular season, they less money you have that you can spend on the international market the following July.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are rarely in on the top names. They have spent over $1,000,000 twice on international amateur players, signing Luis Heredia for $3M in 2010 and Harold Ramirez(pictured above) got just over $1M the following season. Since then, the highest they have gone is $700,000, which was the bonus for Michael de la Cruz and also for Julio de la Cruz in 2012. In the last two years, the highest bonus has been $400,000, which got them Adrian Valerio in 2013 and Yondry Contreras last July.

With a cap in place, it looks like the Pirates keep moving towards quantity and if that holds true, then Thursday could be a very busy day. Last year, July 2nd started off slow and all we were expecting ahead of time was the Contreras signing, as he was mentioned as their top target. Brian Sousa was reportedly a target of the Pirates and he signed for $160,000 a short time after Contreras. They were just the tip of the iceberg for the Bucs. By the time July 3rd was over, they had eight players signed for $100,000 or more.

With their international bonus pool set at $2,111,900 for this signing period, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for top names. While it would be nice to have a higher international pool, the alternative is that your Major League team does well, which is a pretty good trade off. The Pirates will make the budget work and possibly acquire a little extra cap space like they did in the Ike Davis deal, though the amount you can add is limited.

We may hear a name in the next day or two before the July 2nd signings start rolling in, but don’t expect anything big. Ben Badler does a terrific job of covering the international market for Baseball America and he hasn’t mentioned the Pirates yet. I’ve done some searching and haven’t found anything of note, other than the fact the Pirates have done a lot of scouting this year in Mexico. We do know there will be some players added that first day thanks to our coverage of the DSL last week, we just don’t know if they are noteworthy until we get scouting reports and bonus figures after they officially sign.

Here is one thing to remember on Thursday, especially if it seems disappointing. The best players aren’t always the ones that sign on July 2nd, or get the most money. Starling Marte signed in January, Gregory Polanco in March and neither got a huge bonus. July 2nd isn’t the make or break day for your international signing class, but it is usually the busiest day, so that should make things interesting. As usual, we will have any announced signings covered here throughout the day.

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by nine games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a one game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 4-6 in their last ten games. They have a four game lead in their division over Columbus, the team they are currently playing.

Altoona is 3-7 in their last ten games and they are now trailing by 2.5 game in their division. They had a four game lead  last week over Bowie, but Altoona has lost five straight and Bowie has won five straight.

Bradenton and West Virginia did not win their first half title. The second half began Thursday for both teams and the second half records will be included below in the schedule.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates had off on Monday. They now travel to Detroit, where they will begin a three-game series today. Gerrit Cole will be on the mound, looking to rebound from his worst outing of the season. On Wednesday, he gave up five runs on eight hits and three walks in 4.2 innings against the Reds. His mound opponent will be Justin Verlander, who is making his third start of the season. He pitched well in his debut, then gave up six runs on ten hits and one walk in 6.2 innings last time out.

In the minors, there are some good pitchers going, but it looks disappointing following the huge day of pitching prospects yesterday(see prospect watch). Angel Sanchez makes his third start for Indianapolis, while Chad Kuhl will try to follow up his last two outings in which he has allowed two runs total over 14 innings. Colten Brewer had nine strikeouts in his last game, two short of his career high. Cody Dickson has a 5.46 ERA in June. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (42-33) @ Tigers (39-36) 7:08 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (2.16 ERA, 25:102 BB/SO, 95.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (46-32) vs Columbus (42-36) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Angel Sanchez (5.73 ERA, 3:5 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (42-34) @ Trenton (40-35) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter:  Chad Kuhl (3.18 ERA, 26:56 BB/SO, 82.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (35-40, 3-2 second half) vs Brevard County (31-42) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (4.11 ERA, 32:51 BB/SO, 76.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (42-32, 5-0 second half) @ Kannapolis (36-38) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (5.13 ERA, 13:41 BB/SO, 47.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (4-6) vs Hudson Valley (6-4) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (3-4) @ Elizabethton (4-3) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Marek Minarik (2.25 ERA, 2:3 BB/SO, 4.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (4-2) vs Yankees2 (3-4) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (12-14) vs Braves (10-16) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here we have video of the best hitter in the system this month, Adam Frazier. He lines a double that looked like a great play at first, but the outfielder couldn’t hold on to the ball.

Recent Transactions

6/29: Jeff Inman and Gift Ngoepe promoted to Indianapolis.

6/29: Pirates sign Daniel Zamora.

6/28: Jose Tabata designated for assignment. Gorkys Hernandez added to Pirates roster.

6/28: Chris Volstad designated for assignment. Steve Lombardozzi added to Pirates roster.

6/28: Clario Perez promoted to Altoona. Wes Freeman activated from disabled list.

6/28: Kawika Emsley-Pai retired.

6/28: Hunter Morris activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

6/27: Junior Lopez promoted to Bradenton. Dovydas Neverauskas activated from West Virginia disabled list.

6/26: Tyler Glasnow assigned to Altoona.

6/26: Deolis Guerra added to Pirates roster. Rob Scahill placed on disabled list.

6/26: Wilkin Castillo activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

6/25: Robert Stock added to Bradenton roster. Jordan Steranka placed on disabled list.

6/24: Casey Sadler placed on disabled list. Brad Lincoln and Josh Wall added to Indianapolis roster.

6/24: Corey Hart placed on disabled list. Chris Volstad added to Pirates roster.

6/23: Pirates sign Shane Kemp. Assigned to Bristol.

6/22: Andy Otamendi assigned to Morgantown.

6/21: Marek Minarik and Luis Paula sent to Bristol.

6/20: Pirates release Edgar Munoz

6/20: Pirates sign Garrett Russini as a non-drafted free agent.

6/19: Pirates sign Sean Keselica and Stephan Meyer. Both players assigned to Morgantown.

6/19: Collin Balester traded to Cincinnati Reds.

6/18: Steven Brault promoted to Altoona. Jin-De Jhang added to Bradenton roster.

6/18: Ten draft picks signed and assigned to various short-season teams. Link here with details. Five others were also signed later in the day. Details here.

6/17: Alen Hanson placed on disabled list. Kelson Brown added to Indianapolis roster.

6/17: Pirates sign Kevin Kramer, Tanner Anderson, Nicholas Economos and Mike Wallace. Kramer assigned to Morgantown. Anderson and Wallace assigned to Bristol. Economos assigned to GCL.

6/16: Pirates sign Ke’Bryan Hayes. Assigned to GCL Pirates.


This Date in Pirates History

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus three trades of note. Starting with the players, we have INF/OF Delwyn Young(2009-10), pitcher Chan Ho Park(2010), first baseman Dave Roberts(1966), lefty pitcher Don Gross, who was a member of the 1960 World Series champs, and pitcher Johnny Miljus, who played for the 1927 team that went to the World Series. Also born on this date, pitcher Hal Smith, who played for the Pirates from 1932 until 1935. There have been three players in Major League history named Hal Smith and all three played for the Pirates. The other two were catchers in the 1960’s.

Starting with the most recent trade first, and it was two on the same day. On this date in 2009, the Pirates dealt away Eric Hinske and cash to the Yankees in exchange for Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson. Fryer played very little for the Pirates, while Erickson never made the majors. It was addition by subtraction though, as Hinske wasn’t playing well and wasn’t happy.

On that same day, the Pirates sent Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan to the Nationals for Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge. This deal worked out better for the Pirates, as Hanrahan became the closer, then was traded to get Mark Melancon. Morgan and Milledge were a wash, as neither played very good(both were a 1.0 WAR over two seasons with their new team). Burnett did good in his limited role, which was mostly him being used to face lefties. In 245 games, he threw 201.2 innings.

On this date in 1982, the Pirates traded Pascual Perez and a player to be named later, to the Braves in exchange for pitcher Larry McWilliams. While the PTBNL turned out to be a career minor leaguer, the deal was basically even as both teams got  good production out of their new pitchers. Both were good pitchers in 1983-84, then fell off in 1985. McWilliams finished fifth in the Cy Young voting in 1983.

  • Not a fan of ‘all the eggs in one basket’, but I’d love to see the team put them in there and make a play for Vlad Jr.

  • One name – Oscar Arzaga, P, Mexico.

    I am not about to start second-guessing a FO that has turned a perennial laughing stock of a franchise into one that is a perennial contender with a great farm system.

    Their strategy is based on game theory. An analogy – if you sit down at a poker table and go all in on the first hand, you have less chance to win the tournament than if you pick and choose your spots.

    They are trying to win a ring, not the publicity battle in the fall. The fact that they are allowed to spend bazillions signing international players doesn’t mean that it is a wise use of their resources. Just like Tim and that 75 foot yacht for sale at the marina.

  • there is no reason not to try to at least sign one player that the consensus of the scouting community indicates that the player can make it and make it big. The Mets seem to go big in this market and at least it provides someone to root for. Otherwise, like this draft, it becomes just a bunch of names that you have little interest in. Porterreal can’t seem to hit and Contras seems to swing and miss at everything. Maybe they have a chance but I am not seeing it at this point.

  • I can see arguments for both sides. Gamble on a couple of high priced guys. going over slot or just sign a bunch of guys, hoping 1 or 2 work out and getting to do it every year.

    Like the regular draft, it IS a crap shoot.

    • This is really an argument about what could have or should have been, anyways. Int’l draft in a couple years makes all this strateeegery moot.

  • Without more information the Pirates international strategy still seems odd, to be kind.

    The International “cap” put in place in 2012 is as soft as possible. The only aspect that should be close to a deterrent is the penalty stating a club who goes more than 15% over cannot sign a kid for more than $300k over the next two consecutive periods. What is odd about the Pirates is that they aren’t signign kids for more than $300k in the first place, so it’s not like this “penalty” would even impact them.

    They went from giving Josh Bell alone $5m in 2011 plus giving out their last seven figure international bonus to having their North American amateur budget slashed in 2012 by the new draft rules and making absolutely no effort to funnel those saving into the Latin American market.

    For an organization that spoke so highly of the need for amateur talent, this was a major change of course and one that hasn’t been given near enough attention, IMO.

    • The problem with that is you’re talking about predicting the future of 14-15 year olds when you go over one year. They have spent over $300,000 six times in three years, so all of those players would have been eliminated. They didn’t know in 2012 that they were only going to go over $300k for one player in 2014, that’s impossible to predict.

      I think you go over for the right player and I think they feel that way too, but unless that right player comes along, I don’t think they are going to assume that 1-2 years down the line there won’t be anyone worth going over for. We see HS kids develop a lot at 18, so imagine what 14-15 year old kids can do. Do you really want to eliminate those possibilities for such a crap shoot, plus pay 100% tax on the player you signed?

      Luis Heredia alone should make you think twice(maybe 4-5 times) before you throw away two years and extra money for one player

      • piraterican21
        June 30, 2015 10:51 am

        Giving someone that young that much money based on projection is borderline crazy, just think about how many top 10 prospects are a bust, and these are kids that have already played organize, professional ball. It sounds great to read that your team is on the hunt of one of these high hype prospects, but I rather see the quantities approach the team has taken and hopefully will continue to take.

      • Except that going over for only one player makes absolutely no sense, and isn’t how teams are actually attacking the July 2 market. Ok, except for the Diamondbacks.

        Once they’re more than 15% over, they can get as many guys as they want without being further penalized. Yes, I’d absolutely rather pop three seven figure kids in one signing period and still target the majority of the same kids – the Polancos and Martes – for two years. I’ll trade better quality for a marginal drop in quantity any day.

        Your also talking yourself into a corner with the Heredia analogy by saying they would “throw away” two years by not being able to sign any kids for more than $300k. I’ll presume that is your judgement of recent July 2 signing periods, considering the manner in which they’ve spent would barely be impacted by the $300k rule.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    June 30, 2015 9:50 am

    There are exceptions to the rule – Marte and Polanco – being two recent ones. However, I kind of equate this to the NFL draft. Yes, some first rounders end up being busts and some sixth rounders turn out to be pro bowlers. But, for the most part, the odds are much better in finding productive players in the first round, versus a late round.

    The Pirates cannot continue to go cheap in the International market – including being almost invisible in the negotiations with Cuban players – and be successful in the long run. There is a reason why some players are rated very highly, and others are not. Its called scouting. I suspect the Pirates will disappoint again on July 2, while other teams aggressively try to sign the best talent available. Once you get below Bradenton, who are our top prospects and potential difference makers? We are starting to get thin at the lower levels, due to drafting much later the past couple of years, some curious draft choices, and the lack of aggressiveness in the International market. In the long run, we will get buried by NL teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Nats, Braves, etc. who are not afraid to spend money.

    • BFS: The Amateur Draft in the US is a crap shoot because you are looking at kids who are mostly between 18 and 21. In the International Draft they are looking at kids who are mostly 16, so it is a real stretch to project their development. As long as there are players out there like Miguel Sano who got $3.15 mil from the Twins in 2009, and is still at AA and they cannot find a position that he can play on defense, I will have my doubts about the need to go BIG in the International Draft. In 2009 the Pirates tried to get Sano but had to settle for Jose Osuna for $280K, Gregory Polanco for $150K, and Alen Hanson for $90K. Polanco is already in the majors, Hanson will be there shortly, and Osuna will be in the majors within 2 years. And, don’t forget Dilson Herrera ($220K in 2010) traded in 2013 who has already been in the majors. They seem to be doing just fine.

    • There’s actually been some data in NFL circles that suggest round 1 picks are way overrated in how they are seen as “high quality”. It varies year to year obviously, but depending on definition of “bust” many actually dont perform well or have very middling careers.

      Certain teams, SEA, SF, etc, appear content to move back in the draft and compile quantity of 2-5/6 round picks if they see a late 1st rounder as being similar value to mid 2nd.