Why the Pirates Don’t Need to Spend Big Money on International Players

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The Pirates have never been a team that spends a lot on individual players in Latin America. While the Dodgers have spent about $22 M on six players — including $16 M on 19-year-old Cuban right-hander Yadier Alvarez — the Pirates have maxed out their individual bonuses this year in the six figure range.

Dominican outfielder Kevin Sanchez received $450,000 for the biggest reported bonus from the Pirates so far this year, and that seems to be the Pirates’ ceiling lately. Last year their biggest bonus went to Dominican outfielder Yondry Contreras, who got $400,000. Dominican shortstop Adrian Valerio received $400,000 for the top bonus in 2013. They spent a little more in 2012, when Michael De La Cruz and Julio De La Cruz both received $700,000.

Granted, they have gone bigger in the past, landing Harold Ramirez for $1.05 M and Luis Heredia for $3 M. Those bonuses would be a bit harder to pull off under the current system, with harsh taxes and penalties imposed on teams that go over their bonus pools. The Pirates have a $2,111,900 pool to work with this year.

“When we believe that it is the right player and the right deal, we’ll play in the big market,” Neal Huntington said on whether the Pirates could sign seven-figure guys. “We also need to be on the other side of the market. We need to be effective and efficient in the lesser dollar amounts and the lesser known guys.”

It might seem like a bad thing that the Pirates don’t sign guys to seven-figure deals, and keep most of their signings to low dollar amounts. After all, in most cases, more money equals better talent. MLB free agency pays the most money to the best players. The MLB draft is arranged so that the best talent receives the most money, and the guys taken in the first round tend to have a higher success rate than guys taken after the first round.

This isn’t the case in the international market. The guys who are receiving the big bonuses are getting those amounts because they are on the radar at a very young age. This happens because they’ve shown some sort of big potential, or because one or more of their tools have developed early. They’re seen as more of a guarantee than the lower bonus guys, almost like the first round picks compared to the middle round guys. But this just isn’t the case on the international market, with the risk still being very high for big bonus guys, and the separation being much smaller from the low bonus players.

So much can happen at the ages of 16, 17, and 18. Players can see a massive change in value, and a huge stride in their development. For example, take 17-year-old left-handed pitcher Luis Diaz, who the Pirates signed this year for a mere $50,000. A year ago he was sitting in the high 70s with his fastball, and as a result he went un-signed. A year later he was throwing in the upper 80s, and now he’s sitting 89-92 MPH with little effort. It took him one year to go from a fastball that would never play in pro ball, to a fastball that gives him some potential on the mound.

But Diaz is just a recent example of a low-bonus guy seeing a big change in a short amount of time. And I don’t want to suggest that Diaz is going to be a breakout player in the future, but I wanted to use him as an example of how a player can change so much at a young age. If you want an example of a low bonus guy who broke out, you don’t have to look beyond the Pirates’ system, and you can take your pick from several options.

Pirates Low Bonus Success Stories

The biggest success story for the Pirates so far has been Starling Marte. He was signed in early 2007, and made his pro debut in the DSL at the age of 18. The results weren’t good, with a .595 OPS, and that led to a return trip to the level in 2008. He did better this time around, posting an .822 OPS, and that led to an aggressive promotion to West Virginia the following year. The Pirates continued pushing him aggressively up the ladder, and he’s now on pace for his third straight season with a 4.0 WAR or better. Marte ranks 22nd among hitters in WAR since the start of the 2013 season.

All of this is impressive for any player, but it’s even more impressive when you consider Marte’s signing bonus of $85,000. He was a guy who wasn’t even good enough to sign in his first two years of eligibility, struggled at the lowest level at the age of 18, and then saw everything click at 19, propelling him to become an MLB star a few years later.

Gregory Polanco saw a similar path to Marte. He was signed before the 2009 season, at the age of 17. At the time he was tall and extremely skinny, with his appearance being compared to a “sick giraffe.” He didn’t exactly put up strong numbers his first three years in pro ball, but something clicked for him in 2011. He started adding muscle to his tall, skinny frame. The next year he came into Spring Training with some new-found power and had a breakout year in West Virginia. He kept developing each year, and although he has struggled in his initial jump to the majors, he looks like he’s got the potential to be a star player. All of that came from a $150,000 bonus.

The Pirates also have some future starters in their minor league system who were low bonus guys. Elias Diaz was signed in late-2008 for $20,000, and made his debut in 2009 at the age of 18. He has some of the best defense behind the plate in the system, and looks like the catcher of the future in the short-term, bridging the eventual gap between Francisco Cervelli and Reese McGuire. Alen Hanson was signed for $90,000 in 2009. Unlike the others, he was 16 when he signed. However, he clearly wasn’t highly coveted at the time, and it was only two years later that I first started hearing scouts raving about his potential after seeing him in the GCL. He has the chance to start for the Pirates or another team at second base in the near future.

If you want examples of how bonus money doesn’t reflect talent on the international market, you just have to look at what the Pirates have done. Marte, Polanco, Hanson, and Diaz signed for a combined $345,000. That’s less than any of the five big bonus players the Dodgers have signed this year. You could argue that the only success story from the group so far — in terms of MLB production — is Marte. But that would be a double-standard to dismiss prospects like Hanson and Diaz who haven’t made the majors, while giving credit to guys who haven’t even seen or thrown a pro pitch, all because they were recently signed for a lot of money.

The Importance of the Dominican Academy

What the Pirates have done in Latin America isn’t solely banking on the unpredictability of young players. They have focused on areas where it counts. That includes their $5 M investment in their Dominican Academy back in 2008. I was at the academy a few weeks ago, and not only had a chance to tour the entire facility, but got a chance to see several other academies for other MLB teams. Even in the seventh year of operation, the Pirates have one of the nicest facilities, to the point where it is basically a mini-version of what the organization has at Pirate City in Bradenton. Several of the academies built after the Pirates used their facility as a model, with some teams sending members of their organization for a visit up to six different times before building their academy. I’ll note that the Dodgers have one of the oldest academies, meaning they’re spending a ton on players, but not nearly as much on modern facilities to develop those big bonus guys.

The initial investment in the Pirates’ academy might not seem like much in an age when individual international players are getting eight figure deals, and the average MLB salary is between $3-4 M. But despite the relatively small amount, the Pirates are still one of about 10-11 teams that own and operate everything in their academy in the Dominican Republic. And that means everything, down to employing the kitchen staff and managing the food.

The latter part ensures that they can have full control over the nutrition for their young players, which is a key aspect when you’re signing athletic players and hoping to build them up by adding muscle to their frames. Other organizations rent their academies, and that rental comes with a food service that is supplied by the owner of the academy. The teams get a set amount of meals each day. If they have a few extra players at the academy on a certain day, it’s possible that 60 prepared meals would be divided up into 65 meals, leading to smaller portions for everyone.

The Pirates don’t have to worry about that, as they are footing the bill for everything, and can just prepare a few extra meals to accommodate the extra players. They also have full control over what they are serving the players, and the frequency at which their players eat, which is a huge focus throughout the organization in building strength and developing the young, projectable players they seem to covet in all markets.

And if you want an example of the disparity between a team like the Pirates that owns their facility, and a team that rents and has little control of operations, consider this story I heard in my time in the Dominican. One NL team (I’ll leave the name out) actually has a person put on gloves and lay chalk down on the baseline and in the batter’s box by the handful before the game, all because their academy doesn’t have a wheelbarrow to do the job, which seems like a pretty basic thing to have when you’re running a baseball academy.

When you consider that some teams don’t care enough to even have basic field equipment, and that most don’t even own their own facility, it really shows how focused the Pirates are in the Dominican compared to other teams.

It All Starts With Scouting

The Pirates put a huge focus on fully controlling the development of their players at their Dominican Academy, and that has led to a lot of the success they’ve seen with international players over the last few years. But the low-bonus success stories all start from one key aspect: Scouting. Lots and lots of scouting.

The Pirates employ 32 scouts in nine countries in Latin America. The collective group is internally referred to as “The Octopus”, or “El Pulpo” in Spanish. It was a name that Rene Gayo started using in Cleveland in 1999, back when he was signing guys like Johnny Peralta for $20,000. Some members of Gayo’s scouting group have been a part of “The Octopus” for 15-16 years, joining him with the Pirates.

Increased scouting seems like such a simple thing to do, and yet it’s not as widespread in Latin America as it is in the United States. The Pirates cover a lot of ground in Latin America, including scouting some areas where other teams won’t go. This allows them to find diamonds in the rough, getting talent that would probably be much more expensive if other teams knew about those players.

The increased scouting also gives the Pirates more looks at players, which is key when you’re following young players who can see massive improvements in the matter of months. The ability to see more players, and the ability to see those players more often increases the chances of the Pirates finding talent that other teams don’t know as much about, or don’t know anything about at all.

Other teams are starting to increase their efforts in the Dominican Republic, and while the Pirates continue signing players from the country, they have also focused on other areas in Latin America in recent years. Tito Polo is a talented player, playing in West Virginia this year, who signed out of Colombia. The Pirates continue to sign players out of Venezuela, despite political turmoil in the country that has chased some organizations away. Last year they signed 6′ 4″ right-handed pitcher Brian Sousa out of Panama to a six-figure deal. And this year they went to a new location, signing two players out of the Bahamas, including their second biggest bonus so far, given to outfielder Larry Alcime Jr.

“Rene Gayo does a great job of spanning the globe to find great talent for us,” Huntington said. “He’s passionate, hungry, and a hard worker. A couple of years ago, he made a push to get into [the Bahamas] and find out what type of talent might be available there as the Dominican Republic gets more and more heavily scouted. He’s done a tremendous job of finding guys that maybe are off of the beaten path. Look at Polanco, Hanson, and Diaz; they haven’t been the huge dollar signs. Rene is a tireless worker, and he does a great job.”

The results from Gayo and his crew have been there for years, not just with the Pirates, but with other organizations before that. The Pirates have started seeing the results in the upper levels of the system and in the majors the last few years. And the low bonus success doesn’t seem to be limited to those guys signed in 2007-2009. Guys like Yeudy Garcia, Tito Polo, and Adrian Valerio are among the sub-$500,000 international signings who are currently showing potential in the lower levels of the Pirates’ system.

The Pirates put a huge focus on scouting in Latin America. They’ve spent a lot on their Dominican Academy, aimed at maximizing the development of their Latin American signings. There aren’t many teams in baseball that have the Latin American scouting presence the Pirates have, and not many teams that own and operate their own facility like the Pirates. The fact that the Pirates do both gives them a big advantage, and that advantage is a big reason why they don’t need to spend big in order to get talented players in Latin America.

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  • Even though your not enthused by the idea Tim, I still say that the next move by the Pirates should be to establish an Asian Academy in Brisbane, Australia where they can bring in Asians from Japan, Korea and eventually China, teach them a form of English, how to play the game and prepare them for the FSL.
    The posting fee for Kang was about the full cost of the Domini can Academy. Find two Kang equivalents and you have paid for the whole Asian Academy.

    • I would not be opposed to covering their operations in Australia. Although I’d prefer this academy be close to Sydney, since it’s my favorite city. Uh, I mean, since it would be better for operations.

      • Sydney’s cosmopolitan, but Brisbane is year round warmer, think Florida.

  • pantherfan83
    July 8, 2015 9:18 pm

    Can we stop talking about this subject before mlb realizes and implements a new rule restricting how much the franchise can spend on scouting.
    That aside I never question who they take and for how much. It’s nice to be able to trust the system. Great article and another reason why I have a better understanding of the entire system of the bucs. Thanks Tim.

  • Let’s hope Gayo never dies or retired.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    July 8, 2015 5:59 pm

    (1) I agree that drafting in any sport, especially in baseball, is a crap shoot. However, I still contend that if you are signing players out of what the consensus is the “top 50” prospects vs. the next 50-100 ranked prospects, the odds definitely favor the higher rated prospects – although there aren’t any guarantees.

    (2) “Granted, they have gone bigger in the past, landing Harold Ramirez for $1.05 M and Luis Heredia for $3 M. Those bonuses would be a bit harder to pull off under the current system, with harsh taxes and penalties imposed on teams that go over their bonus pools.”

    I have to disagree here – there are several teams that do this fairly regularly, and not all are big market teams.

    • For #1, there really aren’t any legitimate “top 50” lists. No outlet can possibly cover every single player that is available to sign, and track all of the progression with that player. The top prospect lists are usually made up of who will be receiving the best bonuses, and not actual talent.

      On #2, with limited bonus pools, I think it’s impossible to do this fairly regularly. You’re actually restricted from doing this fairly regularly, unless you just sign one person each year.

  • Keep turnin over those rocks bucco’s scouts and thanks for the hard work.

  • Just another example of how Nutting has identified an area of weakness in the organization and made it a strength.

    Great job of explaining the complexities of the International FA market, Tim.

    • It was a great article, really getting deeply into the nuts and bolts of the Dominican Operation, and the number of scouts doing legwork in the International Market. I learned a lot about the control this Management team demands.

      I was waiting for someone else to comment on the statement that Alen Hanson “has the chance to start for the Pirates or another team at second base in the near future.” Nice pitch Tim. Will the Pirates risk trading away what seems to be the best leadoff prospect in the system at a time when that is a primary need?

      • The only reason I add that disclaimer is because Max Moroff is right behind him, and they’ve got a few options in the majors with Kang, Harrison, and Mercer capable of starting around the infield when Walker leaves. Not that they should trade Hanson. Just that they’ve got a lot of options.

  • PirateBall11
    July 8, 2015 4:37 pm

    Badler mentioned in one of his International articles that a higher-up in the Pirates’ Dominican scouting group lives in the Cibao region, which would corroborate the point that they can focus in pretty well on regions that other teams completely ignore. That’s a pretty sizable competitive advantage if a team is looking to operate on a budget.

  • Over/Under on how long until NMR brings a rebuttal to this article is set at 1 hour.

    • Come on, man. I like P2 way too much to wait an hour… 😉

      As for the article, pass me whatever you guys are smoking if *those* results justify the means.

      • Darkstone42
        July 8, 2015 5:58 pm

        I don’t know, those are pretty solid results. Polanco hasn’t even started hitting yet, and he’s still on pace to be a roughly-average all-around contributor thanks to his baserunning, in this his first full season. Marte is a legitimate star. Hanson’s just about ready, and his speed and defense alone should make him a useful Major Leaguer.

        But even so, it’s tough to truly assess this front office’s results in the international market since the oldest of these guys sign at 18. The front office wasn’t great in its first year or two in any respect, but they’ve since grown, I think, and adjusted their strategy according to what they saw worked and didn’t. Last year, this, and next should start giving us a pretty good idea of the effectiveness of this strategy, as Marte proves he’s not a flash in the pan, Polanco adjusts to the Majors, and Hanson gets his chance to debut, while the guys in the low minors develop and move up into the higher levels of the system.

        • This article does only mention the successes. Always gonna fail a lot when judging teens, so there are plenty of examples of guys they took that did nothing. And examples of guys that got top dollar and lived up to it.

          Last paragraph i agree with a lot. I think one hallmark of this FO has been their ability to realize where they are struggling and attack that area. Willing to change.

          • Darkstone42
            July 8, 2015 6:05 pm

            That’s every amateur talent source, though. Lots of guys who get drafted don’t work out. You take 40 players, sign 25-30 of them, and hope to get about one starting pitcher, one regular, and a few bench and bullpen guys who pop up and down between the Major League roster and AAA out of it. You sign, what, 10-20 guys in the international market? You’re probably hoping for two or three Major Leaguers out of that.

            There are obviously going to be a lot of failures. There will obviously be a lot more failures than successes. But the successes, even if rare, make the whole process worthwhile.

          • The advantage of the Pirates approach is that by spending the $ on the facility and scouting staff instead of bonuses for the players is that as long as you have enough successes to justify the fixed costs the “failures” really don’t cost much, as they would if a big bonus was given to a “failure”. The Pirates are saying that athletic talent is widely enough distributed in the Caribbean that as long as they find good athletes they can develop good baseball players.

            • Sure, they’re saying that.

              Thing is, they’ve yet to prove it.

              • Idk about that, that seems strong for a team that has 2/3rds of their starting OF from this process (or at very least the early outset of the process). I think its TBD if its continually something that keep working, but i think they have some proof that it can work

      • Tough placing the odds during a weekday workday. Was gonna sit at 30 minutes but ya never know.

        To the point, i see validity on both sides of this argument. I can see what you are pointing out, i can see why the team does what it does and values that. You know i lean the other way, mostly because i dont think there is a large difference between the top guy and a mid guy, showing the volatile nature of 17 year olds.

        • Truth be told, I don’t disagree with the Pirates strategy as much as I disagree with the logic justifying the means.

          First of all, I’m going to lay out my expectations. Can’t judge success or failure without first benchmarking what each actually means.

          From the start of the Huntington era, the underlying theme has been that the organization *must* successfully acquire *premium* talent through amateur acquisitions because they cannot afford to do so in free agency. That theme has driven the North American drafting strategy, and it only makes logical sense for it to extend to Latin America as well. They can afford to buy bench pieces and marginal regulars; no sense building an academy to pump those guys into the system as amateurs.

          Now for the judgement part of the equation…I’ll preface this by saying, as usual, that the most accurate grade would be “incomplete”, not a resounding yes or no. BUt as we stand today, the totality of the Pirates Latin American investments have resulted in one above average regular/borderline star in Starling Marte, one talented but massively struggling Major Leaguer in Polanco, and two guys in AAA who *realistically* profile as marginal regulars. Polanco may figure out how to tap into his power, hit lefties, and turn into a star himself. Hanson could drastically improve his defense, carry over his offensive production from AAA without seeing any dropoff, and replace Neil Walker as an average to slightly above second baseman. Elias Diaz could figure out how to hit and combine that with his defensive skills to be an average catcher.

          But most certainly not all of those things will happen. Maybe not any of them.

          Which now leaves us grading the effectiveness of this Pirates strategy with only one actual success, signed eight years ago.

          Saying definitively that the Pirates are so good at scouting and development that they don’t *need* to target the kids who the industry sees as top talents, in this context, is of course blatantly false and borderline silly.

          • “Which now leaves us grading the effectiveness of this Pirates strategy with only one actual success, signed eight years ago.

            Saying definitively that the Pirates are so good at scouting and development that they don’t *need* to target the kids who the industry sees as top talents, in this context, is of course blatantly false and borderline silly.”

            The problem I have with this is that it’s a very specific definition of success. If a player reaches the majors and becomes a star, he’s a success. Anyone else doesn’t count, even if they can’t be written off yet.

            That approach is fine, but it’s not consistent when you’re talking about saying they need to target guys with big bonuses. Because the guys signing right now haven’t had success either. They haven’t even seen a pitch.

            Also, big bonuses don’t equal talent. Look at how many big bonus guys have totally busted. In fact, here is the BA listing of the top 2009 guys: http://baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/international-affairs/2009/268478.html

            The notable guys from that top 25:

            Miguel Sano – Just reaching the majors, considered a top prospect

            Gary Sanchez – In AAA, also a top prospect

            Luis Sardinas – Bench guy in the majors, and mostly a Quad-A guy

            Cheslor Cuthbert – Arrived in the majors this year, but hasn’t done much yet. Also only a .710 OPS in AAA

            Jurickson Profar – Top prospect but injured the last two years

            Jorge Polanco – Brief time in the majors the last two years with some success, but still very young

            Out of 25 guys, you’ve got six players who have reached the majors. And the rest of the group has either washed out (some of them after a year or two in the DSL), or they’re organizational guys in A and AA.

            Of those six guys, none have had your definition of “success”. And there’s a reason for that. They’re all incredibly young. Most of these guys are 21-22 years old right now. They’re just to the point where they’re breaking in. If you’re wondering why Marte is the only success story so far for the Pirates in the majors, it’s because he was signed in 2006-2007, and has a few more years on these guys. This doesn’t mean that Polanco, Hanson, Garcia, Osuna, etc won’t be successful. It just means they haven’t been yet.

            At best, you’d be able to say that the results are incomplete, but that would be ignoring that the Pirates have landed a lot of talented players with a shot of reaching the majors. And you can’t ignore that, especially when arguing that they should spend more on individual players just to get that exact same chance.

            I’ll also note that in that same 2009-10 group above, the Pirates added Hanson, Osuna, and Willy Garcia, spending a combined $670,000 on the trio. They also added Polanco in April 2009, Joely Rodriguez in March 2009 and Elias Diaz in November 2008. That trio cost $225,000.

            So for less than $900,000, the Pirates landed Hanson, Osuna, Garcia, Rodriguez, Diaz, and Polanco. Those were the first two years with increased focus in the DR, and the results have been good so far, especially when you consider the huge bust rate for the top ranked guys. Granted, the Pirates have had some busts in those years. But the point here is finding talent, and the Pirates have managed to do that without spending big on individual guys.

            • Like I said, Tim, the most appropriate grade would be “Incomplete” because those guys are still young and haven’t had the chance to prove themselves. I left plenty of room for adjustment if some of these upper level guys do reach their upside.

              “I’ll also note that in that same 2009-10 group above, the Pirates added Hanson, Osuna, and Willy Garcia, spending a combined $670,000 on the trio. They also added Polanco in April 2009, Joely Rodriguez in March 2009 and Elias Diaz in November 2008. That trio cost $225,000.”

              This is just rehashing the same 2/3 actual decent prospects that you argued were the reason for saying the Pirates have been successful with this approach. The chances of Osuna, Garcia, and Rodriguez actually contributing are incredibly slim, and the chances of any of them being impact players is almost zero.

              As for the success rate of high-profile signings, I’m quite aware that they’re also risky and never insinuated otherwise. But it’s simply fact that a higher percentage of them do turn out to be impact players, and my argument all along has been that the Pirates should have a balanced approach, not dominant in one way or another. They aren’t anywhere close to being able to claim they don’t *need* to go after top talent. They just aren’t.

              • “They aren’t anywhere close to being able to claim they don’t *need* to go after top talent. They just aren’t.”

                I think we’re talking about two different things.

                I’m saying that bonus money doesn’t equal top talent, and that they can find top talent without spending.

                It appears you’re saying that they need to spend to get this top talent.

                • I’m saying that they most certainly have *not* been so successful at finding top talent that their process should be considered perfect.

                  Bonus money doesn’t *guarantee* top talent, but it absolutely does increase the odds. The percentage of seven figure guys who go on to become top prospects and successful Big Leaguers, while very risky, is still better than that of low-dollar players.

                  There’s room for *both* a low-dollar, throw a bunch at the wall and see if they stick prospects *and* specific seven-figure targets.

                  • “The percentage of seven figure guys who go on to become top prospects and successful Big Leaguers, while very risky, is still better than that of low-dollar players.”

                    Where did you see this information? Also, are you talking about one on one? Or are you talking about one guy for $1 M versus six guys getting paid a combined $1 M. Because I’ll take my chances with the six guys.

                    • There are maybe, what, 20 kids each year that get seven figure bonuses, right? That means the other few hundred kids signed are lower cost.

                      Ratio is extremely skewed towards the low cost guys.

                      Now take Top Prospect lists and successful Major Leaguers and look at the ratio of which ones were bonus babies and which weren’t.

                • Regardless, I respect your opinion and appreciate the conversation.

                  More than anything I hope to look back at this conversation in a year and be laughably wrong.

            • We’ve agreed before on the fact that the next two seasons will go a long way in determining exactly how successful the Pirates have been drafting and developing pitchers. If Glasnow and/or Kingham don’t finish their development and become successful Big League starters there’s really no way to argue that the Pirates entire over-slot prep pitcher strategy for the first half decade of Huntington’s tenure has succeeded.

              In a lot of ways, the same can be said for the first wave of LA talent as well.

          • I think that definition really creates a narrow field. As in, i think most of the upper level guys fail to meet that. And i see Tim just posted that in his response. Im late as usual. I think PIT has been more good than not at getting players in its system that contribute at some level and a few that were huge wins. Semi incomplete but with plenty of good outcomes.

            • This is where we fundamentally disagree.

              Getting guys into the system that contribute at some level but don’t turn into Major League contributors is like getting good grades in college but failing at your actual career.

              Going back to the original premise, the Pirates themselves have said all along they MUST succeed at developing premium talent internally. That’s THEIR definition of what success looks like. And every single one of us here has agreed.

              Is that a lofty, in your words “narrow” definition? Absolutely! But it’s simply what must be done in order to compete and any sort of extended period under the system MLB imposes on them.

              • Which is fine, but by that definition most teams actually do fail most of the time. I dont hate using that definition, but it means that a very large portion of the time all teams fail, because its more rare than usual for the high priced 17 year old to make it. PIT getting 2 guys to the bigs seem at least fairly competent in comparison.

                • Certainly is. And that’s the problem.

                  The Pittsburgh Pirates do not play in a fair league. Through no fault of their own, “fairly competent” simply will not get it done. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but it’s reality.

                  If their current process results only in relative competency, it must improve. They shouldn’t be settling.

                  • I think, if one assumes they have only been fairly competent, it has been enough to get it done to this point. I dont think they settle, but i dont think they havent done enough to be successful to this point. 2 starters out of that process in this length of time is good.

                    • You say “two starters” without qualifying that one is only a starter due to pedigree, not performance.

                      I’m as big of a Gregory Polanco fan as anyone, but a lot has to happen before anyone calls him a “success”.

                    • So now one has to not only make the majors, but play at a certain level before we deem it a Latin America signing success. Thats absurd to me. If the team is able to bring a guy from 16-18 years old and he make the bigs and contributes, thats a win! Yeah, he hasnt lived up to expectations or been a large value to this point. But his WAR is positive, his baserunning rates well, his defense rates decent. He is bringing value to the team, thats the point isnt it? Not “this high of performance” but value to the team.

                      He certainly hasnt been a large value, but im gonna go ahead and use him as one of the two because he plays in the bigs, and contributes. A lot has to happen before he is a ML success, but in terms of this draft he is more successful than some 95% of his counterparts.

                    • No, it’s not a success.

                      The Pirates have a finite amount of resources from which to build a championship club, and the premium players required to do so simply cannot be bought. They must be developed internally.

                      This is literally the central pillar of the entire Huntington administration.

                      If the result of Latin American acquisitions is nothing more than they could’ve easily gone out and acquired with plain money, it doesn’t get them any closer to that goal of building a championship club.

                      If the result of spending $10m+ on high school prep arms is a few relievers and a back end starter, that absolutely should be considered a failure even if they return positive WAR. There’s no reason to look at Latin America any differently.

                      They simply did not drop $5m on a state-of-the-art facility and invest so much more in scouting for the result to be marginal big league players they could’ve easily had in the first place. I can’t understand how one could argue differently.

    • I had visions of NMR smashing his laptop similar to the way Belushi destroyed the guitar in Animal House. There was also a 5% chance in my mind that Tim wrote this just to piss him off…….because I’m sure he has nothing better to do.

      • I actually wasn’t aware that NMR had such a strong opinion against this. I scanned the comments about a week ago when this discussion was taking place, but didn’t really read any specifics or see who was saying what.

        I did know before that discussion came up that I’d be writing this article. And I knew that it would lead to some people strongly disagreeing, no matter how well I thought I laid out my case. Of course, I assume that with every article.

        • I know you don’t write articles to spite people Tim. Keep up the good work.

  • Matthew Tutino
    July 8, 2015 4:22 pm

    Excellent article, sir.