On Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced that 21-year-old Cuban shortstop Yolbert Sanchez has been cleared to sign. He will be eligible to sign on February 5th, but in the meantime, he will put on a showcase for teams in the Dominican according to MLB.com contributor Jesse Sanchez.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will most certainly be one of the teams in attendance during that showcase, as will most other teams. The intrigue with Yolbert Sanchez is that some scouts believe he is already Major League ready, especially on the defensive side, where he is considered to be above average. Before you get your hopes up though, there is a major obstacle for 29 teams in baseball.
Sanchez will be considered an international amateur signing and falls under the bonus pool rules, which limits what teams can give him as a bonus. If he looks MLB ready during this showcase, then the only thing stopping the Baltimore Orioles from signing him would be a desire to play somewhere else.
The Orioles have nearly $6,000,000 left in bonus pool space, while the second highest remaining bonus pool belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers at $1,400,000. In fact, the five highest bonus pools left after the Orioles couldn’t combine to match their total. The Orioles have expressed a desire to make a splash on the international side and this would be the easiest way to do that right now. Assuming he doesn’t mind Baltimore, then the only way a team could compete with the Orioles is if Sanchez waited until July 2nd to sign, when all of the bonus pools reset.
The main reason we brought this up is that Pirates Prospects has learned from an MLB source that the Pirates have $613,500 remaining in their 2018-19 international bonus pool. The only reason they have most of that money is that they acquired $500,000 in bonus pool space from the Chicago White Sox in the Ivan Nova deal,allowing them to spend a total of $6,004,500 from July 2, 2018 until June 15, 2019. The Pirates have spent $5,391,000 on 30 players so far this signing period.
Unless they acquire more money, then their offer to Sanchez would be about 10% of what the Orioles could potentially offer. At least six teams could offer Sanchez a bigger bonus amount than the Pirates right now.
That almost certainly means no Sanchez, though the Pirates still could make some signings of note before the June 15th deadline to sign players. We could hear about some minor international signing(s) very soon, so some of that remaining bonus pool money may already be set aside.
Our international signing tracker has been updated. Francisco Quintero is listed as pending now because his signing hasn’t been made official yet, despite him agreeing to his deal at the end of November (multiple sources at the time said he signed already). For what it’s worth, I haven’t heard that he won’t be signed, so I left him on the list.
One other note on the international side. The Pirates hired Domingo Moreno as a scout in Nicaragua yesterday. He has spent many years in the Nicaraguan league as a bullpen coach for Indios del Boer and this is his first scouting job. The Pirates recently signed 18-year-old pitcher Sergio Umana out of Nicaragua and last year’s top pitcher signed (Bryan Torres) also came from Nicaragua.