First Pitch: Signing Non-Drafted Free Agents

Sports Illustrated had an interesting article about the Kansas City Royals signing many of the top non-drafted free agents. Three of the players noted that they chose the Royals because they take care of their players. The Royals came out before the draft and said they weren’t cutting any minor league players.

I’m sure that could factor in when you’re talking about players who are all getting the $20,000 maximum offer from teams and they have their pick of where to sign. It’s a good look for players, while the Pirates cutting 39 players right before the draft could be a bad look.

My first thought was that the cuts did look bad, but it also meant that there were openings in the system. Players get cut in the minors all of the time. In fact, the Royals cut minor league players in late February and mid-March, while the Pirates didn’t cut any players that early during spring. That was one of the reasons that they had so many cuts in June.

It’s possible that the cuts could be the reason that the Pirates only signed one NDFA player so far, though we don’t know how many they tried to sign either. One thing you can use for comparison is the other teams that made huge cuts in late May and early June.

The Arizona Diamondbacks made a huge amount of cuts and they have signed one player.

The Los Angeles Angels recently cut a large group of players, plus they cut a lot of staff. They haven’t signed an NDFA player.

Along with the Pirates, those are three great examples. However…

The Reds made a ton of cuts in early June and they have signed ten NDFA players.

The Texas Rangers, same thing. Large group of cuts recently, large group of NDFA signings.

The Yankees made huge cuts on June 1st and they’ve signed eight NDFA players, including two top ranked seniors, one being Elijah Dunham, who the Pirates drafted in 2019.

The Phillies have signed nine NDFA players, with four of them being ranked in BA’s top 500. They cut 24 players 12 days before the draft.

You can find more examples that support the article’s idea and more that go against it. A lot of teams cut a lot of players and they signed NDFA players. It could just be that some of those teams, such as the Angels, decided not to go after NDFA players. If they already made cuts, how would it look to pay multiple players $20,000 bonuses and put them on the payroll, when you’re getting rid of guys making $400 a week?

I think the article from SI tells you why those particular players signed with the Royals, but that’s it. The Phillies did just as well with the better available talent while cutting a large group of players. That goes completely against the article, so it’s tough to tell if the cuts by the Pirates had any effect.

** We will have at least four articles today, including the one you’re currently reading. If any news comes up, we will have more. The other scheduled articles for today are as follows:

This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History – Someone born on this date is basically remembered for one day.

Game Rewind – Coincidentally, this articles covers the one day the birthday boy is remembered for.

1979 Season Recap – Pirates look to extend their winning streak against the Giants


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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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