Bucs still working to sign Draft picks

The Pirates’ approach in this summer’s First-Year Player’s Draft was transparent: go after some hard-to-sign players coming out of high school in those early rounds, offer them above-slot money and try and persuade them to forego college commitments.

It’s a strategy that the organization employed last season and had some success with. There is still internal optimism that there will be noted success with this strategy this year as well, but it appears that the Pirates are running into some external obstacles.

The Commissioner’s Office frowns on clubs that offer above-slot money. The Commissioner’s Office cannot stop teams from dishing out the signing bonus it wants, but it certainly can put pressure on clubs not to do so and can fine organizations that don’t follow a designed procedure before handing out above-slot money.

Apaprently, the Pirates now find themselves stuck in this process.

“We’ve continued to be respectful of Major League Baseball and the process that they’ve put in place,” GM Neal Huntington said. “We’ve hit a little bit of a wall in terms of getting our tougher signs through that process. We’re losing a little bit of momentum because we’re being held up. But we still feel optimistic we’re going to be able to get these deals done. It’s going to cost us some dollars, and those dollars may end up costing us another player that we can’t sign, but we’re trying to work through the process appropriately.

“They can’t stop us from doing it, but there is a process we’re trying to be respectful of.
When we sign a player for above-slot dollars, it does have an affect industry-wide and that’s the Commissioner’s concern.”

The Pirates have so far signed all four of the picks that they took in the first three rounds. They’ve also signed ninth-rounder Brock Holt. But that still leaves six players taken in the first 10 rounds left unsigned.

Of those six, five — Zackry Dodson (fourth round), Zachary Von Rosenberg (sixth), Trent Stevenson (seventh), Billy Cain (eighth) and Joseph Schoenfeld (tenth) — fall in the category of being high school players that the Pirates are trying to woo away from college. All but Schoenfeld are pitchers, and all are expected to command above-slot bonuses in order to consider signing.

The Pirates have given themselves plenty of flexibility in terms of options so that if they are unable to sign a targeted player, they can reallocate that money to other players. But with this type of approach, the Pirates need to start signing players well in advance of the Aug. 17 midnight deadline so that they can have time to distribute their money as desired.

“Typically, the players have believed that if you wait until 11:59 that you get more money,” Huntington said, explaining this need for expediency. “Because of our process this year, because we have give ourselves so many options, we’re not just locked in to one or two or three or four players. We need to move before the deadline because we can’t be held hostage by any single player. We’re getting at a point where we need to move.”

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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