First Pitch: Ben Cherington Maximized His Trade Chips on the International Front

In a summer where the Pittsburgh Pirates clearly weren’t going anywhere, and yet had very few trade pieces, give General Manager Ben Cherington credit for maximizing long-term potential value in a creative way.

Cherington dealt Jarrod Dyson to the Chicago White Sox for international pool space as the lone deadline deal. He then traded minor leaguers Domingo Robles and Connor Loeprich to the Cardinals and Orioles, respectively, getting international pool space in each deal.

By our records, Cherington has traded for at least $1.5 M in additional bonus pool space. The other shoe for the recent trades dropped yesterday, when the Pirates announced the signing of Taiwanese pitcher Po-Yu Chen, who received a $1.25 M bonus. That puts the Pirates over $6 M in known bonuses paid, and they’ll likely end up just shy of $8.5 M in total spending this year, which will surely rank as one of the most expensive classes in the league after all of the trades for additional pool space.

For information on every player the Pirates have signed during this period, including info on Chen, check out John Dreker’s international signing chart.

All of these guys are a long way from the majors, and the odds of any single international signing making it are slim, regardless of bonus size. That’s why you want to have as many signings as possible, to increase the odds that one of these guys will make it through to the big leagues.

There was very little that Cherington could do to upgrade the farm system with what he had to work with at the trade deadline. This approach puts things entirely in the hands of his system. It allowed him to potentially sign players with upsides higher than what the Pirates could get for a guy like Jarrod Dyson in a straight up trade. Now it will be up to the development system to turn these guys into legit prospects.

The big question is whether Cherington can exceed the results that Neal Huntington saw on the development front. Cherington was hired too late last offseason to overhaul the development system, and seems to already be working on this task with the reassignment of Larry Broadway and other recent personnel moves. Because he’s so early into this process, it’s impossible to say whether the results will be better.

I will say that in all of the conversations I’ve had so far with prospects this year, the consensus is that the Pirates are implementing analytics and new technology more this year than in previous years — when those approaches would largely be reserved for MLB players and only available on an optional basis for prospects. So there already have been some changes, and those changes are welcome to try and get the Pirates up to speed with the rest of the league. We’ll see what changes come in the 2021 season.

Today’s discussion question: What are your thoughts on the international signings the Pirates have made under Cherington?

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