The Pittsburgh Pirates can spend more than any other team on amateur talent over the next year.
Baseball America released the details of the upcoming bonus pools, and the Pirates have the biggest bonus pools on the draft and international sides.
The Pirates have the first pick in the draft after finishing the 2020 season with the worst record in baseball. That will award them the choice of Vanderbilt pitchers Kumar Rocker, Jack Leiter, or perhaps an alternative if they don’t go the pitching route.
The first overall pick comes with a slot value of $8,415,300, which helps boost the Pirates’ overall spending pool to $14,394,000. The Pirates also have the 37th and 64th picks, which both have slot amounts over $1 M.
It will be interesting to see how the Pirates handle having the first overall pick and the biggest bonus pool. I expect them to spend every cent. That said, they could get creative in the way they go about doing that.
We’ve seen teams in the past take the direct approach of selecting the best overall player with the first pick. In the MLB draft, there’s not a huge difference between the best and the guys in the next few picks. The odds of Rocker, Leiter, or any other first overall candidate busting are so high that none of them should be seen as guaranteed picks for the spot.
Other teams have taken advantage of this, opting to go the signability route with the first pick. Taking the third best player with the first pick doesn’t sound great by itself, but if it allows you to upgrade your 37th and 64th overall picks into first rounders, it’s worth it.
Essentially, if you signed the first rounder for $2 M less than slot (which I think you could do by selecting the third or fourth best player), you could increase the slot amount of the next two picks by a million each. That allow you to take someone from the upper 20s range with the 37th pick, and someone from the 37th range with the 64th pick.
There are a lot of ways the Pirates could get creative, and I don’t think Ben Cherington will be locked into making a public pressure pick. That’s an advantage he has over Neal Huntington, who probably would have seen PNC Park burned to the ground if he took Buster Posey over Pedro Alvarez in 2008. Cherington has more leeway, meaning that he’s not locked into the pressure of Rocker or Leiter.
The draft will also be limited to 20 rounds this year, which makes sense as MLB is trimming down the sizes of minor league rosters.
On the international side, the Pirates have $6,262,600 to spend in their next bonus pool, which is the highest amount. That signing period is expected to start next January, similar to the start of the current signing period this year. The Pirates made a big splash on the first day, giving outfielder Shalin Polanco a bonus of over $2 M, which set a record for them for position players.
With over $20 M to spend on amateur talent, and the ability to get creative in doing so, the Pirates should be able to add plenty of talent to boost their farm system in the next year.