The Pittsburgh Pirates have a decision to make that will impact their future...should they sign Dominican wiz Miguel Angel Sano to a rich contract...he is described as Albert Pujols in Hanley Ramirez's body...however, Sano is only 16-years-old...Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dejan Kovacevic writes about the Pirates dilemma...
The Pirates' pursuit of Miguel Angel Sano, an elite 16-year-old Dominican prospect who projects to play right field, is fraught with risk whether they sign him or not.
Looking at three risks from each side, let us start with those that come with signing him:
• Most obvious is money. Sano could command a bonus of $4 million or more, which is 10 times greater than the Pirates' record investment in the region, the $400,000 paid to Venezuelan outfielder Exicardo Cayones last year. Few things are less predictable in sports than a 16-year-old baseball player, and it is far from certain Sano would ever see Pittsburgh.
• An excessive bonus could tick off the rest of Major League Baseball, just as the Oakland Athletics did last year with their record $4.25 million bonus for Dominican pitcher Michael Inoa. The draft and Latin American systems operate mostly through unwritten, unspoken agreements that teams should not throw out the entire pay scale, and low spenders such as the Pirates benefit from that more than anyone.
• The Pirates spent $9.8 million on the draft, $2 million on Latin America last year., each a franchise record. If they shift too much draft money to Latin America, they could damage their draft class, something that should be a great priority. Unless, of course, ownership adds money to the overall pool.
Among the risks of not signing Sano:
• The Pirates' talent evaluators, who are effusive in their praise of Sano's potential, could become dispirited. Signing talent in Latin America is much like recruiting college athletes in the United States. Connections are made, including with the athletes' families, and countless hours are invested beyond simply watching the players play. The Pirates have forged a bond with Sano, his family and his representatives, but none of that will matter without a check.
• The Pirates will stop getting special tryouts in the Dominican. The system on the island is that teams known to sign elite talent will get exclusive looks at top players. Such was the case when the Pirates' brass -- already in the country because of the opening of the team's new academy -- watched Sano and 14 other players in a workout late last month. Other teams have been denied such access, and that could happen to the Pirates, too, if they never step up beyond $400,000.
• If Sano really does become "Albert Pujols in Hanley Ramirez's body," as agent Rob Plummer described his potential the other day, the Pirates will regret it for years to come should it take place in another uniform and he could have been had for the same price it took to sign free-agent bench players Eric Hinske and Ramon Vazquez.
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