As much as the Pittsburgh Pirates have been the laughingstock franchise of Major League Baseball, one must admit, they could be really really good in the near future. Of course that would require the team to keep its star players and minor league talent once they reach the majors, but that’s for a different day.
Last night, the team signed first overall draft pick Gerrit Cole to a minor league contract and an $8 million signing bonus, slightly less than the eight figures agent Scott Boras was looking to get his client.
The soon-to-be 22-year-old becomes arguably the team’s best prospect. His ceiling is comparable to that of current top prospect Jameson Taillon, but Cole is further along in his development, giving him the slight nod in many rankings.
Cole’s Major League ETA is some time in 2013.
The bigger news of the night, however, was certainly the signing of second round pick Josh Bell.
Bell, an outfielder, was considered “unsignable” by many experts, having sent a letter to all 30 organizations stating he wouldn’t sign if drafted.
Bell ended up signing for a $5 million signing bonus, an MLB record for a player outside the first round. It was the fourth-largest bonus ever handed out by the Pirates, behind Cole ($8 m), Taillon ($6.5 m), and Pedro Alvarez ($6 m).
Bell instantly becomes the team’s top hitting prospect. He’s a switch hitter who should have good power from both sides of the plate. He will play either corner outfield position, though his lack of a great arm may put him in left field.
Bell will take longer to get to the Majors, projecting to arrive some time in 2015.
I need to run out the door right now so I can’t look up his stats, but he hit something like .500 this past season at his high school.
In the end, the Pirates spent $17 M on draft picks, setting a new MLB record. The previous record was the just under $12 M the Washington Nationals spent on last season’s draft.
Very encouraging stuff and, like I said, this team could be scary good in a few years.