Pirates Have Draft Adjustments To Make
New CBA will affect old strategies
PITTSBURGH—The Pirates aren't exactly Major League Baseball's biggest spenders, but they broke all the barriers of the draft over the past four years by running up a $48 million tab, more than any other team.
That was topped by a franchise-record $17 million last summer.
It's safe to say they ticked off a few of their peers in the process, judging by the recently signed labor pact's top priority being a soft cap on how much teams can spend beyond the recommended slots. But team president Frank Coonelly, who once enforced the system for MLB, insisted the Pirates weren't taking it personally.
"Is this everything the Pittsburgh Pirates hoped it would be? No," Coonelly said of the draft changes. "But we don't subscribe to the notion it was aimed at us. For one, this has been in the works a long time. For another, at the end of the day, if teams like the Yankees ever wanted to really flex their muscles in the draft, they could do it. This prevents that."
Most of the Pirates' draft money has gone to first-rounders Pedro Alvarez ($6.35 million), Jameson Taillon ($6.5 million) and Gerrit Cole ($8 million). But they also spent $5 million last June on second-round outfielder Josh Bell to coax him out of a college commitment and gave $1.2 million to righthander Clay Holmes, a ninth-round pick out of Slocomb (Ala.) High.
Given the imbalance in major league payrolls, the Pirates saw the draft as the primary—maybe the only—way they could acquire elite talent, especially pitching.
Coonelly expressed confidence that the Pirates' methods won't change much. "We'll continue to sign the players we draft," he said, while acknowledging that they weren't going to be an exception for long.
If anything, the Pirates knew significant change was coming and were more aggressive than ever in 2011 before the door closed.
• Calvin Anderson, a 6-foot-7 first baseman who played for high Class A Bradenton, had seven home runs in 32 games in the Australian Baseball League. He was batting .250/.287/.453.
• Lefthander Rudy Owens, coming off a disappointing 9-7, 5.05 showing with Triple-A Indianapolis, will be challenged to compete for a spot in Pittsburgh's rotation even though he has yet to pitch in the majors.