Pirates, top pick Alvarez negotiating
Bucs remain hopeful of signing No. 2 overall selection
PITTSBURGH -- With just over 48 hours until Friday's midnight ET deadline to sign players selected in June's First-Year Player Draft, Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez and the Pirates remain at an impasse.
Alvarez, his agent Scott Boras, and the Pirates have remained mum on the specifics of the ongoing negotiations. However, a few weeks ago, Pirates president Frank Coonelly admitted to being "frustrated" by the lengthening negotiation process and the apparent disagreement on an appropriate signing bonus.
Indications are that little has changed since then.
The dynamic of these negotiations is interesting. On the one side, you have the Pirates, who have traditionally adhered to recommended bonuses, a practice known as slotting. Handing out bonuses over slot hasn't been the norm for the organization, but they have also tended to draft players considered to have signability issues.
On the other side of the equation is Boras, who has never shied away from making exorbitant bonus demands and has seemingly done so in this case, as well.
While the Pirates' preliminary offers are unknown, Coonelly has said that the organization is not going to overpay on what they believe to be a more-than-fair bonus offer to Alvarez. Their offer is almost certainly above slot.
"We are extraordinarily interested in signing Pedro Alvarez, but we're not going to give all that money to a player who has yet to take a swing in professional baseball," Coonelly said. "Instead of throwing all that money at one player, that money can be more efficiently used."
Despite the stall in negotiations, Alvarez, who is the highest remaining first-round pick yet to sign, and the Pirates would seem to benefit from resolving their disagreement by Friday.
New management promised not to shy away from drafting who they deemed to be the best player in the Draft because of signability issues. However, facing the fan backlash should they not come to an agreement with Alvarez is likely not the direction they want to take.
If the Pirates don't sign Alvarez, they would be compensated with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. However, though they would have the high pick, the Pirates would also lose negotiating leverage with the compensation pick. Should the organization take that route, it would have to sign that No. 3 pick next year, or else it would lose it entirely. There is no compensation pick for an unsigned compensation pick.
Of course, running into another Boras client high in the Draft next year is always a possibility.
For Alvarez, should he decide not to sign, the third baseman can return to Vanderbilt for his senior season. However, doing so would also cost him leverage in next year's Draft as well since his college eligibility would be exhausted.
In short, while both sides seem to still be fairly far apart in terms of bonus and maybe even contract expectations right now, a deal is still likely to get done. However, the fact that negotiations have already extended past the two-month mark means that a deal likely won't be finalized until late on Friday.
"Given the discussions with his representative, the thought is that the best deal is going to come in those final minutes before the deadline," Coonelly said.
Alvarez isn't the only drafted player that the Pirates are deep in negotiations with. Four of their top 10 picks have yet to be signed, and general manager Neal Huntington said on Tuesday that, "we certainly hope to [sign] several key players" before the end of the signing period.
Second-round pick Tanner Scheppers has been in Pittsburgh for medical evaluations and threw in front of management on Tuesday. How his visit went will determine the degree to which the organization pushes to sign the Fresno State right-hander.
Robert Grossman (sixth-round pick) and Andrew Gagnon (10th) are the other top 10 picks still unsigned.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.