Major League Baseball Draft: Nutting denies 'cheap' reports

Says Pirates chose Moskos in first round because he was player they wanted

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Among the factors that have annoyed Pirates fans relative to the team's drafting of Clemson left-hander Daniel Moskos with the fourth pick overall Thursday was this item on Baseballprospectus.com.

Kevin Goldstein wrote the day before the draft began: "The Pirates would like to take [Matt] Wieters, but a request submitted to ownership to spend big money was quickly denied."

Yesterday, Pirates ownership -- as did general manager Dave Littlefield Thursday -- emphatically denied that such an incident happened.

"Normally, I don't comment on internal discussions, but frankly that is absolutely not true," said Bob Nutting, the Pirates' chairman of the board. "That was not a discussion any of us had. I don't understand where stuff like that comes from."

"We took the player our baseball people wanted," said Kevin McClatchy, the organization's chief executive officer. "We're happy with the player we drafted. If our baseball people decide that's who they want, we go down that road. I knew who Dave wanted to take and I accepted his recommendation."

That player was Moskos, although it is quite likely the Pirates would have opted for high school third baseman Josh Vitters had he been available. Vitters, though, was picked by the Chicago Cubs with the third overall pick.

That left Moskos.

Wieters was not considered because the Pirates felt Wieters' adviser, super agent Scott Boras, had set an asking price that was far above the value the Pirates had placed on the much-hyped, switch-hitting Georgia Tech catcher.

That price could be a four-year major-league deal worth as much as $10 million. And the four years count as major-league service time -- whether Wieters is in the majors or not -- meaning at the end of those four years Wieters would need only two more years of service time to become a free agent.

"It is important to remember that the draft is relatively unsure," Nutting said. "It's high risk. That story plays out over and over again. I have more confidence in the opinions of Dave and [scouting director] Ed Creech than I do in the opinions of the media and agents and industry publications.

"I have much more faith in our people judging talent and judging talent that fits our needs."

Boras sometimes designates players as "special" and he tries to get -- and does get -- more than top dollar for them.

His track record, however, is not all that good in regard relative to major-league success.

Among those players Boras designated as "special" in recent years are pitchers Chad Hutchinson, Jeff Austin and Nick Stocks, who appeared in a combined total of 41 major-league games.

Catcher Dane Sardinha played in two major-league games.

There are four "special" players who have recognizable names -- J.D. Drew, Jeff Weaver, Brad Wilkerson and Mark Teixeira. Of those four, arguably, only Teixeira could be deemed a star.

"The draft is an inexact science," McClatchy said.

Consider that high picks Brien Taylor, Matt White and Travis Lee received a combined total of $21.75 million in signing bonuses, but only Lee played in the major leagues and was not a star.

Of course, the Pirates could miss on Moskos, too.

But for now?

"I think people should focus on the player we drafted," McClatchy said. "Our baseball people believe he has a promising future."

Moskos, however, did not have a good day yesterday.

He started for Clemson at Mississippi State in the first game of a best-of-three NCAA super regional. Moskos pitched superbly for the first four innings, working unscathed out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the third inning.

In the fifth, he yielded a game-tying two-run home run. And he didn't survive the sixth, which he and the Tigers entered with a 5-2 lead.

In what became an 8-6 Clemson loss, Moskos allowed nine hits, no walks and six runs (five earned) while striking out four in 51/3 innings.

Another loss in Starkville, and Clemson's season will end. That will leave Moskos, who probably will be initially used as a closer by the Pirates, free to negotiate his signing bonus, which likely will be in the neighborhood of $2.75 million.

There seems to be little question that Moskos, a junior, will sign.

"The [past few] weeks, it wasn't really a question of whether or not I was going to sign," Moskos said. "It was more a question of where I was going to go. I think it's time for me to start my professional baseball career."

"He wants to move on -- like most of our [draftees] have [in the past]," Clemson pitching coach Kevin O'Sullivan said.

The Pirates, too, no doubt would like to move on here.

"Sure you're conscious of it [media criticism] and aware of it [fan displeasure]," McClatchy said. "But I don't think you judge the success of a draft until about three or four years out. If this player turns out to be successful for the Pittsburgh Pirates, I think people will look back and say, 'This was a good draft.'

"It's just like with trades. You have to wait and see."

In the 20th round, the Pirates selected Brian Tracy, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-handed pitcher from the University of California Santa Barbara. Tracy is the oldest of manager Jim Tracy's three sons and the second to be drafted.

"I'm very proud of the fact that two of my three boys are getting a chance to play professional baseball," Tracy said.

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL DRAFT INSIDE: Local players who were drafted. Story, Page C-3.


Paul Meyer can be reached at pmeyer@post-gazette.com .


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