The Pirates yesterday signed their first-round draft pick, Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez, with a snap: He accepted $2.475 million, exactly 10 percent below Major League Baseball's slot recommendation, as teams are being advised to cut back in light of the sagging economy.
Another scenario could have been much more complicated.
The Pirates had developed a plan, owner Bob Nutting said yesterday at Sanchez's PNC Park news conference, to sign either of the two players they rated higher than Sanchez -- San Diego State University pitcher Stephen Strasburg and University of North Carolina outfielder Dustin Ackley -- had they fallen to No. 4 overall. Alas, Washington took Strasburg, and Seattle selected Ackley.
"I asked if we were prepared to take Strasburg or Ackley, as they were the top two on our board, and there's no question we would have signed them," Nutting said. "We had that discussion, and we were prepared to do it, prepared to adjust as needed. Now, given our level of preparation, we had a sense that was not likely to happen. But we were ready if it had."
Strasburg, the wunderkind with the 103-mph fastball, is expected to seek $40 million or more from the Nationals, so such a commitment by the Pirates -- or anything close to it -- would have been unprecedented. Strasburg is represented by Scott Boras, the same agent who dueled with the Pirates for two months last summer over Pedro Alvarez.
Would all that have been weighed?
"Well, I think it would have been an interesting negotiation," Nutting said.
"We have excellent, competent people on our side, and I don't think we would have been overmatched heading into a tough negotiation. We would have come up with something rational. But no, we wouldn't have backed away from either of those two players."
Sanchez 'so fortunate'
Sanchez, given a tour of the stadium and city before the news conference, expressed delight at joining the Pirates.
"I'm so fortunate to be here," he said. "I can't wait to get going, to play in this beautiful ballpark. It's all surreal. Ten days ago, I never would have thought this would be possible."
Neither did many others, given that most national publications rated Sanchez 25th or lower on their draft boards.
Did that bother him?
"I never really give myself too much credit. I never worry about what other people write. I just look at myself and what I can do. I would have been surprised if I was taken in the first round. That's just who I am."
Sanchez will be assigned immediately to extended spring training in Bradenton, Fla., then to Class A West Virginia June 25.
Management praised Sanchez as someone who could contribute on and off the field.
"Above and beyond Tony's abilities are his leadership traits," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He's the kind of player championship teams are built around."
"Tremendous kid," scouting director Greg Smith said. "In all the time we spent with him, we just became more and more impressed."
Reliever Tyler Yates had tests performed on nerves running through his ailing right elbow, and nothing amiss turned up.
His ligament continues to appear sound.
Starter Charlie Morton did light running to test his hamstring and remains, tentatively, on track to pitch Tuesday in Minneapolis.
• The Minnesota Twins have turned serious about elite Dominican prospect Miguel Angel Sano, joining the Pirates and Baltimore Orioles in that regard.
• The Pirates signed right-handed pitcher Tyler Herron, St. Louis' first-round pick in 2005, as a minor league free agent and assigned him to Class AA Altoona.
• Detroit's lineup included Mt. Lebanon's Don Kelly in left field. He was called up the previous night.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .