The Pirates are believed to have made their first formal offer for elite Dominican prospect Miguel Angel Sano, but the Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins and perhaps more teams also are in the mix.
Terms of the Pirates' offer were not known.
Today marks the opening of Major League Baseball's international signing period, though teams and players were free to reach informal agreements beforehand.
Sano, a 16-year-old third baseman described by some Latin American scouts as the top player available, is not believed to be close on either count. One reason is that MLB has yet to complete its investigation into his age, something the Pirates did independently last month to their satisfaction. Another reason is that there is no real deadline for Sano or any player to sign, in particular when he might benefit by waiting for the investigation to bolster his value.
The Pirates' Latin American budget remains $2 million, though general manager Neal Huntington acknowledged it could be expanded in a special circumstance. In addition to Sano, the Pirates also are known to be pursuing a top Dominican pitcher, though his identity was not divulged.
Sano's price might end up topping the record $4.25 million bonus the Oakland Athletics gave Dominican pitcher Michael Inoa last year. If so, the Pirates almost surely will not compete in the bidding at that level.
Recent offers for the top remaining Dominicans have been in the $3 million range, a significant leap even from last year.
"We've seen all the players who have agreed for $300,000 or more and, in almost every case, the dollar value went well above our internal value on the player," Huntington said. "The Inoa signing has dragged talent that had been in the six-figure marks last year to seven figures this year."
Still, Huntington said, "We expect we're going to do very well with the players we're pursuing."
Players outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico can be signed as free agents once they turn 16 years old.