Pirates lose out on Dominican prospect to Twins

Sano agrees to $3.15 million bonus after agent, Pirates drift apart

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CHICAGO -- The Pirates yesterday lost out on top Dominican prospect Miguel Angel Sano, who agreed to terms with the Minnesota Twins on a $3.15 million signing bonus, the highest for any Latin American position player.

Sano, a 6-foot-3 shortstop/outfielder widely regarded as the top amateur talent in Latin America, will sign his contract later this week, agent Rob Plummer said.

"You know, I feel like I was in touch with the Pittsburgh fans on this, from reading the blogs and message boards, and I feel bad for them," Plummer said. "Sano could have been a Pirate. And when the fans see the figure Miguel signs for, they'll know that."

Plummer made clear that his relationship with the Pirates, particularly general manager Neal Huntington and Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo, became frayed during the process.

The Pirates were the only team to make an offer -- $2 million -- when the July 2 international signing period began. They raised that to $2.6 million a month ago, the latter payment to be split in three parts. Then, there were no talks in the past three weeks.

What happened?

Plummer had asked all teams for more time because he wanted to sort through Sano's visa and age issues -- a Major League Baseball investigation called his age "undetermined" despite Sano's claim of being 16 -- but the Pirates remained aggressive, including regular contact with Sano and his family at their Dominican home. That displeased Plummer, who preferred that all negotiating go through him.

Gayo desperately wanted to sign Sano, a player he recently described as the best prospect he has seen in a lifetime of scouting. By all accounts, he succeeded in getting close to Sano and his mother, but Sano's baseball coach remained deeply loyal to Plummer, as did the family, ultimately.

Through it all, each side expressed strong distrust in the other.

"I think contracts are made entirely of relationships, that people should have a comfort level," Plummer said. "Things fell apart because Pittsburgh never believed I had other teams interested in Miguel. I gave Neal every opportunity to sign Miguel for a reasonable amount, but he was afraid he was bidding against himself. When he sees the signing, he'll see that."

Huntington initially declined comment because Minnesota has yet to make an announcement, but he made a statement last night.

"We were aggressive in our attempts to sign Miguel Sano," Huntington said. "We made an aggressive offer on July 2 but were told by the agent that they were not prepared to negotiate. Per our standard practice, we remained in contact with the player and the agent throughout the summer. In an effort to expedite the process, we made a second offer of significantly higher dollars. We were again told by the agent that he was not prepared to negotiate, but we left those conversations with a clear understanding that the agent would contact the Pirates when he was prepared to begin."

Plummer said last night he promised to call Huntington when he was ready to negotiate, but not necessarily when he had an offer he liked.

"Miguel Sano has apparently agreed to terms with another organization without his agent engaging the Pirates in legitimate negotiations," Huntington continued. "While we are disappointed in the process and outcome, we wish Miguel nothing but success in his future."

Plummer said early yesterday that, even if the Pirates had come back with more money, he would not have signed with them because of his agreement with Minnesota and because he appreciated how the Twins dealt with him.

Sano, in a conference call, predicted a rapid ascent.

"I'm very thankful to get this chance to sign with the Twins," Sano said. "I'm going to work very hard to try to get to the majors in two years."

Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog . Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com .


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