Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton delivers during the first inning of the first game of yesterday's doubleheader at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CHICAGO -- Rene Gayo, the Pirates' Latin American scouting director, did not sound discouraged yesterday, less than 24 hours after losing out on top Dominican prospect Miguel Angel Sano to the Minnesota Twins.
"I can't deny that it's a bad feeling to lose the player. Congratulations to the Twins. They got a really good player," Gayo said. "But life and baseball go on. Turn the page. We have a lot of great players in Latin America, and we've got more coming."
Gayo acknowledged anew that he felt very highly about Sano's potential -- he recently called him the best prospect he ever had seen -- but added that the Pirates might be able to benefit from the experience.
"There's been a great commitment to Latin America from Bob Nutting," Gayo said, referring to the Pirates' owner. "He built a $5 million academy, and he authorized us to go after one of the big-money players down here. That stuff wasn't happening before. But now we know we can go after these types of players in the future, and that means a lot to our whole scouting staff."
Minnesota signed Sano for a $3.15 million bonus, and the Pirates' final offer was for $2.6 million. By all accounts, it was not the gap that did in the Pirates so much as a clash of personalities between Sano's agent, Rob Plummer, and the Pirates' two point men, general manager Neal Huntington and Gayo. The Pirates never were given a chance to match or exceed the Twins' offer, and their palpable anger the past two days strongly suggests they might have done so.
More on Sano
All of Sano's bonus will be paid up-front. The Pirates' final offer was to be paid over three installments, aimed at protecting the team in case anything negative about Sano came up over the next two years. That was a major sticking point for Plummer.
Also, before Sano can join the Twins, he must get a visa from the U.S. Consulate in the Dominican, a body that now will conduct its own investigation of his identity and age. Major League Baseball's investigation this summer confirmed his identity but left his age as "undetermined." Sano claims to be 16. If he is caught lying, his contract with Minnesota will be voided, and he again will be a free agent.
Sano spoke with Minneapolis reporters yesterday, and he said this regarding the Pirates, with Plummer translating: "People were expecting the amount to be over $4 million, and people assumed that I was just going to sign with Pittsburgh. My dream was to play baseball. ... It was not so much about the money. I'm just glad I signed with the Twins.''
Chicago reliever John Grabow, formerly of the Pirates, can be a free agent after this offseason, but word here is that the Cubs will make a strong push to sign him to a multiyear contract.
If Grabow reaches free agency, the Pirates would have interest. Even then, the Cubs could cause Grabow to be a Type A free agent by offering him salary arbitration. From there, any team signing him would have to give up a second-round draft pick, something the Pirates would not do.
• Shortstop Ronny Cedeno, out with two injured hamstrings, still is not allowed to run, and it is increasingly unlikely he will play in the final four games.
• The Pirates still have no starter for their finale Sunday, as management mulls whether to send struggling Kevin Hart back to the mound.
• No games will be televised in Pittsburgh the rest of the season.