The Pirates yesterday signed Colombian shortstop Jonathan Barrios, one of the top 25 prospects in Latin America according to two publications.
No financial terms were available for the bonus, but it might rank as the highest in franchise history for an international amateur. That would not take much: In an era where seven-figure bonuses for prospects in this category are becoming common in Major League Baseball, the Pirates are known to have signed only one player -- possibly two -- to six figures.
Management this year installed a sizable increase in the international budget after years of culling next to nothing from the fertile talent pool in Latin America. It also is building a $5 million academy in the Dominican Republic, set to open next summer.
Barrios, 16, is 5 feet 10, 180 pounds, a stocky size for a shortstop, but he is seen as having a chance to grow and could stay at the position. He was universally recognized as Colombia's top prospect after excelling at a camp owned and operated by Chicago White Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
No decision has been made as to where Barrios will be assigned this year, but he is a prime example of the type of prospect the Pirates will want to train at their Dominican academy when it opens.
Two teams are believed to have offered Barrios more money since the international signing period began Wednesday, but Orlando Covo, the Pirates' new scout in Colombia, knew Barrios -- and his family -- since he was 12, and that apparently made the difference. Covo's addition doubled the Pirates' scouting presence in Colombia.
The signing period runs until Aug. 20, and it is likely the Pirates will have several other signings completed soon.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com .