Pirates close to deal with Colombian shortstop

But first day of international signing period quiet otherwise

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The Pirates did not announce any acquisitions as Major League Baseball's international signing period began yesterday, but they expect to have one of the top prospects in Latin America under contract soon.

They were negotiating yesterday on the final details of a signing bonus for Jonathan Barrios, a 16-year-old shortstop out of Colombia who made the final top-25 lists of two publications. Barrios was the star talent at an academy in his homeland called Prospect Sport, owned and operated by Chicago White Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera.

"We feel pretty good about getting it done," general manager Neal Huntington said yesterday of signing Barrios.

Without divulging names, Huntington said the Pirates could sign one more player soon, as well as a handful of others within the annual signing period that ends Aug. 20.

Last year, previous management signed five players during this period -- pitchers Sandobal Septimo and Emmanuel DeLeon, and infielders Melvin Charles and Edwin Yasme of the Dominican Republic, and pithcer Raul Ruiz of Venezuela -- a number slightly below the industry average. No goal has been set for a number this year, but Huntington reiterated that the bonus budget for Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo was increased.

"We feel we'll be very competitive and allow Rene get the player that he and his scouts want," Huntington said.

Do not expect any signing close to the record-setting $4.25 million bonus the Oakland Athletics paid yesterday to 6-foot-7 right-hander Michel Inoa, a 16-year-old Dominican. That, plus some above-the-norm spending by San Diego, were the highlights of the first day of international signings. The Padres opened their new Dominican academy in April.

The Pirates' new academy there will be complete next summer.


Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com.


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