As expected, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed first overall pick Gerritt Cole before Monday’s deadline. Cole, arguably, is one of the best talents in the draft and will provide the organization another potential front-of-the-rotation starter to develop for the future. The team actually got a steal on him — even though his $8 million signing bonus was a team record, that amount actually is lower than the $10 million (or more) bonus most projected him to receive. Moreover, considering Scott Boras is his agent, it was assumed the pricetag would be even higher.
But the biggest caveat of Cole’s deal is the team somehow managed to get him on a minor-league contract. That is huge because it allows the team to control him for a much longer period of time than if they had signed him to a major-league contract. It allows them time to develop him and not have to carry the burden of paying him a salary above his skill level, which should in turn keep the team from rushing him to the majors to receive payback on its investment. Should Cole stay in the organization for the maximum time his contract allows, he won’t be a free agent until 2024. You can find a full breakdown of his contractual timeline here.
The team’s defeat of Boras plays second fiddle to the biggest surprise of the Pirates’ draft though — the signing of outfielder Josh Bell. Bell has enough talent to make him a top-10 pick, a top-five position player, and arguably the top outfield prospect in the 2011 draft. He has outstanding home run potential from both sides of the plate. (Jason Heyward is the most likely comparable player).
Bell dropped to the Pirates with the 60th pick because he also was considered to be the most unsignable player in the draft. He had made it clear to every team he intended to honor his commitment to the University of Texas and no amount of money would persuade him otherwise. The Pirates thought they could sign him once they showed him what the organization was about and where it was going and took the risk; $5 million later, he was theirs. The bonus represents the largest given to a second-round player, as well as the fourth largest in team history (behind Cole, Jameson Taillon and Pedro Alvarez).
True to their recent ways, the Pirates spent whatever amount of money was needed to add immense depth to their organization. Cole projects as a top-notch starter, and Bell finally provides them with a legitimate power bat to develop for the future. On top of those two, the team also was able to sign pitcher Clay Holmes, a ninth-round selection who was rated the 76th best prospect in the draft by Baseball America. Overall, the Pirates signed their top 10 selections, 24 of 50, and spent more than $17 million in this draft, topping the previous MLB record set by the team last year.