Vlad found a good quote from Neal Huntington on why the Pirates were unable to sign Miguel Sano, about whom there's been a lot of talk over the past few days. With all due respect, I think people who are still fixated on Sano specifically are missing the point. This is understandable, since the Pittsburgh media placed a great deal of emphasis on Sano, which they were right to do since he is a top talent and the Pirates apparently wanted him badly.
But still: let's say that Huntington's version of the story, in which he got screwed over by Sano's agent, is true. Heck, it probably is true. But Sano has hardly been the only Latin American amateur signed to a seven-figure bonus this offseason. The Yankees signed Gary Sanchez for $3 million, the Mariners got Guillermo Pimental for $2 million, the Red Sox got Jose Vincio for about $2 million, the Rangers signed Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas for $1.5 million each, and the Royals signed Cheslor Cuthbert for $1.2 million. The Pirates didn't sign any of those players, either. They were rumored to be in on Cuthbert, but they didn't get him.
In fact, we haven't yet heard of any major signings from Latin America this year. Not one. Now, there are a couple of mitigating factors: first, bonus figures on these players aren't always made public, so it could be that the paragraph after this one is much ado about nothing. Second, because of the risk involved in signing 16-year-olds, it might be a better strategy to give medium-sized bonuses to lots of players than to give out lots of money to just one. The mid-size bonuses the Pirates gave Exicardo Cayonez ($400,000), Jordaneli Carvajal ($350,000) and Jonathan Barrios ($250,000) in 2008 appear to be consistent with such a strategy, and I have no problems with what they did in Latin America in 2008.
What about 2009, though? So far we've heard about some Latin American signings. We've also heard about some creative talent finds in Lithuania, Australia and Taiwan. In total the Pirates made at least 43 international signings this year. But we haven't heard that any of them required much of an investment. Perhaps the Pirates have opened their wallets and we just haven't heard about it yet, but if not, then that's where I think the problem lies. Not with Sano specifically, but with the fact that the Pirates spent millions on this new Dominican academy and haven't taken significant (or, at least, obvious) steps this year to fill it with talent.
UPDATE: I just spoke to Dejan Kovacevic about this, and he told me he thinks the Pirates spent around their entire budget of $2 million, or maybe a bit more. There were 31 international signings, so that makes an average bonus of around $65,000, which means there are probably a couple signings in the range of Cayonez or Carvajal. We just don't know what they are yet.