The Pirates have set their sights on shortstop Miguel Angel Sano, who's supposed to be one of the better talents to emerge from the Dominican recently. Since the Post-Gazette is running a big article on it, it's probably legit. Sano's bonus could be over $3 million, so, as Dejan Kovacevic points out on his blog, signing Sano could be an even bigger deal than whoever the Pirates pick in the June draft, since the draft isn't exactly loaded with talent this year.
Obviously, there are big differences between signing a 16-year-old Dominican kid (and the Pirates ran a DNA test that confirmed that Sano is, in fact, 16) and drafting a player out of college or even high school. There's an enormous amount of uncertainty in signing a 16-year-old, simply because he can't just skip the lowest rungs of the minor league system the way a promising draftee can. For example, the A's signed Michael Inoa out of the Dominican for $4.25 million last year, and he hasn't even played in the minors yet. If you're a fan of a team who signs someone like Sano, you just have to forget about him for a while, because he won't be anywhere near the majors anytime soon. But Sano is so young, and apparently so talented, that one can imagine anything is possible.
The Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates have the "inside track" on Sano--he's worked out for them privately, and he and his agent are close with Pirates Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo. In the past, the Pirates haven't paid multimillion-dollar bonuses (or anything near them) for Latin American amateurs, but Gayo's increased budget for Latin signings last year, the recent opening of an improved Dominican academy for Pirates prospects, and a thin June draft all suggest that a serious play for Sano could be possible. The Pirates spent a ton of money on the draft last year and have said they won't be cheap this year, but since there isn't a Pedro Alvarez to soak up a $6 million bonus, it's possible they'll have extra money left over if their draft budget is the same or has increased.
I know nothing about Sano that the P-G and random Googling haven't told me, so I have no idea whether he's worth $3 or $4 million or if that money might be better spent on signability players late in the draft (like Robbie Grossman and Quinton Miller last year). I do know there's a tremendous amount of uncertainty involved in signing a 16-year-old for that much money, but I also know this is no time for the Pirates to be conservative. Bold moves will be needed to fix a franchise that still lacks the talent base it needs to contend, and signing Sano would be nothing if not bold. That's not the same as saying it would be the right move, but it sure would be exciting.