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Pirates Sign Luis Heredia

UPDATE: The deal is done. It's worth $2.6 million.

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Dejan Kovacevic writes that Luis Heredia is likely to sign with the Bucs today:

With everything I have heard the past day or so, coupled with what I experienced last week in Mexico, I would say that, barring some drastic change, it is expected that there will be an agreement executed rather quickly between the Pirates, Veracruz and the player. And that agreement most likely will be completed today.

Excellent - this will probably be the largest amount the Pirates have ever paid to a Latin amateur. 

Of course, we should expect the Pirates to be doing things like this. Joe Starkey has a column in the Trib this morning that's too aggressively worded for my tastes, but that nonetheless reminds us that spending big money in the draft and in the international market should be the default settings for the Pirates, particularly when their major league payroll is so low:

Don't be misled by the company line, aimed at critics who rip the Pirates for their puny payroll. It goes something like this: We've spent $31 million on the draft over the past three years, more than any team in baseball.

That sounds great. It also merits a two-word response:

So what?

... [C]onsider that the Boston Red Sox committed $12.55 million to two international prospects in the past 11 months — 19-year-old Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias and 23-year-old Cuban catcher Adalberto Ibarra.

Or consider this: The Central Division-leading Cincinnati Reds — situated in a Pittsburgh-sized market — recently committed more in a signing bonus to one prospect than the Pirates spent on all their players in this year's draft.

That's right, Cincinnati lavished 21-year-old Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman with a $16.5 million signing bonus as part of a six-year, $30.25 million contract.

Well, ok. Actually, Cuba is the one Latin American country where I don't particularly want the Pirates paying market value for prospects, due to their dicey histories in the U.S. If the Pirates want to avoid the Aroldis Chapmans of the world, that's fine with me. 

Starkey's broader point, though, is a reasonable one. While the Pirates have bumped up Latin American spending since Huntington and Frank Coonelly arrived, they haven't really made a splash there, watching as team after team has signed prospects to seven-figure deals. They were willing to pay for Miguel Sano, and I don't blame them for what ultimately happened with him and his agent, but there were several other prospects that year who went for a million bucks or more, and the only other one the Pirates were even linked to (at least that I'm aware of) was Cheslor Cuthbert, who went to the Royals.

Now, Pirates Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo actually prefers to spread money around to lots of players each year rather than going for big-ticket players, but I do think there's probably a reason why other teams liked guys like Cuthbert enough to spend seven figures on them. If the Pirates do sign Heredia, it'll be a very good thing, and a big improvement over years past, but I do think it's the sort of thing they should be doing more often than once in a blue moon. Latin America and the draft the only clear places where the Pirates can still get impact talent at reasonable prices.

The Pirates had a great draft this year - don't get me wrong. I'm as happy as anyone to have Stetson Allie hanging out at PNC Park (even if he did give two-word answers to all of his interview questions on the game broadcast last night). And Luis Heredia will be a great addition to the organization. But the Pirates have to get these sorts of things right in order to compete. To the Bucs' credit, they've had three straight good drafts. And if they get Heredia, they'll add (what appears to be) a top-flight Latin American talent to that haul. But our impulse shouldn't be to congratulate the Pirates. Instead, we should say, "Great. Now do it again next year."