— It’s already been discussed a bit here, but MLB came down on the Braves like a ton of bricks. Atlanta lost the bulk of two highly regarded international signing classes, can’t sign anybody on that front for more than $10,000 in the 2019-20 period (they’re already under restrictions up through that time), and lost their 3rd round pick in the next draft. Also, John Coppolella got banned for life, not that anybody was likely to employ him anyway. A lot of the dozen prospects who were “freed” are highly regarded and will be subject to a signing process that more or less falls within the international signing guidelines that already exist. Teams may, however, be able to move pool money around between signing periods to sign the former Braves players. Details are here, here and here.
Whether this means anything for the Pirates is open to question. Although the signing pool process will roughly be the same, the scouting process won’t. These players are pros now and the decision whether to go after any of them wouldn’t necessarily rest with Rene Gayo, if he was still around. Logically, the Pirates should have had scouts, or at least coaching staff, see these guys in the GCL and DSL. I obviously have no idea how the Pirates will handle the decision whether to pursue any of them, or whether they’ll be interested at all. They have $2.26M left out of this year’s pool money. They may already have plans for it, they may not know what they’re going to do with it, or they may not intend to spend it and, at best, may hope to use it as trade bait. I don’t think their quantity-over-quality approach will necessarily extend to the former Braves players, partly because I don’t know how much of that was Gayo. He was on record, even before Neal Huntington became GM, as saying he didn’t like the idea of giving large bonuses to Latin American 16-year-olds, but I have little doubt that Huntington’s aversion to competing financially plays into practices in Latin America as well. But I guess we’ll see. It’s certainly an opportunity.
UPDATE: According to Baseball America’s Ben Badler, the process for the former Braves’ prospects to sign is a bit complicated. They can sign elsewhere for an additional bonus from December 5 through January 15. After that, they can sign elsewhere but can’t receive an additional bonus. Starting on May 5, they can re-sign with the Braves, but can’t receive an additional bonus. If a player signs elsewhere for an additional bonus, only the amount exceeding $200,000 counts against the signing team’s bonus pool. So whatever movement is going to happen will probably happen between December 5 and January 15.
— The Pirates’ promotional schedule is out and the internet has noticed the bobblehead dates. There’s a Sean Rodriguez bobblehead promotion scheduled for June 23 and an Andrew McCutchen figurine promotion for July 6, both before the trade deadline. Felipe Rivero and Andy Van Slyke come after the deadline. Hmm . . . .
— The Pirates released (sub. req’d) two more minor leaguers, RHP Claudio Scotti and IF Nelson Jorge. Scotti is from Rome (Italy, not Georgia) and Jorge was a 7th round pick in 2014. Neither appeared to be going anywhere.
Typically around this time of year the Pirates pare down the minor league rosters by a handful or so. This year they’ve released 17 so far, by my count. I don’t know whether that means anything or not, but I suspect it’s partly a product of them bringing an unusually large number of Latin American prospects (23) to fall instructionals and also signing a very large number of players (37) out of this year’s draft. They’ve been promoting players more rapidly from the Dominican Summer League the last couple of years. The numbers game is probably forcing more of an up-or-out philosophy, where marginal guys are getting less time to get a move on. I don’t know whether this will have any long-term ramifications for the Pirates. Since we’re talking about marginal guys, I’d guess probably not. I suppose having a few more players get a chance to impress could produce one guy who clicks. Or something.