The Pittsburgh Pirates draft class has to be signed by this Friday’s deadline. Unfortunately, it does appear likely that one of their top picks will not sign.
In terms of the Pittsburgh Pirates and smaller market teams in general, the best way to build for the future is through the draft. However, with the new bonus allotment system, it has become even more difficult for teams to sign some of their picks. This can be seen every year as a number of top prospects either do not get drafted, slide down the board due to signability concerns, or get drafted and choose to go to college instead. For instance, in 2016 the Pittsburgh Pirates did not have enough bonus money to sign Nick Lodolo at pick number 41. He instead went to TCU where he has positioned himself to be a top 10 pick in next year’s draft. This looks like it will happen once again to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With the number 36 overall pick in the draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected big prep pitcher Gunnar Hoglund. Hoglund is a 6’4” and 210-pound pitcher from Florida who has a commitment to Ole Miss. The Rebel commit has a fastball that has hit as high as 95 on the gun and, of course, has the frame that could lead to much more in terms of his pitch arsenal. At first, Hoglund talked as if he planned on signing with the team. At one point, it was reported that he was going to fly out to Pittsburgh to sit down and work out his contract. However, just last week it was reported that Hoglund attended Freshmen Orientation at the University of Mississippi. This led to speculation that he was leaning towards the college path. Well, this has all but been confirmed at this point. Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline tweeted yesterday that:
"“As of right now, I think Hoglund turns down the @Pirates & attends Mississippi. Most likely player in top 10 rds not to sign. @MLBDraft”"
The main issue, of course, is the fact that Hoglund wants a bigger bonus than the team is able to give him. He was picked at number 36 which carries a value of $1,967,000. The team did save nearly $500,000 toward their overall bonus pool with other signings. However, they gave basically all of that money to their second-round pick prep pitcher Braxton Ashcraft. Ashcraft was taken 51st overall. The pick had a value of $1,382,400 and he received $1,825,000.
Now, the Pittsburgh Pirates did have two picks from the top 10 rounds that they had not signed until yesterday as well. This included fifth round pick Grant Koch and 10th round pick Michael Gretler. Koch and Gretler both were playing in the college world series, Koch being Arkansas’s catcher and Gretler played third base for Oregon State. However, the team gave Koch his full slot value of $364,400. Meanwhile, Gretler actually got below his slot value of $140,800 by signing for just $50,000. So, the team only really saved about $90,000 to give to Hoglund.
The team is able to pay Hoglund up to five percent over their allotment without sacrificing a future pick. However, this does not seem like it would be enough to sway Hoglund. If the team fails to sign him, they will receive a compensation pick at number 37 in next year’s draft.
*Bonus figures are courtesy of Spotrac.com