Pittsburgh Pirates: Expanding the Dominican Academy

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates are expanding their international scouting.  They are putting more money in the Dominican Republic Academy.

One of, if not the most, important parts of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization is for them to have the best possible amateur scouting.  The team is one of the smaller markets in baseball, and with that, they rely on developing their own, homegrown talent to stay competitive.  The better the farm system, the better chance the team has at being competitive.

There are two important ways for the Pittsburgh Pirates to grow through the amateur market.  The most obvious way is through the annual Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.  The other way is through the International Amateur Market.

Every July 2nd, Major League Baseball opens up the new international signing period.  During this time, each MLB team is given a bonus pool that they are able to use.  Just like the MLB Draft, the teams are assigned a certain amount of money they are allowed to spend.  They spend this money on giving out signing bonus to players from the international market, which is normally made up of prospects from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Columbia, and other Caribbean countries.

With these countries being the most important for international scouting, it is important for teams to invest in them.  The Pittsburgh Pirates are doing so.  This has always been something that the Pittsburgh Pirates have stressed since General Manager Neal Huntington and staff took over.

When the management team took over and owner Bob Nutting took over as the team’s primary owner, the organization decided to build a Baseball Academy in the Dominican Republic.  In doing so, they were hoping to upgrade their international scouting department, something that was lacking under the previous regime.  The project cost around 5 million dollars.   So far, it has led to a team that has produced a few Dominican born prospects.

However, this year the Pittsburgh Pirates organization is expanding their previous built Academy.  According to Bob Nutting during his spring training interview yesterday, the team is working to double the current facilities.  The hope is that by making it an even better facility, the team will be able to attract more of the Dominican prospects to play for them.  Also, the goal is to help develop the prospects that they have signed and get them ready to transition to not only professional baseball, but also get them ready to transition to the United States.

The team is getting the money to do this mainly from the payout they received during the last offseason.  Every team in Major League Baseball was given a significant chunk of money as part of the league’s sale of their online media agreement, as each team received $50 million as part of the revenue sharing.  Here is what owner Bob Nutting told reporters on the expansion:

"“I think the important thing for us is we really view [the BAMTech payment] as a return of capital, so we need to think of it how it invests long-term to impact the club,” Nutting said. “We’re trying to maintain some flexibility. You talk about investing in capital or the club, and I really see those as very closely linked."

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This is in a way disappointing.  Most fans would like to see the Pittsburgh Pirates organization take this money and invest it into the team’s payroll.  Instead, the Bucs are trying to upgrade their ability to acquire and develop international amateur prospects.  While fans want the primary focus to be the current roster, it definitely will help benefit the team in the long run.  However, if the facility cost $5 million dollars to build originally, and they are doubling it in size, where is the rest of the say 40-45 million being spent?