PITTSBURGH -- One year after it took the Pirates more than three months to sign their first-round Draft pick last season, the organization accomplished the same goal in a mere three days.
One day after the First-Year Player Draft ended, and three days after catcher Tony Sanchez became Pittsburgh's first selection, the Pirates and Sanchez agreed to terms on a signing bonus. Sanchez, a three-year starter at Boston College, became the third first-round selection to sign with a club since the Draft ended on Thursday.
"It's so surreal," said Sanchez, minutes after slipping a Pirates jersey over his head during his press conference. "A year ago, playing the summer in the Cape [Cod League], I never thought that this would be possible. I just want to get going so I can achieve the ultimate goal of playing here in this beautiful stadium. It's just been a wonderful experience."
Though terms of the agreement were not disclosed, Sanchez is believed to have signed for around the recommended "slot" figure of $2.475 million.
Once the Pirates used their No. 4 overall pick to snag Sanchez, there was little question that he'd sign quickly. With Sanchez not widely projected as a top pick, his signing bonus demands were not excessive.
Still, Pirates management maintained again on Friday that while signability always plays a factor in Draft strategy, it was not a driving factor in making Sanchez the organization's first pick.
"As we discussed potentially selecting Tony, we had a pretty good idea that we'd find common ground in the negotiating process early," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. "But that wasn't the motivating factor in selecting him. I think too much was made from comments made in advance of the Draft, [in which we said] we saw value in having a player sign and get into the system. We are going to try and convince the young men that we sign of that, but that was not going to be what was motivating us to pick one player over another."
After celebrating with an estimated 50 friends and family members at his parents' home in Miami on Saturday, the 21-year-old catcher will report to Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., to participate in a few days of minicamp. He'll then join the low Class A West Virginia team, where Sanchez will assume starting duties behind the plate.
"We do believe his character and his qualities will help him overcome the difficulties of stepping into an established team," general manager Neal Huntington said of Sanchez's transition from collegiate to professional ball. "We fully expect that he'll work as hard or harder than anyone there. There is no air of entitlement with Tony Sanchez, and that's a breath of fresh air."
Sanchez's defensive abilities have already earned praise from the Pirates' scouting team. Huntington described Sanchez's catch-and-throw skills as already of Major League caliber. There will, however, be a learning process when it comes to pitch-calling, as Sanchez' Boston College coach held that responsibility during Sanchez' collegiate career.
Though Sanchez put up impressive offensive numbers in his three-year career at Boston College -- a .317 average with 24 homers and 124 RBIs in 161 games -- developing his bat will be the biggest challenge and immediate focus.
"My work ethic has gotten me to where I am and will get me to where I want to be," Sanchez said. "I know that I'll continue my hard work and continue to strive to get to where I want to be as a successful Major League catcher."
Also on Friday, Huntington and Coonelly shed a bit more light on the discussions preceding the Draft, including the fact that little was unanimous as scouting director Greg Smith and his team put together the Draft board.
"This was not a consensus year," Huntington said. "This was a year like I've never seen. There was almost never consensus. It led to exhaustive discussions, because we kept hammering things out."
Pirates -- Top five selections
|4||C||Jorge Sanchez||Boston Col
|49||RHP||Victor Black||Dallas Baptist U
|53||RHP||Brooks Pounders||Temecula Valley HS
|84||CF||Evan Chambers||Hillsborough CC
|115||LHP||Zackry Dodson||Medina Valley HS
|Complete Pirates Draft results >|
Huntington said that it was about one week before making Sanchez their first-round pick that the Pirates slotted him in as the third player on their Draft list, behind pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Dustin Ackley, both of whom were taken before the Pirates selected. Pittsburgh's scouting team then solidified Sanchez as their pick the day before selecting him.
With Sanchez signed, the Pirates will now focus on reaching agreements with a number of the other 50 players they selected. Huntington estimated that as many as 30 of their Draft picks have signing-bonus expectations of at least $100,000, including a number of those who Pittsburgh chose in the final 20 rounds of the 50-round Draft. Some players have already identified seven-figure expectations.
The money saved by signing Sanchez at slot affords the Pirates the financial flexibility to be aggressive in the upcoming negotiations and to meet some of those bonus demands, specifically in situations where the organization is trying to convince players to bypass college commitments.
"We've given ourselves depth. We've given ourselves options," Huntington said. "We didn't lock into two or three players. This should be one of the deepest Drafts in Pirates history. I don't think I'm going out there when I say that."
The deadline to sign drafted players is midnight ET on Aug. 17. Last year, the Pirates signed 31 of 50 players they drafted.