HOUSTON — No matter how the question was phrased, GM Neal Huntington had the same answer — non-answer, actually — Sunday afternoon about the status of contract talks between the Pirates and top two draft picks Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie.
“We don’t want to get into confirming or denying every rumor out there,” Huntington said. “But we remain optimistic. We’ll talk about it after process ends.”
»»» On the odds both pitchers will sign before the 12:01 a.m. Tuesday deadline: “We feel good about our chances of coming to an agreement. The risk is always there that we won’t. With the top two picks, the alternative becomes same-slot picks next year. That’s not a bad alternative. It’s not ideal. It’s something we’re going to work very hard to avoid. But having the third pick in next year’s draft, given the college arms and bats out there, and getting the 53rd pick … it’s not the end of the world.”
»»» Will Huntington remain in town to continue talking with Randy and Alan Hendricks, the Houston-based agents for Allie and Taillon: “I will be leaving Houston tonight.”
»»» On whether Taillon will be offered a spot on the 40-man roster as an enticement to sign: “For high school players in general and for high school pitchers in particular, it’s only happened a handful of times and we feel there’s very strong reasons for that. Even adding Pedro (Alvarez) to the 40-man two years ago, you can look back and maybe there’s a player we lost on a waiver claim or maybe a player we had to take off the roster that we wouldn’t have had to if we didn’t put Pedro on the 40-man roster. So, there is the opportunity cost of the roster spot, from the club’s perspective. We understand why the player asks for it. There’s enough college pitchers who went on the 40-man, burned off their options and then were stuck in no-man’s land because they’re talented enough that the team doesn’t want to lose them on a waiver claim but yet they’re not ready to compete on the major league level. Essentially, they become a Rule 5 pick, where you’re just holding a player in defense and not because he deserves to be on your 25-man roster. We understand where the desire to get them comes from. But in the instance of a high school player in particular, it’s awfully tough. Because you’ve got four years to get them to the big leagues or you risk losing them on waivers after that. It’s worked in some cases, it hasn’t in others.”
»»» On this year’s draft class, in general: :Overall, we feel good. We’ll feel a lot better if we get the two big ones. There’s still a handful of guys we’re working through, outside of the top two. We feel good about the players we’ve added. We’re going to have some guys in the top 10 who we don’t sign. That’s the challenge of taking players who want more money than slot, who have good college commitments, who are going to be tough signs. You’re not going to sign them all. That’s where the guys who we sign in the teens or even in the 20s (rounds), who maybe we give more than slot (bonus money), becomes the equivalent of the lost fourth- or fifth-rounder. If we just wanted to make sure we signed everybody, we could just take easy-sign guys and not get the best talent. That’s the challenge.”
»»» On the definite non-signs: “We’ve had a handful of players this year that, due to the timing or a change of heart, have told us, ‘It’s not about the money. We’re going to college.’ That’s been unique for us this year. We had one or two cases in the last two years; we had it in a handful of cases this year.”