PITTSBURGH -- The international signing period begins on Thursday, as teams will now be free to sign international players who will turn 16 by Sept. 1. And as they were last year -- benefiting largely from an increase in resources -- the Pirates plan to be busy in adding international talent, mainly from Latin America.
With the support of owner Bob Nutting, the Pirates increased their budget for international signing bonuses to $2 million last year and have the same budget to work with this year.
"We feel good about the class [Latin American scouting director] Rene [Gayo] is working on and that we will add another quality group of players to the system," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We also feel that the July 2 deadline is over-hyped and that unlike the First-Year Player Draft, good players will continue to be available and signed after the July 2 focus date."
That likely includes Miguel Sano, reported to be one of, if not the, top prospects available. Sano is not expected to sign on Thursday, and there are a number of clubs, including the Pirates, that are expected to make offers to the 16-year-old shortstop from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.
The Twins and Orioles, especially, are reported to have serious interest in Sano.
Sano is expected to be offered a multi-million-dollar bonus, though it remains unknown how high the Pirates would be willing to go. The standard for bonuses given to top international talent has exploded considerably since the A's gave Dominican right-hander Michael Inoa a $4.25 million signing bonus last summer.
In some case, that has caused some players' expectations to exceed what the Pirates are willing to pay.
"We have seen all of the players that have reportedly agreed for $300,000 or more, and in almost every case, the dollar value went well above our internal value on the player," Huntington said. "The Inoa signing from a year ago has dragged talent that was in the six-figure marks last year to the seven-figure marks this year. There's a good chunk of those guys who are above our value on them."
Though the Pirates' fixed budget is $2 million, any substantial money that the Pirates offer will come from a separate source, Huntington explained. An offer to Sano, or any other player commanding a seven-figure bonus, would come with the approval of Nutting, who would then make additional funds available as necessary.
Without addressing specific names, Huntington confirmed that the organization is currently in ongoing negotiations with a number of players.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.