The Pirates announced late Friday afternoon that they had come to terms on agreements with two such targets of this strategy, left-handers Zackry Dodson (fourth round) and Colton Cain (eighth round). Dodson had already committed to Baylor University, while Cain was set to pitch for the University of Texas this next year.
According to a source close to negotiations, Cain signed for a $1.15 million bonus. The exact figure of Dodson's bonus figure was not initially known, but it was confirmed to be less than Cain's.
To put that in perspective, a $1.15 million bonus matches Major League Baseball's recommended slot figure for the 26th overall pick of the Draft. Dodson was picked 115th overall and Cain, 235th. Typically, players selected after the fifth round are not given more than a maximum $150,000 signing bonus.
General manager Neal Huntington told MLB.com earlier this week that the Pirates had about half of their approximately $10 million signing budget remaining after already inking 18 picks from this year's First-Year Player Draft. That allowed the organization the flexibility to offer such above-slot bonuses to both Dodson and Cain.
"Obviously we're very pleased to add the two to our system," Huntington said. "Both are good combination of size, projection, delivery, stuff, arm action and makeup. Both of them have a lot going for them. We knew that they were both going to be tough signs. We knew it would be challenging to get them both and it's great to do so."
Both pitchers were in Pittsburgh on Friday and have flights scheduled for Florida on Saturday morning so they can begin training at the Pirates' Bradenton, Fla., facility. They will be evaluated by the staff in Bradenton before it is determined how much they might pitch for the Gulf Coast League team.
"Getting them back into pitching condition with may or may not allow them to throw many innings," Huntington said. "We have got to get a feel for where they are mentally and physically. The worst thing would be to rush them into game action."
Regardless, both Cain and Dodson are expected to participate in a portion of the organization's fall instructional league.
Pitching for Medina Valley (TX) high school this past year, Dodson went 10-0 with a 1.20 ERA, 129 strikeouts and 36 walks in 64 1/3 innings. He appeared in 16 games, 10 as a starter. When he wasn't pitching, Dodson played in the outfield and hit .465 with 11 home runs. As a junior, Dodson went 13-0 with a 0.59 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings.
Cain also hails from Texas, where he went 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 10 games as a senior for Waxahachie high school. In October 2008, Baseball America named Cain the No. 44 high school prospect. The publication then listed him as the 109th best overall prospect just prior to the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Cain also pitched for the USA Baseball 18 and Under National Team last summer and won both of his starts.
The Pirates have now signed 20 of their 51 Draft selections. Huntington has said that the final number of signed players will likely fall in the low- to mid-20 range by the Aug. 17 midnight deadline. The Pirates still have a number of high-profile high school players that they are targeting with above-slot bonus offers, most notably sixth-rounder Zachary Von Rosenberg.
"Conversations are ongoing," Huntington said, when asked how negotiations were progressing with Von Rosenberg, who is committed to Louisiana State University. "There are times we feel good and times we feel we are closer to losing them up. We're not done. We're still looking to sign more. "
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.