In 1869, George Wright signed the first professional baseball contract to play for the Cincinnati Red Stockings. His $1,400 salary raised many eyebrows across the country as it was unheard of for any working man, let alone a baseball player, to make that much money. It was that historic inking that is still felt even today.
As the August 15th deadline for Major League teams to sign their draft picks drew near, attention turned to the Pirates who were hoping to make the biggest splash with their potential players. With former UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer already at the AA level for the team that signed him, Arizona, pressure was on for the Pirates to wrap up fellow Bruin, Gerrit Cole. The No. 1 overall pick back in June, Cole was said to have more upside than the progressive Bauer. Adding Cole to the organization would give the Bucs one of the deepest pitching threats across the league.
Well, 8 million dollars later, the depths of the Pittsburgh pitching core has just grown deeper.
Setting a minor league contract record, Cole was not the only pick the Pirates were able to control late Monday night.
Josh Bell is also jumping aboard, surprisingly to many.
The Dallas native and University of Texas commit was able to be preyed away from heading to college at the price of 5 million. Again, a record. This time for that of a second round pick. Many believed Bell was easily a first round prospect but questions of his sign-ability allowed him to fall to the second round.
Bell and Cole easily become a pair of top 10 prospects in the organization. Both were clients of Scott Boras and milked out the best prices to get their careers started. All in all, the Bucs spent an unprecedented 17 million dollars to sign 24 drafted players. Of those 24, 10 were indeed selected in the top 10 by the team.
Pittsburgh showed a commitment to establishing the franchise from the ground up. The work General Manager Neil Huntington has, at times, been controversial, but the approach taken has been radical enough to fuel support and actually make sense. While it will take some time for Bell and Cole, along with previous years top picks, to make a solid impact, at least having them under strong grasp can only aid the future.
photo credits: baseballhistoryblog.com, espnrise.com, David Stoner