PITTSBURGH -- The deadline to sign players selected in the June First-Year Player Draft sits 11 days away, and the Pirates have plenty of work to do between now and then to ensure that the organization can tout another successful Draft under general manager Neal Huntington and scouting director Greg Smith.
Ten of the club's first 13 picks remain unsigned, including the first two -- high school right-handers Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie. Neither was expected to be an easy sign, given that Taillon holds a scholarship to Rice and Allie had plans to pitch at the University of North Carolina.
The deadline to sign picks is midnight ET on Aug. 16, and negotiations could very well continue up to that time for both of these pitchers, as they did with Pedro Alvarez in 2008. Each is expected to demand signing bonuses well above slot in order to be lured away from those college commitments.
"We remain optimistic, and that's about all I can say," said Huntington, who will not speak on specifics of the negotiations. "We remain optimistic in our goal, and our focus is to get them both out and in a Pirates uniform as quickly as we can this summer or fall.
"But at the same time, we're continuing on with a good number of players that have been tough signs," he continued. "We're looking to add more than just two."
Those other pieces that Huntington alludes to could start falling soon. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Thursday that fourth-rounder Nicholas Kingham is expected to sign with the Pirates on Friday. The Pirates likely lured Kingham, an 18-year-old right-hander, away from his Oregon University commitment with an above-slot bonus, much like the club did with some intriguing high school arms last year.
Once Kingham is inked, the Pirates will still have seven other unsigned high school players from the first 13 rounds. It's from this group that the organization will begin its process of targeting where to allocate its financial resources.
Right-hander Dace Kime, the club's eighth-round pick, has already stated that he will not sign with the Pirates, preferring to honor his commitment to the University of Louisville.
The Pirates will not release a Draft budget figure, though it is expected to be close to the approximately $10 million available in each of the two previous years. Those funds aren't enough to sign all the high-ceiling high school players that the Pirates took in the earlier rounds, which means that the days leading up to the signing deadline will be about picking and choosing based on demands and potential.
"Some of those other signs might influence what we do in terms of the big picture," Huntington said. "We've got a large number of players out there that we have an interest in signing. We've got tremendous resources provided to us by [owner] Bob [Nutting] again. We fully expect to be aggressive in terms of the final dollar figure. But it's all still for the right players at the right dollars."
To this point, the Pirates have signed 18 of their 50 Draft picks. The majority of those signings have been college seniors, who are often inked at a low cost to help fill out rosters. With only a limited number of roster spots still available, the Pirates' pursuit has now turned to the organization's primary, yet hard-to-sign, targets.
"Teams that sign in the upper 30s and 40s often sign a lot of seniors," Huntington said. "We've been very fortunate here in the last two or three years that we haven't had to sign a lot of seniors in college. We've been able to sign fewer seniors and take some shots at some high school players and some tougher signs maybe out of the college level."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.