Pirates notebook: Agent says signing 1st-rounder wasn't going to happen

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 8:00 p.m.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Agent Scott Boras said the Pirates didn't have much of chance of signing Mark Appel, their first-round draft pick in 2012, but the team's paramilitary-style training methods were not a factor in the outcome.

The Pirates took Appel, a right-handed pitcher, with the eighth overall selection. Appel spurned a $3.8 million offer and returned to Stanford for his senior season. He was the only first-rounder who didn't sign with his team last summer.

“When you make decisions like that in the draft, they're huge decisions,” Boras said Wednesday at the winter meetings. “There was no communication with us (before the draft). We would've been happy to have given them an advance (notice) that they could've used their pick in (another) way. We certainly would've let them know we didn't have a fit there. These players have options when you have that kind of talent. That was an unfortunate event for all of us.”

Boras said he has concerns about the Navy SEALs-style training techniques the Pirates use for their minor league prospects. Last month, owner Bob Nutting said the Pirates will do away with the unorthodox training program.

“The health and safety of players — and I'm talking about great players, because Pittsburgh drafts very high — is important,” Boras said. “If you're a parent or a ballplayer, you make an analysis of what's going on in every organization, as far as what they're doing and what they're committed to doing to preserve and advance the interests of the player. I think when you go to practices that are untested and that are certainly not the norm, it's going to raise a level of concern. You want to be fair with every team, with how you evaluate them. But the benefits and detriments certainly need to be looked at.”

Boras paused and smiled. “My understanding is they decided to do away with the K-rations,” he said.

Waiting on Grilli

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington met Wednesday with agent Gary Sheffield and made an offer for free-agent reliever Jason Grilli. Several other teams also were in the mix, and as of 8 p.m. Wednesday Grilli had not made a decision.

“He's got a ton of options,” Huntington said. “We're continuing to work through the process.”

Grilli, 36, wants a multiyear deal, and there's speculation he could get two years and $7 million.

In 92 games over the past two seasons with the Pirates, Grilli went 3-7 with a 2.76 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP. For his career, Grilli is 21-25 with a 4.34 ERA and a 1.413 WHIP.

Three of Grilli's five career saves came with the Pirates. Those numbers would soar if Grilli rejoins the Pirates and closer Joel Hanrahan is traded.

Hanrahan is likely to make around $7 million next season and will be a free agent in 2014. The Pirates, who are expected to have a 2013 payroll of about $70 million (not including portions of salaries that will be paid by other clubs), don't want to shell out $10 million — roughly twice as much as Andrew McCutchen will make — for two late-inning relievers.

Trade nets left-hander

The Pirates traded minor league catcher Ramon Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers for left-hander Andrew Oliver. Huntington said Oliver will compete for a job in the starting rotation in spring training. If he doesn't win a spot, Oliver could wind up in the Pirates' bullpen rather than go to Triple-A Indianapolis as a starter.

Oliver, 25, made seven starts in the majors over the past two seasons and went 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA and a 1.832 WHIP.

Coaching vacancy

Mark Strittmatter left manager Clint Hurdle's coaching staff to become a roving minor league coordinator with the Colorado Rockies. The Pirates will fill Strittmatter's position by hiring an assistant hitting coach to work with recent hire Jay Bell.

Huntington said the position essentially is filled, but he is not yet ready to announce the hire.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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