Signing their top two draft picks, an international pitching prospect, AND clinching their 18th consecutive losing season? One local franchise sounds like they're trying to make some headlines this week.
Fresh on the heels of what I would call an embarrassing weekend in Houston, the Pirates return home tonight for the start of a four-game series against the Florida Marlins at PNC Park. RHP James McDonald (1-2, 5.40) and RHP Chris Volstad (6-8, 4.74) will be your starting pitchers. But that is merely an appetizer on this week's menu of big Pirate storylines.
For starters, you've got the upcoming deadline to sign their draft picks, and it actually sounds like the Pirates might get deals done with Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, the interestingly-named pair of gifted hurlers who are both represented by the famed Hendricks brothers.
"I think it's very close," Michael Taillon said of his son's bonus contract. Randy and Alan Hendricks, the brothers representing Taillon and Allie, asked Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and scouting director Greg Smith to take back to Pittsburgh "one more variable" to consider, according to Michael Taillon, though he declined to specify.
If the Buccos fail to get a deal done with Taillon, they'll get the #3 overall pick in next year's draft as compensation; for Allie, the compensation would be a sandwich pick. But this team needs talent yesterday. Waiting another year for a high-end prospect to start this process all over again should be the absolute worst-case scenario.
Meanwhile, the Pirates are considered the favorites to sign 16-year-old Luis Heredia, a highly-regarded pitcher from the Mexican League. Heredia's team will be allowed to entertain offers beginning Thursday, and it's looking like he could be the third prominent prospect to potentially join the franchise by week's end.
Being that we're talking about the Pirates, there's always some bad news to go along with the good, and that's once again the case in this instance. The 39-78 Battlin' Bucs sit just four losses away from Consecutive Losing Season #18, which could potentially be clinched at home with a very bad series against the Marlins this week.
I must say, clinching a losing MLB season by August 19 would be quite the accomplishment, but if anyone could and should do it, it's the Pirates. If you were one of the few people who watched them this weekend, they had three hits in a Sunday loss to the Astros and 14 strikeouts to something called a Bud Norris on Saturday night. Four straight losses is certainly in play as a possibility this week.
Nonetheless, the bigger story for this team's long-term fortunes is that of the draft picks, and we'll know all we need to know around midnight tonight. I've been burned before trusting Neal Huntington, but I honestly believe that he'll get this trio of deals done and done right this time around.