Over at Fangraphs, David Laurila had a great piece where he interviewed Greg Smith, now Pirates Assistant GM/then Scouting Director for the Pirates. The whole interview is fantastic and worth a read, but I wanted to highlight a section that dealt with the signing process with Josh Bell.
There was a lot of skepticism among Pirate fans that Bell was “unsignable”, even though his mom sent a letter to all 30 MLB teams telling them to not draft Josh, as he was going to college. Many pointed to the fact that he hired Scott Boras as an agent. Some said no one would ever turn down millions of dollars as an unproven teenager. Here’s the quote from the man in charge of scouting and drafting him last year:
Reflecting back on it, our chances of signing Josh were probably less than 50%. […..] We knew it was a gamble. We knew the risk, but we felt the upside of his ability warranted such a risk. […..]
The majority of people we talked to during the course of the process said there was no way we were going to be able to sign Josh. There were obviously clubs that didn’t take him for just that reason. In their heart of hearts, they believed he was going to school. We knew that was a strong possibility, but it was a risk we were willing to take, because of his potential.
Smith is asked later on how they were able to finally convince him to sign. Smith highlights the efforts of area supervisor scout Mike Leuzinger (who on a side note is responsible for a huge amount of the talent in the system from the Texas/Southern section of the U.S.) and how they used the summer to educate the entire Bell family on who the Pirates are and what they were prepared to do for Bell to make him successful. Smith ended the discussion on the Bell signing process by saying:
I don’t think there was any doubt that he was set on going to school. It’s where his mom wanted him to go and where his dad was prepared for him to go. I just think that throughout the course of the summer, our communication — our dialogue — allowed him to make a completely informed decision.
So for all of those that thought it was a foregone conclusion that Bell was going to sign, especially if “Cheap Bob Nutting” would just open up the grain silo full of cash for Bell, this piece from the mouth of the Scouting Director says otherwise.