The clubs believed to be hot on Sano's trail are the Pirates, Rays, Cubs, A's, Jays, Yankees, Rangers, and Twins. That being said, it appears that Pittsburgh is in the driver's seat and Sano is theirs to lose. There is even talk from reliable sources that the size of Sano's bonus could end up affecting who the Pirates choose with the 4th overall pick in June's amateur draft, widely believed to lack top-end talent beyond projected first pick Stephen Strasburg.
So, who is Sano (pronounced SAH-no)? Well, his full name is Miguel Angel Sano, and he's regarded as the best international prospect available in this year's crop. For now Sano is a shortstop, but at 6'3" and 190 pounds, Sano is a pretty large guy for someone who turned 16 years old just weeks ago. As Kiley notes, while there will be speculation about Sano's age, a DNA bone graft has shown Sano to be within a 12 month range of either 16 or 17. As for asking price, seven figures, and there's a chance he could top Michael Ynoa's 4.25 million bonus. Nonetheless, the Rays are apparently after the titillating young talent. This is the part that catches my eye:
With the probable bonus amount becoming clearer, the field has whittled itself down, but still includes clubs with small Latin America budgets. These clubs are completely aware of where the price is headed, and it's been indicated to me that multiple clubs have ownership approval to go over budget in order to sign Sano
That has "Rays" written all over it, especially if they feel Sano is a special talent, like a Tim Beckham type. We've seen this ownership and management group willing to dig a bit deeper in the pockets when required, and all the Gary Sheffield type comparisons are legitimate, this would be one of those cases. Sano features an amount of raw power the Rays system lacks, and an arm strong enough to play shortstop. With maturing to come, he's almost certainly moving to third base or the corner outfield, although only time will tell for sure which position he lands on.
Of course the downside is that you run the risk of Sano turning into Joel Guzman. How many top bonus babies actually work out? Three of the top five international signing bonuses were handed out last year; Michael Ynoa, Rafael Rodriguez, and Yorman Rodriguez. Prior to last year, the tops were Wily Mo Pena (2.44M in 1999) and the aforementioned Guzman (2.26M in 2001). Not a stellar track record, so it comes down to whether Andrew Friedman and the Rays scouting department sees a future big leaguer in Sano.
This is the ultimate futures market. Sano may not be able to contribute in the majors for five-to-six years after being signed, if not longer. If Sano busts completely, it's ~4-5 million out the door, if he succeeds, well, he won't need to do much in order to be worth the money. Like a top draft pick, if you consider he's being paid x amount of dollars for the rights to sign, and then x amount of dollars in arbitration, you end up paying him that original x amount for three years of cost control and another three years at a reduced cost.
There's certainly a risk involved here, but if the Rays feel it's a risk worth taking, then you have to get excited. The Rays are essentially adding a talent that would go high in any amateur draft on the open market. The positive PR coming from the Dominican in conjunction with all the money poured into Latin America over the past year would certainly place the Rays amongst the big boys in that part of the international game. Remember, the organization built a 5 million dollar complex in the D.R. and followed that up with a 6.5 million dollar commitment in Brazil. This team is widening the borders to find potential talent. Exactly what needs to be done in order to help the lowered draft status
The Rays are on their way to being an international presence. Something incomprehensible just a few years ago.
Note: For more Sano literature, read this piece by ESPN.com