BALTIMORE—In just 11 days, the Orioles have dramatically changed their way of doing business. Not only have they traded Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Brad Brach, but they announced they’re in a full-scale rebuild and will re-enter the international market.
In a first, the Orioles acquired $250,000 of international signing bonus slot money from Atlanta for Brach.
The Orioles have generally ignored the international market in recent years, and have focused on domestic prospects. That approach has changed.
“My strategy on the international market is to get there first, see the player first, and develop a relationship with the family and then make a good investment, get as many good young players as possible,” Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette said Sunday after trading Brach.
“There’s a lot of interest in the international market because of the quality of the players and the finite number of bonus slots that clubs can utilize, so it’s a pretty interesting time right now, but it’s a good opportunity for the Orioles to get back in that market. We hope to sign a couple of international players this week. We hope to announce that we have signed some young international prospects from the Dominican and Venezuela.”
This year, the Orioles were allocated $5,504,500 to sign international free agents under 25. That put them in the second tier of clubs along with Arizona, Cleveland, Colorado, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and San Diego.
Since the signing period began July 2, every team in baseball has added at least two international players, according to Baseball America—except for the Orioles.
With the $250,000 received for Brach, they have $5,754,500 to spend. Bonuses under $10,000 are exempt from the bonus pool.
Last year, the Orioles traded away most of their international signing bonus slot money but did sign four young prospects for $340,000. Three were from the Dominican Republic: shortstop Hector Vizcaino and outfielder Josue Cruz (both for $80,000), and third baseman Oscar Olivares ($30,000). Center fielder Ricardo Castro was from Venezuela and received a bonus of $150,000.
All four are playing for the Orioles’ Dominican Summer League team.
The Orioles have two players on the major league roster, pitchers Paul Fry and Yefry Ramirez, who were acquired from Seattle and the New York Yankees for international signing bonus slot money.
Jonathan Schoop, who is from Curacao, is the only home-grown Latin American on the team’s roster.
No Venezuelan native has ever been developed by the Orioles into a major league player, though Eduardo Rodriguez, currently on the disabled list, was headed there until being traded to Boston in July 2014 for Andrew Miller.
The last Dominicans to come through the minor leagues and debut for the Orioles were infielder Pedro Florimon, currently with the Phillies, who played four games in 2011, and pitcher Radhames Liz, who last pitched for the Orioles in 2009.
The Orioles have reportedly shown interest in Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, but he and his brother, Victor Mesa Jr., who have left Cuba, can’t be signed yet because Major League Baseball hasn’t declared them as free agents.
Baseball America ranks Mesa as its top international prospect. A source said the Miami Marlins will also make a push to sign Mesa. Their offer could be about $2.8 million, the source said, but the Orioles could easily top that.