Are Victor Victor Mesa and Bobby Witt Jr. in the Orioles' future? - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Are Victor Victor Mesa and Bobby Witt Jr. in the Orioles’ future?

Photo credit: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

While the Orioles search for a new head of baseball operations and then a new manager, the team’s fans have decided they must have two players they haven’t seen play: Victor Victor Mesa and Bobby Witt Jr.

Mesa, a 22-year-old Cuban center fielder, held a tryout camp Friday for major league teams, and the Orioles, who can spend more than any other team in baseball for him, were represented.

The Orioles have more than $6 million in international signing bonus slot money they can spend on Mesa and his younger brother, Victor Mesa Jr., who’s also an outfielder.

Oriole fans are desperate for a win, and it would be great optics for the franchise if they could sign Victor Victor.

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Many fans think they should be able to because they have about $2 million more than the Miami Marlins, who have the second most money to spend.

The Orioles accumulated an additional $2.75 million in international money in the trades for Brad Brach and Kevin Gausman with Atlanta, though they did give $750,000 of it away to Philadelphia for infielder Jack Zoellner.

Even though they signed a few international prospects after former Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette announced they would re-enter the international market on July 18, they accumulated the money to go after Victor Victor.

Although the Orioles have more money than the Marlins, they have a geographic disadvantage. Marlins Park, where the Mesa audition was held, is in a section of Miami called “Little Havana.”

Not only would the Mesas presumably feel more at home in Miami, opportunities for outside income from endorsements would likely be greater than in Baltimore, which has a small Latin population.

Last year, when Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani decided to come to America, he could have signed with any franchise but instead of going to Texas, which had the largest amount of international money available, he went to the Los Angeles Angels because he felt more comfortable there.

That could happen again.

Victor Victor Mesa is the latest in a long line of Cuban prospects to come to America. Some of the deals have been good, others haven’t.

Jose Abreu signed a six-year, $68-million contract with the Chicago White Sox in October 2013 and has a lifetime .295 average with a .353 on-base percentage. He’s hit more than 30 home runs three times and has had more than 100 RBIs in four seasons.

Yasiel Puig’s seven-year, $42-million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers has also been a good. Puig has increased his power numbers, and he has played in the postseason all six years he’s been with LA.

Yoenis Cepedes, who signed with Oakland for four years and $36 million in 2012, has at times been a star for four teams, and has two years left on a four-year, $110-million deal with the New York Mets. In the first two years of the contract, Cespedes, who has often been hurt, played just 119 games,

While Abreu, Cespedes and Puig have had success, others haven’t done nearly as well.

Rusney Castillo, an outfielder who just completed the fifth year of a seven-year, $72.5-million contract with the Boston Red Sox, has played just 99 major league games — none in the past two seasons.

Yasmany Tomas’ six-year, $68.5-million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks hasn’t been a good one, either. He has a -2.4 Wins Above Replacement Value (WAR) in three seasons for the Diamondbacks, and even though he hit 31 home runs with 83 RBIs in 2016, he was stuck in Triple-A throughout 2018.

Is Victor Victor an Abreu, Cespedes or Puig? Or is he a Castillo or Tomas?

Because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Orioles’ risk is limited. No longer are contracts like those handed out to Tomas, who was 24 when he signed, available to international players under 25.

As for Witt, fans are convinced that he’ll be the player the Orioles choose with the top pick in next June’s draft. Many were rooting for the Orioles to finish with the worst record in baseball, thinking the high school shortstop could be MLB’s version of LeBron James.

Witt is the son of a former major leaguer, Bobby Witt. His uncle, Doug Witt, has joined the Orioles as a scout. That certainly sounds as if the Orioles are planning to take him, but we don’t even know who will be making the selection in a draft that’s still eight months away, much less who they’ll take.

Witt and Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman are considered the top two prospects, but much can change next spring. Another teenager or college prospect could emerge and eclipse Witt and Rutschman.

During the NFL draft, it’s always fun to hear “draftniks” who profess to know the strengths and weaknesses of quarterback prospects. But at least those self-appointed “experts” have watched the prospects regularly play on television.

Mesa and Witt are unknowns and based on what we’ve heard, it’s fun and exciting to project them in the middle of an Orioles lineup sometime in the next decade. It’s also an enormous guess.

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. deqalt

    October 8, 2018 at 8:09 am

    There is no doubt the Orioles need to spend that international money, hopefully on the Mesa brothers. Orioles need to stock pile talented players. If they want to be the next Houston Astros they need to find the Berkman, Correra, and Altuve types in the next couple years. Definitely do not have it now. Obviously if Witt continues to shine they by all means draft him! I think there is pressure to sign Mesa mostly because that is what makes the Gausman trade worth it. I do have a reg flag that Victor Victor could be a bust. When you hear he has the biggest try out of his life and the first comment is he looks” rusty”. Why does this kid look rusty? Is there a work ethic issue? He’s not a high schooler, he’s 22.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 8:37 am

      Deqalt, presumably he hasn’t played in many months, so I wouldn’t be worried about that.

  2. ZantiGM

    October 8, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Are there other cuban prospects other than those three?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 10:54 am

      Not that I’m aware of, Phil.

  3. bigdaddydk

    October 8, 2018 at 9:35 am

    The thing about forecasting draft picks a year out is that you’re still a year out, give or take. All of the “top prospects” still have another year of baseball to play. Witt, Jr., is supposedly a legit 5-tool type, and I’m of the belief that you usually won’t go wrong picking a toolsy shortstop. Shortstops transition to other positions better than other position players transition to shortstop, and they tend to work out better when they move. There are obvious exceptions (Tim Beckham, I’m looking at you) but there are plenty of shortstops who ended up being legit stars at other positions. Adam Jones is a good example, and Manny Machado really needs to be one a team with an other-worldly shortstop so he can be a third baseman again, where he too is other-worldly. I think of shortstops like starting pitchers: you can’t have too many coming up through your system.

    The Mesa boys still justify pursuing as the money is use it or lose it. No sense in not signing a legit international prospect because you lose the ability to spend it anyway. In baseball terms, it’s not that much money anyway, so why not?

    I wonder how much of the Miami thing is overstated when it comes to these guys moving into a system. I’ve read that they want to go somewhere together. Baltimore’s farm teams are closer together than Miami’s, and it’s not even close. Plus, I doubt either of them is going to start the season in the majors like Ohtani did anyway. So, unless they’re thinking 3 years out and where they’ll be, the money could be more of an allure. I have to think that a couple of guys from Cuba would see millions of dollars as more substantial than a pro ballplayer from Japan did. But that’s just me.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 10:56 am

      I would love to see them sign Mesa because it would be a boost for them within baseball and something for fans to get a little excited about, but BigDaddy, I was trying to make the point that in this case, money won’t necessarily win out.

      • bigdaddydk

        October 9, 2018 at 10:30 am

        Sure, I can see your point. I think it’s valid. They’re from Cuba and would be in Little Havana if they were with the Marlins. That makes sense. I wonder how much that matters if they’re going to be 2 years each away from the bigs, maybe more. It should be interesting.

    • willmiranda

      October 8, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      Mickey Mantle became a competent outfielder. As for the larger topic, I’d like to see something about other available international players. There have to be some. We don’t need to get the top one or two, just guys better than we have. I know there are lots of limitations on who qualifies, but I think that worldwide there should be a dozen players a year worth considering.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm

      Will, the international signing period begins July 2, and it wasn’t until July 19 that the Orioles announced they would reenter the international market.

      Many of the top players were already signed by then.

      In coming years, I’m sure they’ll be more competitive internationally.

  4. whiterose

    October 8, 2018 at 9:59 am

    My concern wih Mesa is his age. They say he would go to single A. Star players are way past A at 22.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 10:58 am

      Whiterose, let’s see the Orioles sign him first. If he’s good, it won’t matter where he’s initially sent because he won’t be there very long.

  5. whiterose

    October 8, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Why is facebook messanger no longer replied to?

  6. bmorebirds

    October 8, 2018 at 10:06 am

    It always strikes me as funny when we fans decide certain players MUST be acquired by our team. Then we head back to our jobs as accountants, utility workers, florists, etc. I’ve never seen Mesa or Witt play an inning of baseball! Right now, my hope is that the Orioles acquire the best talent evaluators in baseball, and will then allow them to work free of ownership interference.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 11:01 am

      Bmorebirds, you have expressed my feelings, but fans want to feel they’re a part of the team, and this is a way for them to show it.

  7. Orial

    October 8, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Signing the Mesa bros might be more of a psychological boost than an actual boost. No guarantees( fans feel better,get the national media off our back). Part of the sales pitch could be–“Victor Victor you will be our starting RF/CF next season”. One question Dan–what if they sign no one and still have that 6.5 million in their hands,then what? Is it a “use it or lose it”situation? Assume they can’t roll it over into next June?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 11:03 am

      Orial, Dan is now at The Athletic.

      It’s “use it or lose it.” If they don’t sign the Mesas, they can always do what they’ve done in the past, and that’s trade the money away.

      • Orial

        October 8, 2018 at 12:19 pm

        Sorry Rich I knew that(Dan). A senior moment.

    • cedar

      October 8, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Rich, that’s an interesting point. A lot of what ifs coming, but what if the Mesa’s are clear that Baltimore isn’t the place they want to play, could the Orioles trade that money say to Miami so they could sign both Mesas and in return get some talented prospects? Are there other teams interested that the Orioles could deal money to for he same?

      • Jbigle1

        October 9, 2018 at 12:38 am

        But if we know Mesa won’t come Miami also knows Mesa won’t come here. Seems like Miami would have all the leverage in that trade. We gave up 750K for a 23 year old in rookie ball so maybe the leverage wouldn’t really affect anything.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      Cedar, yes and yes. They got Paul Fry and Yefry Ramirez by trading International Signing Bonus Slot
      Money.

  8. Bancells Moustache

    October 8, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    Everything I’m reading is saying the Mesa brothers are as good as gone. The allure of Miami is just too tough to compete with when it comes to guys from Cuba.

    As for Witt Jr, yeah whatever. I, along with 99 percent of baseball fandom know nothing about him or any other High School prospect outside of a few blurbs on websites. Its not like we watched him light up Alabama in the National title game and won the Heisman. If he’s the guy, ok.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 5:58 pm

      Interesting thoughts, Bancells.

    • Orial

      October 8, 2018 at 8:34 pm

      I’ve read where the O’s are the front runners.

  9. mlbbirdfan

    October 8, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    Miami’s future is bleak. Ours, too.
    Wouldn’t they want to play with a good team?
    About use it or lose it: we have to use the money before June 1? If we trade the money, can another team use the money after June 1?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      Mlbbirdfan, the Mesa brothers can sign anywhere. Will be interesting to see where they end up.

      The money has to be used by the Orioles by June 1, and if traded must be used by another team by June 1.

  10. PA Bird Lover

    October 8, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    I read all 23 comments and was taken back by not one request for pitching. Am I wrong to think that hitters develop faster than great pitching? Why draft a HS SS over a valued pitcher? Look at Houston and their staff. Granted Verlander was a trade and I don’t know where their other studs came from, but I think pitching wins hitting is quicker to develop. Rich, how far off base am I ?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2018 at 9:28 pm

      PA, it’s really early to talk about the draft. As I wrote, new prospects that are not being talked about now are likely to emerge between now and June.

      Many teams are reluctant to pick a pitcher with the No. 1 pick. Just eighteen of the No. 1 picks since 1965, have been pitchers. Most of those picked with the top selected have not had great careers, although in recent years, Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole and David Price were all top picks, but so were Mark Appel and Brady Aiken,.

      Appel and Aiken were Houston’s top picks in 2013 and 2014. Neither came close to playing in the majors.

      Position players have a greater record of success. Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Darryl Strawberry, Adrian Gonzalez and Joe Mauer were No. 1 picks.

      Yes, a number of position players were busts, but the odds are in their favor.

      The only time the Orioles had a top pick, they chose Ben McDonald in 1989.

      • Jbigle1

        October 9, 2018 at 12:40 am

        Appel made it close to the big leagues. Was a key piece in the ken Giles return. Once he made it to philly he really flamed out though. With our history of drafting pitching prospects I’d prefer a hitter unless there’s a can’t miss Strasburg-Esque pitching prospect

  11. BirdsCaps

    October 9, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    The no. 1 priority for the rebuilding Orioles should be developing an international presence. The Birds have the slot money and they must spend all of it (it would be a waste if it just sat there considering it was a part of many of the trades). I’m not sure if the Mesa brothers are going to be a package deal, but the Orioles really need to sign the elder Mesa. One reason for the necessity is optics. Signing him will not be all that expensive (Tillman cost 3 million) and the orioles lead the league with a little over 6. Also, at 22 he is likely not that far from playing in the majors. If he is as good as the hype suggests, he could get a cup of coffee in ’19. Thus the Orioles could make the organization stronger, obtain talent that’s likely not too far from major league ready, and get a PR boost by signing Victor Victor Mesa (God that’s a dumb name).

  12. bats in the blefary

    October 10, 2018 at 8:54 am

    The Orioles could have had an extra $750,000 to offer had they not spent it on a 23/24 year old rookie ball hitter who had an average in the .230’s. Ineptness reigns.

  13. Maka

    October 10, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    No one knows how good the Mesa brothers will be in the majors, but we gave up Gausman for international slot money. Based on what we’ve seen of the minor leaguers we received in return, we absolutely need to sign one of the Mesa brothers or the pitching prospect. Otherwise we were fleeced by the Braves. It also provides another reason why DD should not have been entrusted with the rebuild.

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