It’s late in the signing period for international prospects. However, Orioles Director of International Scouting Koby Perez thinks there are prospects still worth signing.
The Orioles had more than $6 million in international signing bonus money in October, before Mike Elias was hired as the team’s new executive vice president and general manager. Even though they spent some of it when they acquired infielder Drew Jackson from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Rule 5 draft, they still have more than any other team.
“This market in international is very fluid,” Perez said in a conference call Thursday, a day after being hired. “A lot of things change. You have countries where players pop up unexpectedly, such as Cuba … Having the money puts us in a great spot to be front-runners for those types of guys.”
Elias said he’s not going to be in a rush to spend. Most top-shelf prospects signed quickly after international signing began last July 2. Teams have until June 15 to sign international players. There could be a surprising player from Cuba or Asia to emerge, but it’s not a certainty.
“The reality is the way the Latin American market works … the process to sign these players begins years in advance,” Elias said.
“A huge, huge majority of the players in that signing period are already spoken for, so we do have a lot of money remaining, but we’re not going to spend the money to spend it and say that we spent it. … It is real money, and there are other things we can do with that money to invest in our club, invest in our operation.”
Perez thinks that since all teams have about the same amount of money to spend, the Orioles could do well internationally.
“We should be able to compete with even the bigger market teams in his market,” Perez said. “The most important thing for me is identifying guys early … The sooner you can identify, the sooner you can make better decisions.”
The Orioles still have to name a coaching staff, and pick leaders for the domestic scouting and minor league development.
“We’re busy on all fronts,” Elias said. “The coaching searches both at the major league and minor league level are ongoing. We’ve made a lot of progress … We are sort of working quietly, day and night on those fronts and making hires as we go.”
Elias said that hiring replacements for Brian Graham as head of player development and Gary Rajsich would take time. For now, Kent Qualls is heading up the minor league operation and Brad Ciolek the scouting department.
“I expect to have an extra level of personal involvement with the draft and with the farm system this year,” Elias said. “I’m not in any kind of panic to address those leadership positions.”
Elias is delighted to bring in Perez, whom he knows when both were scouts with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I’m very fortunate this time of year, especially to have been able to bring Koby in,” Elias said.
Perez comes from the Cleveland Indians, where he headed their Latin American scouting.
“In a lot of ways I believe that he is the perfect person for establishing a large and due presence over the next several years, to ramp up our efforts in this critical market,” Elias said.
Elias said that Mike Snyder, who heads up Asian scouting for the Orioles, will continue in that role.
“I see no reason to dismantle our capabilities there,” Elias said. “The Latin American market is much more vital to any major league franchise. There’s just simply more players, more major league players, specifically more position players emerging from those markets.”
Perez knows that the Orioles’ scouting staff is small, and he said that the team’s incumbent Latin American scout, Calvin Maduro, had done well in tracking players. It’s a difficult time of the year to add scouts, and Perez said he’d take his time to bring on qualified personnel.
“I’m sure that we’ll add to it,” Perez said.