Orioles hope to re-enter Latin American market with a flourish - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles hope to re-enter Latin American market with a flourish

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

BALTIMORE—The Orioles are hoping to continue their makeover in another way when the international signing period begins on Tuesday.

For years, the Orioles have largely avoided paying large bonuses to international prospects, but after Manny Machado was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July, Dan Duquette, who was then running baseball operations, announced that the team would re-enter the market.

When Mike Elias was hired last November, he re-emphasized that, and hired Koby Perez to direct the Orioles’ international operations.

“I just think it’s going to be a very fun day for this organization to have an infusion of Dominican and Venezuelan and even guys from the Bahamas. There’s going to be a lot of international talent coming in, and it’s going to be inspiring,” Elias said on Thursday.

“Because we hadn’t been particularly active in the July 2nd market, we’re in a little bit of arrears in terms of these guys coming up and helping the [Gulf Coast League] clubs,” Elias said. “We’re playing catchup a little bit, but we’ll get caught up.”

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Along with seven other teams, the Orioles will have $6,481,200 to spend on international signings, though they can always trade for additional funds.

While the international signing period runs through next June 15, the top prospects are usually signed quickly.

Top prospects in the June draft typically can help major league teams much sooner than international signees. The Orioles recently signed catcher Adley Rutschman, the first overall pick from Oregon State who could be in the major leagues by mid-2021 if things work out well.

A top Dominican or Venezuelan prospect who signs at 16 may not even reach the Gulf Coast League for two years, after they’ve played on the Dominican Summer League teams.

“I think Mike’s made it pretty clear that we’re going to be aggressive going forward,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s going to sign a ton of guys … and we know we’re going to be a presence there in the future.

“Look around the league. I’m excited that we’re growing our international department, and I’m excited we’re going to be more of a presence, and I think it’s going to be a big part of us.”

The Orioles have never had much of a presence in Latin America. Perhaps their best known player from the Dominican Republic was Armando Benitez. The hard-throwing right-hander was signed at 16 in 1990, and reached the Orioles in 1994 and pitched five seasons for them.

They haven’t developed a player from the Dominican Republic since infielder Pedro Florimon, who played four games for the Orioles in 2011, and have never signed a player from Venezuela who reached the major leagues with them. Left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez could have been the first, but he was traded to Boston in July 2014 for reliever Andrew Miller.

The Orioles have two players they’ve signed in the higher minor leagues: outfielder Ademar Rifaela, from Curacao, who is at Triple-A Norfolk, and right-handed reliever Francisco Jimenez, a Dominican, at Double-A Bowie.

Jimenez, who has also pitched at Norfolk and High-A Frederick this year, began playing for the Dominican Summer League team at 17 in 2012.

The Orioles were hoping that Jomar Reyes, a third baseman who was signed in January 2014, would have produced by now, but the 22-year-old Reyes has been stuck at Frederick for the last four seasons.

Renato Nunez, who is one of seven Latin Americans on the club, none of whom were originally signed by the Orioles, said that Baltimore never scouted him as a young player in Venezuela. He thinks that the team can make up ground rapidly in his country and elsewhere in Latin America.

“I think it’s great that the Orioles are making a commitment to signing young Latin players, and hopefully they can sign a couple of guys who’ll help the team in the future,” Nunez said.

“I think they can go quickly. If you want to sign the best guys from that year, you have to spend some money. I think it depends on what they want, and what they’re looking for. If they want some pitchers, some position players. I think they’re doing a good job, and if they continue doing it, they can sign a couple of guys.”

 

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. PA Bird Lover

    July 1, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Aren’t we lucky, PA isn’t shooting down the idea of international signings. If he wouldn’t have micro managed years back we might still be a contender.

  2. Bancells Moustache

    July 1, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    Rich, I heard years back that one of the primary reasons the Orioles weren’t active on the International Market is due to the inherent sleaziness of the whole thing, and the old man’s discomfort with that. Is there any truth to that? I mean, we are talking about selling 16 year olds to the highest bidder in areas of the world that are known to play fast and loose with the rules

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 1, 2019 at 2:38 pm

      You might want to phrase this question differently.

  3. willmiranda

    July 1, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    I can’t rephrase Bancells’ question, but i have a sympathy for the sentiments expressed. There’s a whiff of colonialism here. Why don’t we sign American kids at that age? Because they’re not poor and desperate and willing to sacrifice their lives for the baseball system? I don’t think it’s because the internationals are more physically mature and talented. And what happens to the kids who put in years and wash out? Do they get MLB pensions? I don’t know about sleaze or playing loose, but it smacks of exploitation to me.

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 1, 2019 at 7:50 pm

      The international market is a very complicated one, and it’s not unlike colleges trying to recruit teenaged basketball players, and the Orioles did eschew it for a long time. The problem with that strategy is that your domestic scouting has little room for error. The players are signed at 16, go to an academy to play ball and finish high school, and hopefully learn some English. The odds that any of these kids make it is very small, but you can’t just ignore the market. It will take at least five years for the results to be measured.

  4. Orial

    July 1, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    Can we expect any top 20 talents? Money does talk.

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 1, 2019 at 9:58 pm

      I don’t know enough about the international market to guess.

  5. jimcarter

    July 2, 2019 at 1:54 am

    You have to be pretty blind not to see another reason why the Orioles avoided the international market like the plague. There were a time not long ago I did a quick head count of the makeup of rosters and found the Orioles and Diamondbacks to be neck and neck. Fast forward to today and Mancini is the exception in the lineup and not the rule. To use an old expression: “I call ’em like I see ’em”.

  6. CalsPals

    July 2, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Top 30 signed, no O’s, WTH…..so much for a flourish, go O’s

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