The international signing period begins on January 15th, and reports indicate that the Orioles will announce agreements with two high-profile players.
The Orioles are expected to sign outfielder Braylin Tavera, a 16-year-old right-handed hitting centerfielder from the Dominican Republic, for a bonus of between $1.5-$2 million, according to Baseball America, which ranks Tavera 18th in their top 50. MLB.com reports that the Orioles are also the favorites to sign 22-year-old Cuban infielder César Prieto for a bonus of between $650,000 and $750,000.
The Orioles have been making steady progress in the international market. When general manager Mike Elias and Koby Perez, the team’s head of international scouting, joined the team just over three years ago, the Orioles had a weak presence in Latin America. In their third signing period, they’re likely to land their biggest name yet.
But there’s still a long way to go. Tavera is the only one of the top 50 Baseball America prospects committed to the Orioles. Perez says that teenagers commit to major league teams sometimes two or three years in advance, and since the Orioles had such a small presence in Latin America, it’s taken a while to establish themselves. The Orioles have started construction on a new complex in the Dominican Republic, and that should help.
In Perez’s first signing period in July 2019, the Orioles signed 27 players but not a big name. Last year, they signed 17 players. Two of them, Dominican catcher Samuel Basallo and Venezuelan infielder Maikol Hernández, signed for bonuses of over $1 million. Basallo, who is 17, hit .239 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 41 games in the Dominican Summer League while Hernández, who turned 18 in October, hit .231 with 15 RBIs in 40 games.
Some of the players signed in 2019 advanced to the Florida Complex League and could advance to higher affiliates this year.
The Orioles are hoping that Tavera’s signing will attract more prospects a year from now. His bonus is about what a player picked as a mid-to-high second-rounder in the July 2021 draft would sign for.
Prieto, who has played second base and shortstop, has a .370 average in 157 games for Cienfuegos in the past three seasons with 11 home runs and 93 RBIs. His reported bonus is equivalent to a player selected in the middle of the third round.
While Elias’ predecessor, Dan Duquette, was not allowed to sign big-ticket prospects from Latin America, the Orioles did sign some Cubans in the last decade. Three of them, outfielders Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez and pitcher Ariel Miranda, signed with the team and briefly played in the majors.
Urrutia signed in July 2012 for a $778,500 bonus and played 34 games in 2013 and 2015, hitting .272 with a home run and eight RBIs. Alvarez, who signed for $800,000 a year after Urrutia, hit .250 with a home run in 14 games in 2015 and 2016.
Miranda pitched in just one game for the Orioles in 2016, a year after he signed, and was traded to Seattle for Wade Miley. He’s found success in South Korea, where he won the Most Valuable Player Award last season and signed for $1.9 million for 2022.
Labor update: Spring training is scheduled to begin on February 15th. However, there must be a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before then.
Since the lockout was imposed on December 2nd, there have been no substantive talks between the players and Major League Baseball. Reportedly the owners are preparing new proposals.
It’s not a surprise that there haven’t been any talks, but if both sides want a spring training that begins on time, there must be some soon, and a settlement needs to occur sometime around February 1st.
Hall of Fame voting: Ballots for Hall of Fame voting were due on December 31st. As of Sunday, Ryan Thibodeaux (@NotMrTibbs), who compiles a list of public ballots, had 146 of the estimated 392 cast.
Voters, who have been members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for at least 10 years, are not required to make their ballots public.
Three players — David Ortiz (83.6 percent), Barry Bonds (80.8) and Roger Clemens (79.5) — are above the 75 percent needed for election. Ortiz is in his first year of eligibility. Bonds and Clemens are in their last.
In recent years, Bonds and Clemens have polled higher in the public ballots than among the electorate as a whole.
Scott Rolen, in his fifth year has 71.2 percent.
Two other polarizing candidates, Curt Schilling (58.2) and Alex Rodriguez (44.5), don’t appear close to election.
Results will be announced on January 25th.
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions later this week. Please leave yours in the comment box or email them to: [email protected].