For the first time in a long time, July 2 means something for Orioles fans. The date marks the beginning of the signing period for this year’s crop of 16-year-old international amateurs. One thing that has changed very quickly with Mike Elias as the O’s general manager is that the O’s care about signing these players and are making a real effort to do it. It is exciting.
The Orioles will have a total available pool of $6,481,200. They’re one of eight teams with the most available pool money to spend. Teams that selected in the Competitive Balance Round B in the most recent draft, as the Orioles did, are the teams with the biggest international pools. Another six teams have about $6 million to spend. Most teams have about $5.4 million to spend, with a handful lower than that due to penalties assessed for signing MLB free agents.
The reality of this process is that the Orioles having the most money does not mean they will spend the day signing many, or any, of the best-regarded players from the class. Teams have spent the past two years finding these players and locking them up to handshake deals that could be announced today.
This was going on long before Elias was ever hired, when Dan Duquette or whoever you want to blame was asleep at the helm. Not only were they not signing players, they were trading away their slot money for largely worthless minor leaguers, though in fairness, current Orioles Paul Fry, Dwight Smith Jr., and Tom Eshelman all arrived in deals like this. Smith and Eshelman came after Elias took over.
For one example, the best player in this international class is generally regarded to be a center fielder from the Dominican Republic named Jasson Dominguez. The Orioles have the most money, but it doesn’t matter because he probably came to an agreement with the Yankees in 2017 when he was just 14. Already on Tuesday the Yankees have signed Dominguez to what’s now a record $5.1 million bonus. That’s that.
Other players who will command multi-million dollar bonuses or even million dollar bonuses have been similarly committed since before Elias took over the Orioles. That’s the way this goes. They’re likely not going to have a chance to sign any of these players in next year’s class either. Today’s splashing into the market and signing players is going to be more about symbolic importance than actual importance.
Four years ago, one of those multi-million dollar players was Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who signed for $3.9 million. Not every one turns into one of the most exciting young players in MLB, but that’s the type of talent teams aim to get with a big bonus. Wander Franco, signed by the Rays two years ago for $3.85 million and he’s now the #1 prospect in MLB since Guerrero and Fernando Tatis Jr. (an $825,000 signing) have ascended to the bigs at just 20 years old.
There can be future top prospect value in the less expensive signings. Fangraphs current #12 prospect, Keibert Ruiz, cost the Dodgers just $140,000 in 2014. Their #17 prospect, Sixto Sanchez, was signed by the Phillies for just $35,000 that same year. These guys are mostly 16 years old. Even an educated guess at what they will become is still just a guess. Some will vastly exceed expectations once they get into the structured pro environment.
That the Orioles were not even willing to sign players in numbers on this tier in the past has been a continual source of frustration. Now, they are at least going to start doing that much. It won’t matter for a while, because even if some of the players they sign turn out to be very good, it’s three years before they’ll really be on the radar in a US league and five or more before even the most gifted look like they are close to being MLBers.
2024 is a long way away when the big league club of right now is 24-60. This isn’t an overnight fix, but it’s a start.
The Orioles announced the following 27 signings, some of whom are pictured along with Elias below:
- Charbel Abboud, RHP, Venezuela
- Cesar Aguasvivas, SS, Dominican Republic
- Jesus Alvarado, OF, Venezuela
- Cesar Alvarez, RHP, Venezuela
- Harol Arias, RHP, Venezuela
- Kenny Baez, C, Dominican Republic
- Randy Beriguete, RHP, Dominican Republic
- Johan Berroa, LHP, Dominican Republic
- Erick Caines, RHP, Dominican Republic
- Moises Chase, RHP, Venezuela
- Francisco Crispin, RHP, Dominican Republic
- Luis de la Cruz, OF, Dominican Republic
- Rolphy Cruz, SS, Dominican Republic
- Luis Gonzalez, OF, Dominican Republic
- Luis Ortiz, LHP, Dominican Republic
- Adrion Lacle, LHP, Aruba
- Robert Martinez, SS, Dominican Republic
- Alejandro Mendez, RHP, Dominican Republic
- Erinson Placencia, SS, Dominican Republic
- Edgar Portes, RHP, Dominican Republic
- Jose Ramirez, LHP, Venezuela
- Raul Rangel, RHP, Venezuela
- Ricardo Rivera, C, Colombia
- Anderson Rogers, SS, Dominican Republic (some video from BA’s Ben Badler)
- Leonel Sanchez, SS, Dominican Republic
- Moises Salas, LHP, Venezuela
- Dax Stubbs, OF, Bahamas