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Thursday Bird Droppings: Orioles international signings are coming

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For years, the international amateur free agent market has gone on without the Orioles. That’s reportedly changing in a big way in 2021.

Mike Elias in the middle of a scrum of reporters. Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Hello, friends.

There are now 85 days remaining until the next scheduled Orioles game, which is Opening Day. It is another month and nine days to go until pitchers and catchers are expected to report to Sarasota for the beginning of spring training. There’s still a little ways to go, but we’re closer to the start of the next regular season now than we are to the end of the last one, so that’s fun.

Today is a day in Birdland where it is fun to start to think a little bit about the future. MASN’s Steve Melewski reported yesterday about the Orioles efforts with the coming signing class of international amateurs, with whom deals can be announced on January 15. According to Melewski, the Orioles have deals lined up with two players for bonuses of more than $1 million, the first time the team has ever given out seven figure international bonuses. Eight players are expected to get bonuses of $300,000 or more.

Melewski noted that Baseball America figures show that in two of the final three signing periods of Dan Duquette’s tenure, the Orioles total spending on these players was $260,000 and $535,000. That is an absolute pittance. It is one reason why the Orioles rebuilding project is not more advanced at this point. They weren’t signing 16-year-olds in Latin America six years ago who would be the interesting 22-year-old prospects of today.

Signing these players is not going to be a quick fix for the system. Even if the Orioles are extremely lucky and one of the players they get here turns into the next phenom who is able to debut at age 20, that’s four years from now. Maybe if the Orioles are good in two or three years, some of these players could be prospect depth that could be traded. Still, it’s encouraging.

Even better, according to Melewski, is that the Orioles have been able to take advantage of having money available in their signing bonus pool to swoop in and pick up players who had been committed to other teams who those teams are now not going to be able to sign due to COVID-related changes to the bonus pools.

This signing period will not allow teams to trade bonus pool space to other teams, as the Duquette-era Orioles used to do. Deals that had been in place went kaput, and the O’s are going to get players as a result, including their two $1 million players. Those signings could amount to nothing, but good and great players have been coming out of Latin America for a long time and the Orioles barely even tried to get them. It’s nice to see that under Elias they are finally engaged in that market.

Around the blogO’sphere

Sulser on trying to pitch through injury (School of Roch)
Apparently, Cole Sulser broke some toes during the season and the team is looking forward to seeing how he does now that he’s healed. I don’t have much faith, but I’d be glad to be wrong.

O’s prospect Wells ‘knocking on the door’ (Orioles.com)
There are better prospects in the system than Alexander Wells. He’s the one whose success would make me the happiest, though.

Possible replacements for Jose Iglesias at shortstop (Baltimore Baseball)
Rich Dubroff looks over the warts of the various potential replacement shortstops. There are several.

Pitching coach Chris Holt says major league staff will be top focus after overseeing turnaround in farm system (Baltimore Sun)
The Orioles new pitching coach also has the title director of pitching, which he had last year. He told reporters yesterday that he’ll mostly be working with the big league staff in 2021.

Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries

There is one current Oriole with a birthday today. Happy 25th birthday to Dean Kremer, who will hopefully be a part of the Opening Day rotation. It’s also the birthday of a couple of former Orioles: 2011 outfielder Kyle Hudson and 2013 reliever Francisco Rodriguez.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: calendar namesake Pope Gregory XIII (1502), 13th president Millard Fillmore (1800), novelist Zora Neale Hurston (1891), The Addams Family creator Charles Addams (1912), actor Nicholas Cage (1964), and rapper Aloe Blacc (1979).

On this day in history...

In 1558, the Duke of Guise led a French force that captured Calais, ending the last continental possession of England.

In 1610, Galileo Galilei made the first observation of the four largest moons of Jupiter, although it wasn’t until March that he realized these moons were satellites of Jupiter. Ganymede is the solar system’s largest moon; he also observed Io, Callista, and Europa.

In 1904, an international distress signal was established. At first, it was “CQD,” though two years later the familiar “SOS” became the distress code.

In 1979, Vietnamese forces captured the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, driving the Khmer Rouge regime and Pol Pot from power.

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And that’s the way it is in Birdland on January 7. Have a safe Thursday.