A couple of things I know about the Indians and international amateur free agent signings:
1. It is more costly with greater projection to sign a Latin amateur than a US amateur.
2. The Indians have done fairly well (see Victor Martinez, Jeanmar Gomez, Fausto Carmona, Hector Rondon and others) going cheap in this market.
3. Like me, John Mirabelli thinks this market is overpriced.
Still, you have to pay if you want to compete. Here is a list of the international free agent signings this season (the signing period started July 2nd). The first 33 players on this list come from Baseball America's list of players predicted to get the top bonuses in this period. The rest are significant signings with some of the bonuses estimated based on media reports:
1. Esteilon Peguero, SS, Dominican Republic – SEA $2.8 million
2. Luis Heredia, RHP, Mexico – PIT $2.6 million
3. Adonis Cardona, RHP, Venezuala – TOR - $2.8 million
4. Renato Nunez, 3B, Venezuela – OAK $2.2 million
5. Eskarlin Vazquez, RF, Dominican Republic – DET (Danry?) - $1 million
6. Phillips Castillo, OF, Dominican Republic – SEA $2.2 million
7. Vicmal de la Cruz, CF, Dominican Republic – OAK
8. Rougned Odor, SS, Venezuela – Texas - $425,000
9. Wilmer Romero, CF, Dominican Republic – NYY
10. Ariel Ovando, OF, Dominican Republic – HOU $2.8 million
11. Humberto Arteaga, SS, Venezuela – KC $1.1 million
12. Jose Torres, RHP, Colombia – SEA - $851,000
13. Yorman Garcia, CF, Venezuela – ARI - $300,000
14. Gabriel Cenas, 3B, Venezuela – TOR - $700,000
15. Elvis Sanchez, 3B, Dominican Republic – NYM
16. Angel Mejias, LHP Venezuela – UNSIGNED
17. Yoel Araujo, CF, Dominican Republic – TOR $800,000
18. Jordi Calderon, 3B, Venezuela – SEA
19. Edwin Moreno, OF, Dominican Republic – SD - $500,000
20. Argy Raga, C, Venezuela – OAK
21. Alberto Triunfel, SS, Dominican Republic – Texas $300,000
22. Jose Tovar, LHP, Venezuela, COL - $350,000
23. Pedro Perez, 3B, Colombia – UNSIGNED
24. Yorman Landa, RHP, Venezuela – UNSIGNED
25. Vicente Lupo, OF, Venezuela – NYM $400,000
26. Antonio Gonzalez, SS, Dominican Republic – UNSIGNED
27. Geronimo Franzua, LHP, Dominican Republic – HOU $250,000
28. Ronny Mejias, SS, Venezuela – ARI - $300,000
29. Christopher Tamarez, SS, Dominican Republic – NYY - $650,000
30. Luis Abad, RHP, Dominican Republic – UNSIGNED
31. Felix Jorge, RHP, Dominican Republic – UNSIGNED
32. Javier Pimentel, SS, Dominican Republic – MIN $575,000
33. Anderson Gonzalez, SS, Venezuela – PHI
Other singificant signings:
Hector Veloz 3B BAL $300,000
Maricino Cabrera, RHP, ATL $300,000
Francisco Silva SS PHI $200,000
Reyson Zoquier, LHP, MIN $200,000
Carlos Matias, RHP STL $1.5 million
Jose Rafel DePaula RHP NYY
Milton Gomez RHP, MIL $350,000
Olivet Florentino SS, CIN $250,000
So, it looks like close to 20 teams spent significant money in Latin America this year. Seattle, Toronto, Oakland and the Yankees appeared to be the big winners followed by Houston, Arizona and the Mets.
Note also that KC and Pittsburgh spent big on the one significant guy they signed as did Detroit and St. Louis. Minnesota spent big on their one guy last year and even went for a lesser but relatively expensive guy this year.
So, what's my point? Although it is expensive, the Indians just can't ignore these top prospects due to cost. I think, like KC and Pittsburgh did this year and Mnnesota did last year, they should make one top talent ($1 million plus) signing every year for Latin America. I think this should be a different budget than the draft budget so that 2010's draft strategy can continue. I am not not saying spending like drunken sailors which is what Toronto, Seattle and Oakland did, but note that Minnesota's #3 prospect this year is Miguel Sano, the SS they signed for over $2 million last year. You spend, you get quality. You don't, you hope you find a diamond in the rough. The latter is really a tough way to go, although the Indians have been pretty proficient at it. I just think it is time to augment that strategy and maybe do away with their Dominican team or, more likely, split one with another cost-conscious organization. That is, stop signing quantity, start signing quality and integrate those guys into the US faster. Although this might create a little culture shock these guys are on the same Rule 5 signing clock as US high schoolers so its not like we have forever.
The Indians should NOT be big spenders in Latin America but they should spend big on ONE guy each year. Considering we spent $1 million each on Sean Smith and Nick Pesco a few years back, I think $1.5-2 million once a year in Latin America is warranted.
BTW, if you can get any of the remaining unsigned guys (see guys in red above) by signing them in the $200,000 range, I would do it in a heartbeat. Odor and Mejias I would obviously pay more for but I think we need to get someone from this class or it helps to create a hole in our organization at the lower levels.
At some point I will do a deeper dive into the ROI for these Latin signees over the last 5 years but I don't have the time now.