Wednesday, July 4, 2012

International Incident or International Coup?

July 2nd.  In the minds of prospect geeks this is an important day.  It's the day that very, very young (16+ years old) Latin American and European free agents and college-age Pacific Rim free agents can sign their first pro contracts.

But, to quote Bill Murray in the movie Stripes, "Then depression set in".  The Indians, employing a strategy seldom seen in baseball, spent at least $2 million of their $2.9 million budget on 4 guys who were not even very highly ranked based on Baseball America's top 20 Latin prospect rankings.  Here are those guys:

unranked Hector Cora for $1.1 million in a move that a number of teams and BA are apparently panning as WAY overspending.
unranked Francisco Mejia $350,000
unranked Grofy Cruz for $400,000
unranked Yoiber Marquina for  $200,000

Hey, it may work out.  But it is more likely just an attempt to throw 'stuff' against a wall and hope that some of it sticks, after having paid a lot of money, relatively for that stuff. 

Here are some facts:
  • The top 10 Latin prospects in this signing period signed for between $800,000 and $1.5 million. 
  • This past winter in Baseball America's top 50 prospects there were only 10 Latin American kids listed.  Of those 10, 7 of them signed for a bonus of $800,000 or more, one signed for $450,000 and the other two were bargain basement (i.e., under $100,000) signings.  All of the guys who received bonuses of $800,000 or more were among the top 10 Latin prospects in the year they signed.
The point is that if you want to get high value from Latin American you spend BIG money on HIGHLY ranked prospects.  That is true regardless of the $2.9 million cap per team for foreign free agent signings.   What has happened is that those top end bonuses, under the current cap system, have actually dropped. 

The Indians have had success recently (Dorssys Paulino) by signing a top Latin kid for good money.

The Indians have had success (Victor Martinez, Roberto Hernandez (nee Fausto Carmona), signing Latin kids en masse and having a few develop.  At one point a couple of years ago the Indians had as many if not more Latin kids in their top 30 prospects as most other teams in baseball.  That hasn't translated into major leaguers as guys like Carlos Rivero, Kelvin de la Cruz and Hector Rondon have not panned out.  But, in my opinion, the strategy was solid.

The Indians have NOT had success signing unknown or middling prospects to middling bonuses.  Guys like Alex Monsalve, Jairo Kelly, Elvis Araujo and, of course, the false-named Jose Ozoria (nee Wauli Bryan) all were signed for middling ($300,000 to $600,000) bonuses.

Yet they spent almost all their money on guys who were these types of middling prospects.  The worst was Cora, whose signing was panned by BA and apparently baseball experts from other teams as a WAY, WAY over-talent bonus.

Plus they signed him for this bloated bonus when other, TOP, talent was signing for nearly the same amount.

Will this strategy work out for the Indians?  Who knows.  The rest of baseball and Indians' Latin signing history may be wrong and the Indians may be right.  However, looking at their history of producing stud prospects from Latin American signings in the past 5 years, I doubt it.

Sorry, fans, the Indians most likely blew it in Latin America this year when they could have signed two top 10 Latin prospects for what it cost them to sign Curly, Moe, Larry and Shump.

Ah, the life of an Indians' fan.  Never-ending, eye-rolling disbelief.  .

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