Examining the O’s Asinine International Strategy

Roch Kubatko, Dan Duquette, and Jim Hunter at the O's radio show.
Photo: @Orioles

I attended my first “Hot Stove” show last night, with special guest Dan Duquette.  The food and drinks were great… but ask me if a single shred of interesting and informative conversation took place? Well if you were listening, you already know the answer. But as I was sitting enjoying a beverage at reduced cost at The Orioles Grille at the Sheraton, I couldn’t help but wonder why the conversation never meandered over to the Orioles and their presence in the international market.

I did some research, and I’m beside myself with what I found.

To be perfectly honest, I was unclear how the process for international signees worked. Major League Baseball overhauled the entire process for 2017, eliminating the International Draft and doing away with “the highest bidder” philosophy (theoretically this was to benefit smaller market teams, but obviously the owners are happy to spend less money – that’s a conversation for a different day).

So now, teams are slotted a specific amount of money to sign international players, ranging from approximately $4 million to $6 million. Teams may also trade their slotted money and amass an additional 75% of their initial pool. In theory, a team could acquire close to $10 million in total bonus money to sign international players. Another rule change was the age at which these players become exempt from this process. Under the new CBA, a foreign player must be at least 25 years of age, and have a minimum of 6 seasons in a foreign baseball league to be a true Free Agent not subject to these slotted signings.

So this is great news for the Orioles, right? Gone are the days of the young international superstars getting snatched up by the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers etc. by outrageously high contracts.

Wrong! The Orioles, who started with the highest pool at $5.75 million, have dwindled their money down to $160,000.

Since the signing period opened up on July 2nd, the O’s have made eight trades sending away their pool money; the other 29 MLB clubs have combined for 13. The most recent trade of their pool money was the acquisition of Konner Wade from the Rockies for $500k of bonus money. A minor league stud, Konner was sporting a 4.28 ERA in AA after 109.1 IP.  To put that into perspective, the O’s increased the Rockies pool money by 11.5% for a virtually useless acquisition.

This is truly an abomination. According to Baseball America, the Orioles are the only team in MLB to not make a single international singing since the period opened on July 2.

(Update: Apparently the BA link has not been updated. The O’s actually signed four players for $340K total – Oscar Olivares, Josue Cruz, Hector Vizcaino, and Ricardo Castro. h/t to @the_Luke_Siler.)

You’ll read statements from EVP Dan Duquette and MASN that the O’s don’t believe in spending money in the international amateur market.

My rebuttal would be, do they believe in winning? Any baseball fan can see that the league is dominated by international superstars from across the globe, who are now extremely affordable. But the Orioles refuse to get involved?

Despite the fact that this is an extremely detrimental organizational philosophy, let’s just assume there is no other way and the O’s continue to follow this path. THEN AQUIRE IMPACTFUL PLAYERS.

Teams (literally every other MLB organization) that realize the value in the international market, will gladly stack up their pool money (remember they can increase 75% of their initial pool via trade).

So if a team is interested in Shohei Otani, for instance, $500k is proportionally a lot money that could go a long way to landing him.

The O’s turn this bargaining chip into Konner Wade.

Give me a break.

3 Cheers on “Examining the O’s Asinine International Strategy

  1. avatarDave Tilley on said:

    Their total disdain for international signings is asinine and a reason they will not succeed. Schoop somehow was signed, but if the “talent evaluators” Showalter and Duquette don’t see what all others see than the organization will always falter..

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