One player on the free-agent market dominated the 2017 offseason. He was considered one of the best players scouts ever evaluated and considered a generational talent. The catch is that I am not talking about a regular free agent; I am talking about a different kind of free agent. The player I am referring to is Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani was one of the most hyped-up Japanese players ever; he was a hitter who had the power to hit 40 plus home runs a year while also dominating on the mound. He was called the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” and nearly every team was trying to sign him.
Ohtani eventually made a personal decision to go to a west coast team and ultimately signed with the Angels. Ohtani’s career has spoken for itself as he already has a Rookie of the Year and an MVP to his name. Ohtani might be one of the best to ever step onto a baseball field, yet one team, in particular, didn’t even try to sign him. This wasn’t due to Ohtani’s personal decision, yet it was due to philosophy.
I am, of course, talking about Dan Duquette, former Orioles General Manager, who told MLB Network Radio that the reason that the Orioles didn’t even attempt to go after Ohtani was that, “philosophically we don’t participate on the posting part of it.” The Orioles were only one of three teams that didn’t go after Ohtani.
I mention this to show two things: getting involved in the international market is all about philosophy, and to show how far the Orioles have come.
Think about all the best players in baseball in your head; now count how many of them are from the International Free Agent Market. There is at least a good-to-star-level player on the roster on almost every team that came from outside of America. This all comes from a philosophy to get into the international market and understand how it works. For years the Orioles ignored it while other teams ran circles around them. This was just another issue that Mike Elias had to fix when he came into this organization. I will always say that it surprises me that Elias even wanted the Orioles job, considering how lost this organization was in 2018.
However, since 2018, the Orioles have done more than get their feet wet in the International Market; they have dived into the deep end.
Before the 2019 season began, Elias hired Koby Perez as the Senior Director of International Scouting. Perez and Elias started a huge signing period in 2019. They signed 27 IFA’s in the July 2019 period. While the bonuses were not that big, the number of signings is still impressive. This was a huge turning point in this organization’s history. After years of ignoring the market due to an old philosophy, a new philosophy was starting to lead the Orioles down a road that would build success for years to come.
In the 2020 – 21 signing period, the Orioles started signing some big names and gave out some severe signing bonuses. The class was headlined by two players, Venezuelan Shortstop Maikol Hernandez and Dominican Catcher Samuel Basallo. Hernandez was given 1.2 Million dollars while Basallo was given 1.3 million. These two were the first International players to sign for seven figures with the Orioles.
This is even getting better as the 2022 class is looking like the Orioles are again spending big on more international free agents. The highest signing bonus will go to Braylin Tavera, as he will sign for at least $1.5 to 2 Million. This will break the record held by Basallo in the previous class. The 2022 class is still incomplete as the signing period ends a week after I am currently writing this. However, the information we do have still shows the commitment that the Orioles will continue to make on the international market. It was also reported that the Orioles are favorites to sign Cuban Infielder Caesar Prieto. It might seem weird to call out this signing since he doesn’t have a big signing bonus. However, he has a shot to be seen earlier than most other signings because he is 22 currently and put much more than respectable numbers.
This is only the beginning which makes this all the more exciting. The Orioles are also going to open a 22.5-acre complex in the Dominican Republic, which gives them an edge when it comes to signing players and shows how Elias is changing the culture here in Baltimore.
Eventually, the Orioles will get to the point where they will be signing the best of the best in their class and will be giving out signing bonuses in the $5-6 million range. While that day is not today, it should be coming within the next two years.
Elias and Kolby Perez’s staff deserve so much more credit for all these changes than they are receiving. I can understand fans’ frustration with Elias not putting a better product on the MLB field. Still, he has done a terrific job building up this farm system, building an analytical staff that competes with other MLB Franchises, and of course, changing an outdated philosophy and getting the orioles into the international Free agent market best way possible.
Continuing to improve our presence will also help out this farm system as it is one of the easiest ways to continue building it up when prospects graduate. Mike Elias and Kolby Perez’s staff deserve so much more credit for what they have done, improving this organization and building a brighter future for not only the Orioles but for the Players and the overall health of Baseball.