Toronto’s Top 5 international signings of all time

January 14th, 2021

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays’ success through the 1980s and their World Series runs in the early ’90s saw the club emerge as a major player on the international market, particularly in Latin America.

That remains true today, with the club's Top 30 Prospects featuring talent from Canada, the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Brazil and the Netherlands.

These are the Blue Jays’ top 5 international prospects of all time.

1) (Signed in 1988)
Carlos Delgado, catcher? That’s how this all started, with Delgado behind the plate as a young prospect out of Puerto Rico. He played there until 1994 in the Minor Leagues, and even squeezed in a couple of innings in the big leagues, but it was at first base where Delgado found a home.

Ranked as Baseball America’s No. 4 prospect prior to the 1993 season -- and No. 5 prior to ’94 -- Delgado made good on his prospect status by becoming one of the best hitters in Blue Jays history. He also stands as one of the game’s most underrated sluggers, with his career .929 OPS and 473 home runs over 17 seasons deserving of more accolades than Delgado has been given.

After 12 seasons with Toronto, Delgado signed with the Marlins in 2005, then played out the final four productive years of his career with the Mets.

The majority of international prospects sign their deal officially listed as one of the prime defensive positions up the middle: catcher, shortstop or center field. They don’t all stay there, of course, and Delgado can be held up as the best-case scenario for making a transition.

2) (1979)
Originally discovered and signed by the legendary scout Epy Guerrero, Fernandez caught Guerrero’s eye when he was very young for his natural talents. Fernandez had a bad knee, though, so Guerrero arranged for him to have surgery. When Fernandez turned 16, he signed with the Blue Jays, and the rest is history.

The slick-fielding Fernandez quickly became the club’s top prospect in the early 1980s, as he was about to break into the Major Leagues, and he went on to have a 17-year career that included four stints in Toronto. The five-time All Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner -- which doesn’t quite capture his defensive excellence -- is rightfully embedded in the minds of Blue Jays fans as an all-time franchise great.

Fernandez died in February at the age of 57 after suffering a stroke while battling kidney issues.

3) (2015)
The magnitude of Guerrero’s signing is a product of the era, not just his talent. When Delgado signed in 1988 and Fernandez signed in ‘79, expansive scouting reports were not readily available online and videos of their batting practice or fielding were not at your fingertips.

Guerrero’s signing was the perfect storm, where talent and name recognition came together at a time when baseball fans knew more about prospects -- especially international ones -- than ever before. There’s a long way to go for Guerrero to even be mentioned in the same breath as Delgado or Fernandez, but the game’s consensus No. 1 prospect in 2018 lands just behind them at No. 3 for his potential alone.

4) (1992)
Escobar signed out of Venezuela in 1992 and spent 11 years with the organization, including seven seasons in the Majors. The right-hander began his career as a starter, even pitching for the Rookie-level Medicine Hat Tigers in Alberta, but he transitioned into bullpen or swingman roles later in his big league career with the Blue Jays. With Toronto, he owned a record of 58-55 with a 4.58 ERA, and he went on to play five more seasons for the Angels.

5) (2011)
Osuna signed out of Mexico in 2011 for a bonus of $1.5 million. After debuting in ’15 as a 20-year-old, Osuna spent parts of four seasons as the Blue Jays’ closer. He was traded to the Astros in 2018 while serving a 75-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy.