Dodgers open int'l signing period with a flurry
Sources say club has deals with Alvarez, Heredia, Brito and Cruz
The Los Angeles Dodgers are making a big splash on the first day international prospects can sign, stocking their Minor League system with several top international prospects, including right-handed pitcher Yadiel Alvarez for $16 million.
The Dodgers signed Alvarez, 19, ranked No. 2 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list; outfielder Starling Heredia, ranked No. 5, for $2.6 million; infielder Ronny Brito, ranked No. 21, for $2 million; outfielder Christopher Arias for $500,000 and shortstop Oneal Cruz for $950,000.
Sources indicate the Dodgers are also among the teams with serious interest in Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez, 20, ranked No. 1 on the list. Martinez is expected to command a signing bonus of more than $10 million. Los Angeles was also linked to shortstop Lucius Fox, ranked No. 3, from the Bahamas for several months.
The Dodgers also signed right-handed pitcher Ramon Rosso, outfielder Carlos Rincon and shortstop Damaso Marte Jr. from the Dominican Republic, Venezuelan shortstop Luis Rodriguez and second baseman Aldo Espinoza from Nicaragua. Marte, the son of former Major League pitcher Damaso Marte, signed for a $300,000 bonus..
In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool with four slot values based on the team's record in 2014 for the international signing period, which started on Thursday. The Dodgers' overall pool total for this year's signing period is $2,020,300, which means the signings will thrust them into the maximum penalty: They will pay a 100-percent tax for every dollar spent above their signing bonus pool, and they will not be able to sign a player for more than $300,000 in either of the next two years.
The club's strategy is clear: the Dodgers want to reload their farm system with as many top international players as possible with the hope that these prospects will develop into Major Leaguers in three to five years. The Yankees used the same strategy during the 2014-15 international signing period, when they signed close to 30 prospects for an estimated total of $17 million when their bonus pool total was only $2,193,100.
The possible implementation of an international Draft and a completely new system for acquiring international talent under the next CBA is something clubs like the Dodgers also consider.
The young prospects come with a high price.
Teams that exceed the pools by 0-5 percent have to pay a 100 percent tax. Teams that exceed the pools by 5-10 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period, and they have to pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage. Teams that exceed the pools by 10-15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period, and they have to pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
In the most severe penalty -- such as the Dodgers this year -- teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, and they must pay a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
Alvarez has been one of the most coveted arms on the international market since he showed up in the Dominican Republic earlier this year. The right-hander is raw and could use some polish, particularly with his command, but he's young and has a 98-mph fastball, a plus slider and a plus changeup. From Cuba, Alvarez established residency in March and was granted free agency by Major League Baseball, making him eligible to sign when the international signing period began. His age and experience played a role in his overall value on the market.
Heredia has all of the tools that scouts love along with a projectable body that leads many scouts to believe that could be the best total package in this year's class. Known as "Pit Bull," Heredia plays hard and models his game after Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. Brito has shown quick feet, good hands and a strong arm. Scouts like his instincts and knack for getting to balls. He has proven to be a line-drive hitter while displaying some plate discipline. The 6-foot-1, 150-pound Cruz has great hands but could outgrow the position.