Dodgers securing future with international prospects

February 10th, 2016

None of the teams that ranked among the top nine in terms of payroll last season won a postseason series, most notably the Dodgers, who despite a record-setting big league payroll of more than $270 million were eliminated by the Mets in the National League Division Series in five games.

Don't, however, be fooled. The Dodgers have raised eyebrows with the money they have spent at the big league level, but the cynics need to realize that the Dodgers' financial commitment goes deeper than the infield dirt at Dodger Stadium.

They haven't ignored the future, and their long-range plan is to have their investment pay off.

The Dodgers have been every bit as aggressive in the international market as the big league market. And they were not deterred by the sizable tax penalty for exceeding their allotted segment of the international signing pool. The team set a record by spending $150 million on international players in 2015.

Underscoring the Dodgers' willingness to spend at all levels was their November efforts. They signed Cuban defectors Yusniel Diaz, an outfielder, and Omar Estevez, a second baseman, for a combined $43 million. That included a penalty tax of $21.5 million for having exceeded the allotted international pool. Diaz is ranked No. 12 in the organization and Estevez No. 21.

Dodgers' Top 30 Prospects

There are eight players signed out of the international market in the Dodgers' Top 30 Prospects, including seven originally signed by the Dodgers (along with right-hander Frankie Montas, an original signee of the Red Sox who came to the Dodgers from the White Sox as part of the three-team deal that sent former Reds third baseman Todd Frazier to Chicago).

It does not, however, include Cuban defector Hector Olivera, whom the Dodgers signed to a six-year, $62.5 million deal last May. Olivera, an infielder, was a part of a three-team, 12-player deal that brought left-handed starter Alex Wood and reliever Luis Avilan to the Dodgers from the Braves. The Dodgers also took back the salaries of big league veterans Bronson Arroyo and Michael Morse to make that deal work.

Olivera, though, is 30 and a veteran player who could have an impact now, rather than a prospect that can be envisioned as a part of the future.

Montas, ranked No. 4 among Dodgers prospects, is the elder statesman among the eight international products in the Dodgers' Top 30. He will open the season at the age of 23.

Right-handed Cuban defector Yadier Alvarez, the No. 11-ranked prospect who was given a $16 million bonus, will be 20 on Opening Day. So, too, will outfielder Johan Mieses, ranked No. 22, and catcher Julian Leon, No. 27.

Left-hander Julio Urias, the No. 2 prospect in the system and top-ranked left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, and Diaz will both be 19 on Opening Day.

Estevez will be 18, and outfielder Starling Heredia, ranked 15th, will be 17.

The past year's international impact was merely a continuation of the aggressive ways of the Dodgers in that market. Urias and Leon were signed by the Dodgers in 2012, along with Cuban defector Yasiel Puig, who was in the big leagues by June 2013.

How quickly the eight will impact the big league team remains to be seen.

Montas made his big league debut with seven appearances last September, but he's not listed among the top eight starting pitchers on the Dodgers' depth chart. Urias reached Triple-A last year.

They are the only two among the eight to have played above Class A Advanced.

Alvarez, Diaz, Heredia and Estevez have yet to play professionally on the mainland. Mieses reached Class A Advanced last year and Leon played 83 games in the Class A Midwest League last season.

The Dodgers are banking on them making it big in the big leagues.