MIAMI -- The Marlins have become major players on the international stage.After nearly two decades of not dabbling significantly in Latin American prospects, the Marlins on Monday announced the signings of Cuban outfield prospects Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr., sending a signal to the industry that Miami intends
MIAMI -- The Marlins have become major players on the international stage.
After nearly two decades of not dabbling significantly in Latin American prospects, the Marlins on Monday announced the signings of Cuban outfield prospects Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr., sending a signal to the industry that Miami intends to be active on the international front.
The brothers were introduced at a news conference attended by Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter and president of baseball operations Michael Hill.
"From Day One, we stressed as an organization, the importance of building this organization with depth in the Minor League system, and the need to invest in the international market," Jeter said. "Today, we have done just that. We have had the opportunity to sign two of the top prospects in the international class."
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Victor Victor, 22, is considered to be Double-A ready, but the Marlins will wait to see how he performs in big league camp in Spring Training before deciding where he will start off in 2019. This offseason, he may play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
Victor Jr., 17, has been a switch-hitter, who likely will hit exclusively left-handed in pro ball. He likely will get some playing time in a few weeks with the Marlins' Dominican instructional league squad.
According to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, Victor Victor will receive about $5.25 million, and his younger brother agreed to $1 million.
"Since they left Cuba, it's just been training for them," Hill said. "We're excited that they're signed now. We're going to continue the discussion of what's next for them, because it's late October now. We do have our Dominican instructional league that just started, and the Dominican Winter League is going on. We still have to decide what's next, but the first part of it was making them Marlins."
Victor Victor is ranked No. 1 on the international prospects list by MLB Pipeline.
Signing the Mesa brothers is the Marlins' biggest international free-agent splash since securing the services of Jose Cabrera as a 16-year-old from Venezuela in 1999. Cabrera came to terms for around $2 million, and he's gone on to build Hall of Fame-worthy credentials.
"I'm just very proud to be part of the organization, and be part of the city," Victor Victor said through an interpreter. "All the culture here is one of the things I like the most."
For the Marlins, the signings are expected to help the organization on and off the field, in a market that has a large Cuban community. But Jeter added that ultimately, it is about putting a winner on the field.
"They're both great players," Jeter said. "Obviously, on the business side [it helps], but the bottom line is we feel like we got two of the top players on the international market. We're going to invest in international talent. We're not just doing it to appease fans. We're doing it because we want these players to come up and perform and help us win.
Exactly what to expect from the Mesas is still relatively unknown, because the two departed from Cuba in May, and there isn't a long history of evaluations on either of them.
Victor Victor batted .354 with seven home runs and 40 stolen bases in the 2016-17 season for Serie Nacional in Cuba. In the '17 World Baseball Classic, he was 3-for-7 with two doubles.
Victor Jr., hit .320 (8-for-25) for the Cuban 18U team in the 2017 World Cup.
What is known is that the Mesa brothers have strong baseball bloodlines. Their father, Victor Mesa Sr., was a star outfielder in Cuba for nearly two decades. He's also been a longtime coach on the island.
"I think this was a family decision," Hill said. "You're talking about two very talented brothers. You could see that the dad was very proud of both, and we're very happy we were able to get both."
The general opinion is if Victor Victor had been in the June MLB Draft, he would have been considered a first-round talent.
On Friday night, Victor Victor Mesa posted a photo on Instagram of himself and his brother sitting in the Marlins' clubhouse. The two held the Cuban flag, and behind them were white Marlins jerseys, sporting their names and the No. 32.
The picture was taken on Oct. 5 when the Mesa brothers and fellow Cuban prospect Sandy Gaston held their showcase for more than 75 scouts at Marlins Park.
To secure their services, the Marlins made three trades in October to acquire international bonus pool money. Earlier in the month, they dealt Minor League right-hander Ryan Lillie to the Reds for $750,000 and a few days later sent reliever Kyle Barraclough to the Nationals for $1 million.
Last Tuesday, prospects Adonis Gaston and Brayan De Paula were dealt to the Astros for $500,000.
The three trades boosted Miami from $4.3 million of international pool money to around $6.55 million. Only the Orioles had about the same amount of bonus money to spend.
With Miami's large Cuban community, the Marlins sold to the Mesa brothers that the market was a natural fit for them.
"When I was doing the showcase, I was thinking this could someday be my park," Victor Jr. said in Spanish.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.