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Elias eyes Orioles' 'largest' int'l signing period

O's executive VP and GM has made international market a priority
@JoeTrezz
May 23, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Since inheriting the biggest bundle of international bonus money in the Majors, the Orioles new front office spent much of the past few months using it as a bargaining chip, trading the pool space to supplement their big league roster and stock their farm system with necessary depth.

BALTIMORE -- Since inheriting the biggest bundle of international bonus money in the Majors, the Orioles new front office spent much of the past few months using it as a bargaining chip, trading the pool space to supplement their big league roster and stock their farm system with necessary depth.

Now, with this year’s international signing period set to end June 15, the Orioles are ready to actually spend some of it, too.

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said this week the club is planning to announce an unprecedented number of amateur international signings come July, characterizing a shift for an organization that’s made revamping its footing in Latin America a priority.

“It will be the largest signing period the Orioles have ever had,” Elias said.

That’s been one of Elias’ stated goals since taking over the club’s baseball operations department in November, specifically with an eye toward building Baltimore’s presence in countries like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. The Orioles had long lagged behind the rest of the industry in the Caribbean, an amateur market they eschewed almost entirely under former GM Dan Duquette.

Their international scouting department went without a formal leader since Fred Ferreira was let go in 2017, and only one of two scouts assigned to Latin America last year remained with the organization as of this winter.

The organization can point to just one international signing -- Jonathan Schoop, who was signed as a 16-year-old out of Curacao in 2008 -- that bore significant fruit in the Duquette era. The club has not developed a homegrown Dominican player this decade, and it has never developed a player from Venezuela. Baltimore spent just shy of $1 million in last year’s international signing period, allotting six-figure bonuses to five players. None rank among the organization's Top 30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Elias sought to change that by hiring Koby Perez from the Indians in January. With Perez as the club’s senior director of international scouting, the department has grown. On a recent MLB Pipeline podcast, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported that he’s seen more Orioles scouts on the international circuit this spring than at any point this decade.

“That’s fair to say,” said Elias, who cautioned the initiative remains more of a long-term play.

“The way the market works, some of the advance work has been done for two years now or more. We don’t have a full slate of players available to us. That said, July 2 is coming up. There are players that will be significant dollar investments that we really like. Will we have one of the top seven signing bonuses? No. That takes more advance work.”

Rickard optioned to clear room for Broxton
In a pre-emptive move triggered by the impending arrival of Keon Broxton, the Orioles optioned outfielder Joey Rickard to Triple-A Norfolk following Thursday’s 6-5 loss to the Yankees. The club’s Opening Day right fielder, Rickard hit .203 with a. 651 OPS over his first 42 games this season, numbers that slid Rickard down the depth chart in recent weeks.

Rickard was the Orioles’ first option to replace Cedric Mullins in center field, but was pushed into a reserve role once Stevie Wilkerson started getting extended reps there. The Orioles prefer to keep Wilkerson in the mix due to his offensive production (five homers in 27 games) and defensive versatility, along with Broxton, who is a plus-defender.

Acquired for international bonus pool money from the Mets this week, Broxton is scheduled to join the Orioles on Friday in Colorado. Broxton hit 20 home runs for the Brewers as recently as 2017, and he owns a .216 batting average and .710 OPS over parts of five Major League seasons. He hit .143 with no home runs and two RBIs in 34 games this season with New York.

Rickard has hit .245 with a .651 OPS and 19 home runs in 317 games over the last four seasons, all with Baltimore.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.