Long before the calendar turned to 2019, new Orioles general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias made one of his resolutions abundantly clear: to make beefing up the club's international talent pipeline a top priority in the New Year.Wednesday marked what Elias called his "major first step" in doing
Long before the calendar turned to 2019, new Orioles general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias made one of his resolutions abundantly clear: to make beefing up the club's international talent pipeline a top priority in the New Year.
Wednesday marked what Elias called his "major first step" in doing so, after the club tabbed Koby Perez to lead its international scouting department. Under the title of senior director, Perez will be tasked with overhauling a Latin American scouting operation that has long ranked among baseball's smallest and least funded.
"His experience, connections and reputation built across a fast-rising career in multiple successful organizations will immediately elevate our capabilities in this critical market," Elias said of Perez in a statement. "Hiring Koby is a major first step in improving our footing in Latin America. We will continue to augment our operation until the Baltimore Orioles are leaders in recruiting and developing international players."
To get there, the Orioles have a long way to go. They've long lagged behind the rest of baseball in the Caribbean, an amateur market they eschewed almost entirely under former GM Dan Duquette. Their international scouting operation has not had a formal leader since Fred Ferreira in 2017, and only one of two scouts assigned to Latin America last year remain with the organization. For context, some clubs sport international scouting teams of more than a dozen members.
That lack of manpower has led to perhaps predictable results. The Orioles 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.
Most of Perez's experience lies in those countries. He spent five years working in international scouting for the Phillies, and he was instrumental in the signings of future big leaguers Maikel Franco, Domingo Santana, Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris, among others. He left to become the Indians' international cross checker in 2013. Perez also spearheaded Cleveland's amateur scouting efforts since '16 as its director of Latin American scouting.
Now Perez is reunited with Elias and Orioles assistant general manager Sig Mejdal, with whom Perez worked as an area scout with the Cardinals from 2006-08. Prior to that, Perez played two seasons in the Red Sox farm system, then parts of three seasons in independent leagues before foraying into scouting.
With Baltimore, Perez will inherit and manage one of the largest international bonus pools in baseball. After years of opting to allocate resources toward the Major League roster or for prospects who were further along, the Orioles used their flurry of trades last July to swell their bonus pool allotments in what marked their first substantial investment in this area in club history.
It will not be the last. Much of the $8 million pool money the Orioles acquired still remains, after their top international targets -- prospects Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. and Sandy Gaston -- all signed with other clubs. On a management level, Elias and Perez are certain to further expand a department they see as integral to their rebuilding efforts.
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.