Although they possess more bonus pool money than any team in baseball, don't expect the Orioles to make splashes in the international prospect market just yet. General manager and executive vice president Mike Elias all but conceded such Thursday, when outlining his long-term philosophy on a conference call to introduce
Although they possess more bonus pool money than any team in baseball, don't expect the Orioles to make splashes in the international prospect market just yet. General manager and executive vice president Mike Elias all but conceded such Thursday, when outlining his long-term philosophy on a conference call to introduce new director of international scouting Koby Perez.
With Perez now in the fold, the Orioles have an executive specifically responsible for managing their bonus pool for the first time since 2017. That pool currently remains ballooned at around $6 million, after top amateur targets Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. and Sandy Gaston signed elsewhere in October. The Orioles can technically spend that money up until June 15, after which every team's bonus pool will reset in preparation for the '19 signing period that begins July 2. But with little top-tier talent left, they see little upside in doing so.
"The reality is, the way the Latin American market works, the process to sign these players begins years in advance. A huge, huge majority of the players available are long spoken for," Elias said. "We do have a lot of money remaining, but we're not going to spend the money just to say we spent it. We want worthwhile investments. There are other things we can do with that money to invest in our operation. We'll be very careful in using it, knowing that most of the players in the 2018 class are long gone."
• O's tab Perez to helm international scouting
Even if the landscape were different, the Orioles know the hiring of Perez, who last headed the Indians' Latin American scouting division, won't bear significant fruit for some time. Amateur scouting in Latin America, the region that will assume the bulk of Perez's focus, is a long game, where even the best teenage prospects need years to develop after signing professional contracts. And establishing a significant foothold in the baseball hotbed is a long play, meant to lay the foundation for what Elias has called the "elite talent pipeline" he hopes to build in Baltimore.
More than anything, Perez will be tasked with boosting the Orioles' presence in the region, where they've long been considered behind. The O's have not developed a homegrown player from the Dominican Republic this decade, and have never developed one from Venezuela.
"In searching for the right leader for this position, it was very important to me to find someone with a great deal of experience operating in those markets, with a great deal of credibility and a lot of connections," Elias said. "So much of the activity that takes place in the international arena is dependent on relationships and reputation, and to get both of those things in one package is very difficult."
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Perez, 40, fits that mold. After meeting Elias at his first job, as an area scout for the Cardinals in 2006 (Elias was one, too), Perez spent the next decade-plus scouring the Caribbean. He parlayed five years in the Phillies scouting department into an international crosschecker role with the Indians in '14, and had served as Cleveland's director of Latin American scouting since '16.
"We worked together in the past and I trust him, and I know he's going to lead this organization to a good spot. I was very excited when I was called to come aboard, I was ecstatic," Perez said. "We're going to try to hit the ground running here, and try to add some prospects to give Mike some chips for the future."
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Last year's top 30 international prospects list included 16 players from the Dominican Republic, 10 from Venezuela, three from Cuba and one from Colombia. The Orioles did not sign any of them, in part because they had only two full-time scouts assigned to Latin America. One remains.
That staff is expected to grow, but gradually. Adding to it will be Perez's early focus, along with monitoring the amateur ranks for "late bloomers" who may emerge this spring. But the more significant signings -- and hires -- will likely have to wait until this summer or later.
When asked, Perez did not specify how large he hopes to grow his supporting staff or how many hires he plans to make, saying only, "We're going to take our time because we want to make sure we hire the right people, qualified people who will be here for a long time."
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.