Orioles beat writer Jon Meoli sits down with Orioles general manager Mike Elias. (Jon Meoli / Baltimore Sun video)
While new Orioles senior director of international scouting Koby Perez is glad to have the stores of international bonus pool money his new club accumulated for the signing period that began July 2, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said the club is in no rush to spend it for spending's sake.
Perez, hired Tuesday from the Cleveland Indians to oversee a department that hasn't been well-utilized previously with the Orioles, said on a conference call Wednesday that the "very fluid" nature of the Latin American market means things can change.
“We have what we call the ‘late bloomer’ who comes along a little bit later in the signing class, and fortunately having the money puts us in a great spot to be the front-runners for those types of guys,” Perez said.
What's unclear is whether any of those players will be worth the Orioles' money.
"We do have a lot of money remaining but we're not going to spend the money just to spend it and say that we spent it," Elias said. "We want it to be worthwhile investments, and it is real money, and there's other things we can do with that money to invest in our club and invest in our operation. We'll be very careful about using it, just knowing that the reality is most of the players for 2018 are long gone."
Every July 2, a new crop of international amateur players becomes available for major league clubs to sign using their allotted signing bonus pool money from MLB. The Orioles began 2018 with $5.5 million and traded for $2.75 million from the Atlanta Braves in two separate July deals.
Their signings in 2018 brought their total bonus spending to just shy of $1 million, with five players — Moises Ramírez ($225,000), outfielder Isaac Bellony ($220,000), outfielder Damien Valdez ($200,000), outfielder Kevin Infante ($175,000) and outfielder J'Rudjeanon Isenia ($125,000) — receiving six-figure bonuses, and a pair of trades with the Philadelphia Phillies and Braves reducing that number some.
But the Orioles still had far-and-away the biggest bonus pool after the initial wave of signings, which made the fact that they didn't sign Cuban outfielders Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr., plus right-hander Sandy Gaston — the last remaining seven-figure talents on the market — frustrating to fans who saw Kevin Gausman and Darren O'Day dealt to Atlanta for a diminished player package as a sign the club valued bonus pool money. In reality, it was a payroll dump.
Depending on how much money they traded to Philadelphia for Rule 5 infielder Drew Jackson last month, the Orioles could still have as much as $6 million in bonus pool money left. On the conference call to introduce Perez, Elias noted how that's still the team's money they have to spend, and it doesn't exactly seem to be burning a hole in anyone's pocket.
"We do have the most money remaining for the 2018 [international] signing period that we're in right now,” Elias said. “That will put us in a position to react better than any other team if a player appears or somebody comes on late. Typically, a player who can [appear] right now might be from the Cuban market or Asian market specifically, so we'll keep an eye on that.
"But the reality is, the way that the Latin American market works with the July 2 date is the process to sign these players begins years in advance of the July 2 date. So with July 2, 2018, having come and gone, a huge, huge majority of the players available in that signing period are long spoken for."