In a week of disappointment on the international front after the Orioles lost out on Cuban outfielders Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr., as well as Cuban pitcher Sandy Gastón, the club announced a set of signings that have been in the works since the summer and slightly chip away at their massive pool of international signing bonus slots.
The club announced four signings Thursday: 18-year-old outfielder Kevin Infante of Cuba, 17-year-old outfielder Angel Gomez of Venezuela, 19-year-old right-hander Kelvin LaRoche of the Dominican Republic, and 17-year-old shortstop Gilbert Machado of Venezuela.
“Infante is a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder who also possesses the skill set to play second base," director of player development and interim general manager Brian Graham said in a statement. "He’s a plus runner with a good offensive approach, and we believe that he will develop to be a productive hitter.
"Gomez is a well-rounded, right-handed-hitting outfielder who can run, throw and play all three outfield positions. LaRoche is a durable right-handed pitcher, whose consistent delivery allows him to throw strikes. Machado is a natural shortstop with plus defensive skills and athleticism. We look forward to having our player development staff work with all four players to further enhance their skills.”
Infante, whose signing appears on the MLB.com transaction wire from Sept. 25, is seen as the prize of the group. According to an industry source, his $175,000 signing bonus puts him at a similar level to the six-figure bonuses the Orioles gave out to the first wave of international signees they announced in August, as they began to make good on then-executive vice president Dan Duquette's promise to get involved in the international market.
That first wave included shortstop Moises Ramírez ($225,000), outfielder Isaac Bellony ($220,000), outfielder Damien Valdez ($200,000) and outfielder J'Rudjeanon Isenia ($125,000), plus right-hander Carlos del Rosario, 19. All but del Rosario are 16, and all but Isenia (Curaçao) is from the Dominican Republic.
With the nine players announced by the club, the total expenditure on international players for the Orioles is just shy of $1 million. The team was allotted a $5.25 million bonus pool, which is essentially the amount Major League Baseball allows clubs to spend on international amateurs without penalty, though the actual money comes from the clubs. They also acquired $2.75 million from the Atlanta Braves in trades for Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman and Darren O'Day, though they traded a portion of that pool to the Philadelphia Phillies for rookie-level hitter Jack Zoellner.
Even with the approvals for these contracts in the works, the Orioles still had a financial advantage for the Mesa brothers and Gastón. The Miami Marlins paid a reported $5.25 million for Victor Victor Mesa and $1 million for Victor Mesa Jr., and Gastón received a reported $2.6 million bonus from the Tampa Bay Rays, sparking questions about why the Orioles didn't outbid for them.