Dodger CEO and President Stan Kasten and the new Dodger owners have made it clear that they plan to reengage in investing in the international market. The Dodgers used to be trailblazers when it came to signing internationally, but that pathway to potential prospects was closed off during the Frank McCourt era.
The Dodgers already made a statement by signing Cuban defector Yasiel Puig to a seven-year $42 million contract this past summer. The revival of their prominence in the international talent scene also was evident when they signed left-handed starting pitcher Onelki Garcia. Another Cuban exile, Garcia was drafted in the third round this June after making a two-year journey in order to reach the United States for a chance to play professional baseball. He garnered a $382,000 bonus. The 23-year old power pitcher has only pitched in two minor league games (one for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and one for the Chattanooga Lookouts). He struck out 11 of the 15 batters he has faced. Garcia will report soon to the Arizona Fall League where he will play for the Mesa Solar Sox.
The Dodgers along with the Red Sox and Rangers have reportedly met with Japanese high school pitcher Shohei Otani. The Orioles are interested in the young marvel as well. The 18-year old right-hander is already 6’4″ and 190 pounds. He made waves globally after he was videotaped throwing a 99-mph pitch during a high school game. Take a look at the video. Otani is still yet to decide whether he wants to play professionally in his home country for Nippon Professional Baseball or in the United States. Like Yu Darvish, if he decides to play in Japan he will not be eligible for free agency for nine seasons. Then his team would have to post him for MLB teams to bid on their right to negotiate for him.
Otani would be subject to the new international signing cap. For the 2012-2013 signing period, each MLB team is allowed to spend only $2.9 million without a penalty on international talent who are not residents of the U.S., Canada, or Puerto Rico. The only exceptions stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement are 1) bonuses don’t count for players who have been previously under contract to a minor or major league club and 2) bonuses don’t count for players who are at least 23 years of age and have played as a professional in a league recognized by the Commissioner’s Office for a minimum of five seasons.
The Dodgers should absolutely try to sign the young hurler. We know that the work ethic of these Japanese pitchers is impeccable, and the kid is already throwing major heat. It will be up to Otani to decide whether the $2.9 million and opportunity to pitch in America is enough to lure him away from his home country.
Even if the Dodgers do not end up signing Otani, it’s great to finally see the team in the mix when it comes to these international talent signings. There’s still a lot of work to be done to return to the level of international scouting the Dodgers were famous for in the past. Fortunately the Dodgers now have the monetary freedom to explore all avenues of baseball talent scouting whether it be domestically or globally.