In last week's installment of "The Blue Jay Way", we discussed Alex Anthopoulos' success drafting as well as his draft tendencies so far. This week we will be going over Anthopoulos' international free agent (IFA) signings. Anthopoulos has committed a lot of resources and has signed quite a few international free agents during his tenure. Over the three international free agent periods Anthopoulos has been GM for, he's signed 22 players for a total of $23.6 million, which is probably one of the highest figures in baseball.
I have created a similar table to the one I created in last weeks article on the draft, in order to evaluate the players Anthopoulos has signed during his tenure.
|Name||Position||Origin||Amount (Mill.)||2011 Sickels||2012 Sickels||2013 Sickels|
|Yeyfry Del Rosario||RHP||DR||C|
|Andres De Aza||OF||DR||$0.15|
Data from JaysJournal.com, BaseballAmerica.com and MinorLeaguBall.com
As we previously mentioned, Anthopoulos has spent a total of $23.6 million via the international free agent market over the course of the three seasons he's been in charge. Though $10 million of it was committed to Adeiny Hechevarria who, as a Cuban born player, is in a slightly different category than other IFAs. Most international free agents sign at 16 or 17 while Hechevarria signed when he was already 20 years old. He also started his career in AA, unlike non-Cuban born IFAs who start in rookie ball. Hechevarria is considered a plus defender at shortstop and will most probably have a long major league career on the strength of that tool alone. This is what John Sickels had to say about Hechevarria in his annual Top 20 Prospect articles, "Glove will keep him employed for a long time. Don't expect much hitting in the short run, but he's not helpless and he could hit better than we currently expect as he gets into his late 20s." Hechevarria was traded to the Marlins earlier in the offseason as part of the package that brought back Jose Reyes and others.
The Blue Jays signed another high profile player in 2010, the right-handed Adonys Cardona out of Venezuela. He was signed to a very large $2.8 million bonus. Pitching in rookie ball for the second straight season, Cardona has compiled a 55/22 K/BB rate over 47.33 innings so far in his career. Here's what Sickels had to say about him, "High ceiling arm with great physical potential, but still struggling with secondary pitches, command and consistency, Turns 19 next month [January], he's got time."
In 2011, Anthopoulos went with the potpourri method and signed thirteen international free agents. Only three of them were given signing bonuses over $1 million, Roberto Osuna, Dawel Lugo and Wuilmer Becerra. While Becerra and Lugo are extremely toolsy prospects with high ceilings, Osuna is clearly the prize of the 2011 IFA class. After signing for $1.5 million out of Mexico, Osuna reached low-A last year as a 16 year old and had a K/BB rate of 25/9 in just 19.66 innings pitched. Sickels gave Osuna a B+ grade and ranked him 4th overall in the Blue Jays minor league system, unheard of for a 17 year old. And this is what he had to say about him, "I like his delivery, I like his stuff, his control isn't bad, and he performed well out of the gate. Not classically projectable due to a mature body at age 17, but already has enough stuff to succeed if the command is there." Becerra was traded to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal.
This past season the MLB imposed a cap on international free agent spending which hindered the Blue Jays significantly in their attempt to add as much talent to their system as possible. The Blue Jays signed four players, two of them highly touted shortstops. Franklin Barreto was considered to be the best international free agent of 2012 and he signed for $1.45 million. Sickels wrote, "Big bonus shortstop from Venezuela with speed, hitting skills. Might move to outfield but many experts consider him the top non-Cuban talent in the international market. A LONG way off at age 16, but he has a good track record in international competition which (in theory) should mean scouts have a good read on him."
Similar to when drafting, Anthopoulos puts a stronger emphasis on tools over polish. Anthopoulos has managed to sign at least one very highly touted IFA prospect in every season up to this point. The Blue Jays clearly find it important to sign up-the-middle players via international free agency. All but one of the position players they've signed are considered either shortstops or outfielders. They also look for players that have at least one strong tool. For example, Hechevarria's very strong glovework made him an almost sure bet to make the major leagues.
Nine out of the 22 players signed so far during Anthopoulos' tenure have been pitchers. Twelve players have been signed out of the Dominican Republic with seven more coming from Venezuela. The remaining three are Hechevarria, who was signed out of Cuba, Osuna, who hails from Mexico and Osman Gutierrez, who is from Nicaragua.
To have seven out of the 22 IFAs you've signed graded by John Sickels already is quite a feat. What makes the international market such a profitable market is if just one player out of the 22 becomes a league average player, he will have covered the cost of all other IFA signings Anthopoulos has made until now. Obviously, to truly be able to quantify Anthopoulos' ability to find the right players in international free agency we'll have to wait several more years, but given the tools at hand he's been extremely successful.
We will go through AA's free agent signings and contract extensions
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