The Rays have signed Dominican catcher Erick Maria for $300,000.
Maria was originally known as Eric Otanez when he signed with the Rays for $300,000 last year soon after July 2 while presenting himself as a 16-year-old. That would have been the top international signing bonus the Rays handed out in 2011, but the deal fell apart after a Major League Baseball investigation revealed that his date of birth was inaccurate. By his new date of birth, Maria turned 18 yesterday. MLB had declared Maria ineligible to sign for one year, but the league ended up reducing his sentence.
Maria is 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and moved behind the plate two and a half years ago. He shows good defensive tools with a strong arm and a quick release. His righthanded bat has also shown improvement and he has developed into a better prospect than he was a year ago, but he appears to have remained loyal to the Rays to honor his original deal.
Since Maria signed before July 2, his bonus will not count against Tampa Bay's $2.9 million international signing bonus pool for 2012-13, which begins tomorrow. The Rays are expected to be one of the most aggressive teams for the top talent on the market, particularly in Venezuela.