International Signing Period Preview

Seven-figure bonuses should start flying July 2




The international signing period begins on July 2, and while the market was expected to be flooded with talent, sources indicated that it was unlikely any player would command the $2 million bonuses given (at least initially) to Angel Villalona and Jesus Montero last year.

Villalona netted the top international bonus last season out of the Dominican Republic, signing with the Giants for $2.1 million. The Yankees gave Montero $2 million before reducing his bonus last fall to $1.6 million, and that duo led the crop of five international players who received seven-figure signing bonuses in 2006.

While there probably won't be a player to sign in the $2 million range this year, there will be more players signing for upwards of $1 million. But that's not to say a lot of them are worth that kind of money.

"It's kind of overkill for me," said one international scouting director. "These guys are not those kind of guys."

According to another source, the price tag for most players has been elevated this season because of the increased network of improved facilities and more agents than ever, especially in the Dominican and Venezuela, flooding those areas.

"It's going to become more the norm than the exception," a front office official from an American League club said. "The market is just so much more sophisticated than is was even five years ago."

The Yankees, who historically go into spend mode in early July every year on the international front, are expected to drop close to $4 million on this year's crop according to several sources.

Colombian righthander Julio Teheran and Venezuelan lefthander Carlos Flores are considered to be the elite arms in this year's class, and Dominican outfielder Kelvin DeLeon is also expected to command a signing bonus in the $1.6 to $1.8 million range.

The Braves have been most recently linked to Teheran, who could command upwards of $1 million. The 6-foot-2 16-year-old throws a fastball that already sits in the 92-93 mph range with good arm-side run. Teheran's second plus pitch is his changeup, which some scouts grade as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also throws an average curveball with good depth.

A lot of clubs weren't on Flores, a 16-year-old from Barquisimeto, but his stock rose significantly over the last two weeks after several workouts with representatives from the Mariners, Cubs, Astros, Red Sox and Twins all present.

Flores remains an enigma, however, with sources now saying that he's at least 19 or 20 years old, and more than 10 clubs voicing complaints of not being able to see the lefthander this spring. One source claimed Flores was actually in the States now, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Recent names that have joined the fray include Dominican third baseman Bernardo Villar (linked to the Yankees, Indians, Giants, Braves); switch-hitting Dominican outfielder Angel Joseph (Giants, Braves, Indians, Yankees, Red Sox); Dominican outfielder Edwin Barrera (Marlins, Angels); Dominican outfielder Antonio Rodriguez (Devil Rays); Dominican outfielder Melvin Rosario (Yankees, Red Sox); Dominican outfielder Henry Pena (Yankees); Dominican outfielder Carlos Venezuela (Yankees, Red Sox, Indians); Venezuelan lefthander Martin Perez (Cubs, Astros, Mariners, Mets); and shortstops Wilber Flores (Mariners), Olivar Garcia (Red Sox) and Michael Almanzar (Red Sox).

On the Pacific Rim, Korean righthander Dae-Eun Rhee has been linked to the Cubs, and Australian lefthander Trent Baker (Braves, Blue Jays, Reds, Phillies, Twins and Padres) are all likely to sign significant bonus amounts.

Another interesting arm in this year's class is Panamanian righthander Enrique Burgos. With a clean delivery and projectable body, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound righthander has average stuff across the board with average fastball command. But sources indicated Burgos was commanding a bonus in the $900,000 range.

All those players are 16-year-olds eligible to sign beginning on July 2. There are, however, two other players already over that age threshold whose signing bonuses could reach $1 million.

Seventeen-year-old Dominican shortstop Jahmindy DeJesus has "one of the better, more polished bats" in the Dominican, according to one National League international scouting director. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound shortstop will likely move to third base in the States, but his bat should play at that position, both for average and power.

Finally, Cuban defector Kenny Rodriguez has drawn interest from at least a dozen clubs this spring. Rodriguez defected last year in Ecuador and reportedly fled to Peru. He surfaced in the Dominican touching 93 with his fastball, but still pitches backwards, primarily using his plus curveball, average slider and changeup.

The 22-year-old went 6-4, 4.18 in Cuba's highest-level league, Serie Nacional, with 72 strikeouts in 75 innings before defecting last July.