July 2 Team-By-Team Forecast




On the eve of July 2, the primary targets and budgets for most teams on the international have become clearer, though a few things remain hazy. International sources have strongly tied some teams to the top players, while other teams have barely been mentioned at all.

A flurry of action is expected in the next two days, though some in the industry believe that several players will have to slice their asking prices by a significant amount and ultimately sign after July 2. Based on months of industry chatter, here's what to look for from all 30 teams once the international signing period begins.

HIGH ROLLERS

These teams have all been major players in the international market in recent years, and signs point to them continuing to be among the top spenders again this summer.

Boston Red Sox: The word out of Latin America is that the Red Sox will spend nearly $3 million on a pair of players from the Dominican Republic, with a possible $2 million bonus going to shortstop Jose Vinicio and $900,000 going to 6-foot-4 lefthander Victor Payano. Expect the Red Sox to be involved with prospects who will sign for mid- and low-six figure bonuses as well.

The scouting buzz coming out of Europe also says the Red Sox are the favorites to land German outfielder Max Kepler, who many scouts say is the best prospect to come out of Europe in years. It's hard to imagine there will be more than three or four teams that will outspend Boston internationally this summer.

New York Yankees: The Yankees are always in the thick of things in Latin America. In recent years they have shown a preference for drafting pitchers and signing hitters out of Latin America, and they're expected to sign another big bat this year in Dominican catcher Gary Sanchez for a bonus of $2.5 million-$3 million. While sources say the Yankees are taking more time than usual to make their moves this year, they have shown interest in several other prospects. Dominican shortstop Damian Arredondo, a speedster with good hands and a plus arm, was in the Yankees academy this week, and they also could get involved with Venezuelan righthander Daniel Sanchez. Venezuelan center fielder Delbis Arcila was also at their complex this week. They could make a play for Dominican shortstop Jorge Polanco, though the Twins look like the leaders for Polanco, with a potential high six-figure bonus in the works.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers must have 100 scouts working in Latin America, as they have been mentioned as having at least some interest in nearly every high-dollar international prospect this year. They might not end up with Guillermo Pimentel, but they're seen as the leaders for Dominican righthander Leonardo Perdomo and Curacao righthander/shortstop Jurickson Profar, both of whom are expected to sign high six-figure bonuses. While Pimentel was expected to command a bonus of around $2 million, scouts have also linked the Rangers to Venezuelan shortstop Luis Sardinas for a potential seven-figure bonus. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them make a late run at another prospect, though Perdomo, Profar and Sardinas would already make for an impressive haul.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have long been in pursuit of Dominican outfielder Wagner Mateo, who they are expected to sign for $3.1 million. The largest bonus in club history was the $3 million St. Louis paid J.D. Drew in 1998, but Mateo's bonus is expected to be a tick higher. After spending so much on Mateo, they might have to wait until after July 2 to grab some cheaper players once their prices fall, but they are becoming a team to be reckoned with in Latin America.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners are expected to sign Dominican outfielder Guillermo Pimentel as the centerpiece of their international haul this year. They have one of the best track records in Venezuela (with Felix Hernandez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena among their recent scores), and are the favorite for 6-foot-4 Venezuelan outfielder Alexis Parma, who could land a bonus of around $300,000. They are expected to land other prospects for mid-six-figure bonuses as well.

New York Mets: The Mets have been strongly linked to Venezuelan lefthander Juan Urbina, the son of former big league reliever Ugueth Urbina. The early word was that Urbina's bonus would be around $700,000, but scouts now believe that figure has ballooned to as much as $1.3 million. The Mets have also been linked to Dominican shortstop Jairo Kelly, though it's not clear they'll meet Kelly's asking price, which some say might have to come down.

NEW MONEY

These teams haven't typically been international heavyweights in recent years, but they could make more noise in the international market this year, either with one big signing or more money spread among several players.

Pittsburgh Pirates: It's no secret: The Pirates like Dominican shortstop Miguel Sano. They opened a new academy in the Dominican Republic in April to announce their new international emphasis, and signing Sano is priority No. 1. The Pirates haven't been strongly linked to any of the other top names, though that doesn't preclude them from being active for players even if they do sign Sano. They had some interest in Nicaraguan third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, but the Royals seem to have blown everyone out of the water with a rumored seven-figure bonus.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins have told people in Latin America that they're out to land impact talent this year, and they also have interest in Sano. Even if they don't land him, they look like the frontrunners to sign Dominican shortstop Jorge Polanco, probably for a high six-figure bonus. They could be active for other prospects in Latin America as well, though they haven't been strongly linked to any other big names. Some think they could have interest in German outfielder Max Kapler, but most scouts think the Red Sox are in the lead there.

Tampa Bay Rays: Many of the signs you look for in a team that's ramping up its international spending are in place in Tampa Bay. The Rays opened a new academy in the Dominican Republic this year. They are coming off a World Series appearance, which typically leads to more revenue and bigger budgets. And for the first time in franchise history, they picked at the bottom of the first round instead of the top. What's not clear, though, is whether they actually will spend more money or who they'll spend it on.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays have given out high six-figure bonuses in the past, but the rumor in Latin America is that Toronto might have a bigger international budget than usual this year. Several scouts said they expect the Blue Jays to land Santiago Nesi, a big-bodied, power-hitting catcher from Venezuela expected to receive around $750,000.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

These teams are always involved in Latin America. While it's not clear where they will be spending their money, you can count on them signing at least a few significant players.

Atlanta Braves: The Braves love lefthanded pitching, and word in Latin America is that they like Dominican power lefty Edgar Ferreira this year. Scouts have called Ferreira's asking price exorbitant, but he has a chance to push seven figures with his bonus. The Braves are active in Panama again after signing Panamanian catcher Christian Bethancourt last year for $600,000. They have also been connected to Venezuelan shortstop Humberto Valor, though there's no clear leader for his services.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants spent $2.55 million last year on Rafael Rodriguez and $2.1 million in 2006 on Angel Villalona. This year, Wagner Mateo was their top target, but he appears headed to the Cardinals. It's not clear what their next move could be, though they could be involved with a power bat like Rosel Herrera or Jacob Beltre or possibly righthander Jochi Ogando.

COMING BACK FOR MORE?

These teams stepped up their international spending significantly in 2008. They could be active again in Latin America if the price is right on certain players, but overall their spending will be down from last year.

Oakland Athletics: The A's shattered the international amateur bonus record last year by giving righthander Michael Ynoa $4.25 million. They won't go that high again this year, but they should be involved with a few of the top prospects. They'll lean more toward positional players than pitchers this year. Venezuelan shortstop Wilfredo Solano is one of their targets, with word of a possible bonus around $750,000.

San Diego Padres: The Padres opened a new academy in the Dominican Republic last year and signed three players to seven-figure bonuses. This year they have to sign third overall draft pick Donovan Tate, who won't come cheap, but they should grab at least one high-profile Latin American player. San Diego has been connected to Dominican right fielder Jose Pena and Dominican righthander Johendi Jiminian. Both players should command bonuses in the high six-figures.

Cincinnati Reds: The Reds blew everyone out of the water last year by giving $2.5 million to Yorman Rodriguez, $2 million to Juan Duran and six-figure bonuses to a handful of other players. Their international budget isn't quite as big this year, but they're always active in Venezuela. They haven't been strongly connected to any of the top players, however, so it's hard to say who they will sign.

MIDDLE GROUND

These teams should be in the bidding for some of the mid-level prospects, though don't be surprised if they jump up and spend for one of the top bonuses of the signing period.

Kansas City Royals: Of the teams in this category, the Royals are the best bet to sign one of the more expensive players on the market. Scouts say their No. 1 target has been Nicaraguan third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, who could sign for a bonus of $1 million-$1.5 million. A seven-figure bonus would be a record for a player from Nicaragua. Beyond Cuthbert, the Royals haven't been closely tied to any of the prospects expected to command top-of-the-class money, but they're usually active for players in the middle of the market.

Colorado Rockies: The Rockies are a model franchise for scouting Latin America and have had several low-cost signings after the July 2 rush. This year they look like they have a chance to land one of the more high-profile prospects on the market. Dominican righthander Johendi Jiminian and Dominican shortstop Rosel Herrera are believed to be their top preferences.

Los Angeles Dodgers: When a team doesn't have a first-round pick, it often makes up for it by spending on foreign talent. Assistant general manager Logan White has been scouting Latin American talent, and the buzz is that the Dodgers could go after a power bat like Dominican shortstop Rosel Herrera or Dominican catcher Jacob Beltre. Others think the Dodgers are more likely to diversify by spreading their money over several mid-level prospects.

Chicago Cubs: The Cubs are among the most active teams in the Pacific Rim, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them make a signing from the Far East. They might be more active in Latin America, perhaps for a player like Dominican catcher Jacob Beltre or Dominican righthander Jochi Ogando. The Cubs typically avoid big bonuses for Latin American players, though they have made a few exceptions in the past.

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers usually have a modest international budget, and they have not been strongly connected to any of the high-dollar players this year. There was late word coming out of Venezuela, however, that the Tigers like Venezuelan shortstop Humberto Valor.
 
BARGAIN SHOPPERS

These teams have moderate international budgets this year. They could jump up and make a surprise signing, but they either haven't been tied to the top players or likely won't have the money available to sign their top targets.

Houston Astros: Mid-level prospects appear to be the Astros' targets this year. One player who has been linked to Houston is Dominican shortstop Jonathan Mejia, whose bat has drawn some interest but who will likely move to a corner outfield position.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians have had one of the better Latin American programs in baseball over the last decade, and they should be moderate spenders this year. They've been tied to righthander Noel Cabral, who throws in the mid- to high 80s and could pull a $200,000-$300,000 bonus.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers could go after Dominican outfielder Jose Pena or Dominican catcher Jacob Beltre, but their budget might limit them. Brewers Venezuelan scout Freddy Torres is the brother-in-law of Venezuelan righthander Daniel Sanchez, but Sanchez also might be out of their price range. If they don't land one of those players, they could wait for prices to drop after July 2.

Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies likely won't be active for the players at the top of the market in Latin America, though that hasn't stopped them from finding quality prospects on a budget in past years. They signed Dominican outfielder Domingo Santana for $330,000 in March, and it looks like they'll try to land players for comparable bonuses this year.

Baltimore Orioles: They Orioles don't neatly fit into any of these categories. There is some talk that the Orioles could make a special exception to spend big money on Miguel Sano, but the Orioles haven't been linked to any other notable players on the market.

Arizona Diamondbacks: They Diamondbacks haven't been tied to any of the top prospects. With two first-round draft picks and six of the top 64 picks to sign, they probably won't be heavily involved in the top of the Latin American market, but they do have an emerging presence in the Pacific Rim.

MAYBE NEXT YEAR

These teams don't appear to be competing for any of the big-name prospects, and it's possible they won't hand out a single six-figure bonus this summer.

Chicago White Sox: The White Sox' Latin American program is in need of serious renovations. Their farm system is lacking in Latin American prospects, and the organization has not been mentioned once in connection to a prospect in conversations leading up to July 2. The firing of former director of player personnel Dave Wilder in the wake of a federal investigation around allegations of bonus skimming have severely set back the franchise in Latin America.

Washington Nationals: The Nationals are trying to turn things around since the Esmailyn Gonzalez/Carlos Alvarez scandal. They are out scouting some of the top prospects for this year, but between a new international scouting staff and the money they'll need to sign Stephen Strasburg, it seems unlikely they'll make much noise in Latin America this year. If Washington can't sign Strasburg by Aug. 17, it could plow some money into Latin America, but there isn't a Nationals fan out there rooting for that to happen.

Florida Marlins: The Marlins have built their farm system through the draft, as not one of their top 30 prospects originally signed with the Marlins as an international free agent. They haven't big been spenders in Latin America, and it looks like they will again have a limited budget.

Los Angeles Angels: Clay Daniel was the Angels' international scouting director for a decade, but the organization fired him in June. When a team shakes up its international scouting staff a month before July 2, it's hard to see it being competitive in the international market.