It’s Official: A’s Sign Inoa

After weeks of speculation, the Athletics’ signing of 16-year-old Dominican righthander Michel Inoa is official.

Oakland announced the signing of Inoa today and planned three press conferences, both in English and Spanish, to trumpet the news. The team did not announce Inoa’s bonus, but several sources confirmed it was $4.25 million, the largest in history for a non-Cuban amateur from Latin America.

Inoa, who is 6-foot-7, 205 pounds, already has a low-90s fastball that has touched 94, good feel for a curveball and a developing changeup. International scouts have been universal in their praise for Inoa’s athleticism, fluid mechanics and his ability to repeat his delivery, an uncanny ability for someone his size and age.

“He has a fantastic body to project and grow on with the height already,” Billy Owens, Oakland’s director of player personnel, said by phone from Santo Domingo. “He’s built so well and the athleticism oozes out of him. He repeats his delivery, but first and foremost, coming down to these parts and seeing young phenoms, a lot of the time they’re just arm strength guys that you have to mold into a pitcher.

“Over the course of time we’re going to enhance his pitching ability, but he already comes advanced for a 16-year-old kid.”

Owens said the A’s commitment to spend more money in on Latin American players began in October. The team held what Owens termed a “summit meeting,” and general manager Billy Beane and the rest of the organization decided to be more aggressive internationally.

Owens said he first saw Inoa while he was in the Dominican Republic in February to watch the Caribbean Series.

“It was pretty amazing at first,” Owens said. “It was early in the morning before another day of doubleheaders, and obviously Inoa was the featured attraction at the showcase. He was low 90s and touched 94 (mph). You could see ease in his delivery, and the fact that there was a plethora of scouts there didn’t faze him. His breaking ball was crisp, he mixed in changeups, threw strikes and showed his athleticism.”

Owens, Beane, scouting director Eric Kubota, baseball operations analyst Farhan Zaidi and owners John Fisher and Lewis Wolff flew down to the Dominican Republic on Fisher’s jet in May to watch Inoa. Owens and Beane then met with Inoa two weeks ago.

“He’s got a burgeoning breaking ball and a solid changeup that we can enhance—he already has a feel for the pitch,” Owens said. “He’s a good athlete, fields his position well, he’s got poise, intelligence, (and) mound awareness.”

With the deal finally official, the bonus becomes the largest in franchise history, eclipsing the $3.2 million the A’s spent on Mark Mulder when he was the second overall pick in the 1998 draft out of Michigan State.

On the international front, the $4.2 million bonus also trumps the $2.44 million bonus that Wily Mo Pena received from the Yankees in 1999 and the $2.25 million the Dodgers gave Joel Guzman in 2001.

Inoa’s bonus more than doubles the previous record for a Latin American pitcher, the $1.52 million deal the Yankees gave Ricardo Aramboles in 1998. The only amateur pitchers who have ever received higher bonuses than Inoa are Matt White ($10.2 million) and John Patterson ($6.075 million)—both of whom were loophole free agents out of the 1996 draft—and 2007 No. 1 overall pick David Price, who got $5.6 million as part of a major league contract. The Phillies also gave Gavin Floyd a straight $4.2 million bonus in 2001.

“Our scouts have done a tremendous job of creating players on a shoestring budget before,” Owens said. “We’ve had success, but for now we want to make a commitment, and the genesis in Latin America for us is Inoa.”