Oakland Wins Inoa Sweepstakes

Athletics expected to announce signing Wednesday

The agent for Michel Inoa, the top Dominican Republic pitching prospect of the last decade, has told other clubs waiting for the July 2 international signing period to open that Wednesday will be too late.

That ship has sailed.

According to industry sources, Inoa, represented by Adam Katz of WMG, has agreed to terms with the A's for a $4.25 million signing bonus. Other clubs pursuing Inoa, including the Rangers, Reds and Yankees, were told in recent weeks that the deal was done, and that A's general manager Billy Beane would announce the signing this week.

Baseball America previously reported the A's as the favorites in the Inoa sweepstakes. It is the richest deal ever for an international amateur who is not from Cuba, eclipsing both the $2.44 million paid to Willy Mo Pena as part of his major league contract back in 1999, and the straight $2.25 million bonus paid by the Dodgers to Joel Guzman in 2001. In fact, the only pitcher who previously ranked among the top 10 bonuses in Latin American history was righthander Ricardo Aramboles, who got $1.52 million back in 1998 from the Yankees.

A $4.25 million bonus also would be larger than any bonus given to a drafted pitcher other than 2007 No. 1 overall pick David Price ($5.6 million as part of a major league deal). The largest straight bonus given to a pitcher in the draft era is $4.2 million to Gavin Floyd (Phillies) in 2001, though two loophole free agents from the 1996 draft, Matt White ($10.2 million) and John Patterson ($6.075 million) got more money on the open market.

The Yankees initially were the leader for Inoa, reportedly coming close to a deal with Inoa on a $2.7 million bonus. However, when other teams indicated they would go beyond that amount, the bidding re-opened, with the Yankees dropping out. That left the Reds, suddenly a major player in Latin America after the signing of Juan Duran this spring for $2 million; and the Rangers, who have built a resume as a force in the region in the last three years; along with Oakland, which had fallen back of the pack in recent years internationally.

The Athletics have scouted Inoa heavily, with Beane, player personnel director Billy Owens and scouting director Eric Kubota among those who have seen him pitch. Beane told the website sfgate.com that A's owner Lewis Wolff even had been to the Dominican to see Inoa on one trip. "We anticipated that there would be a lot of competition, and we've been pretty aggressive," Beane told the site, web home of the San Francisco Chronicle. "He's still very young, but he's very talented."

While an A's official wouldn't comment on the record to Baseball America last week, assistant general manager David Forst told the San Jose Mercury-News, "He has a fastball in the mid-90s, a loose arm, a breaking ball and changeup. He's as polished as you can imagine a 16-year-old being."

Several scouts have told BA that Inoa is a once-in-a-generation talent, thanks to his 6-foot-7, 210-pound frame, athletic bloodlines and present stuff.

Now he'll receive a once-in-a-generation signing bonus.

Contributing: Ben Badler.