An opinion on baseball in Venezuela and a look at Yu Darvish

In recent years, there has been talk of the Orioles increasing their presence in Venezuela. It is a nation that has produced current players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, Victor Martinez, Freddy Garcia, Magglio Ordonez, Johan Santana and former Oriole Melvin Mora to name just a few.

The kidnapping this week of Nationals’ catcher Wilson Ramos sheds light on the dangers that pro baseball players from that country face. It makes you wonder if any of this impacts the Orioles and other teams’ futures or even current plans in Venezuela.

The great news last night was that Ramos was found by Venezuelan authorities, is safe and has returned to his family.

A lot of people in baseball believe there are plenty of good reasons for clubs to heavily pursue Venezuela’s young amateur talent, perhaps even moreso than they do players from the Dominican.

When I recently talked with Ben Badler of Baseball America, who covers the international scene, he agreed that pursuing players from Venezuela is a key for big league clubs.

“I think people around the game share that opinion,” Badler said. “There are certainly scouts out there that believe Venezuelan players do have an easier transition (to the United States) and that they are more organized with both their leagues and youth baseball system and their education level. That is what a lot of international directors believe.

“The Dominican is extremely saturated with scouts from all 30 teams, all over not a very big island. Then you have Venezuela, which is a bigger country, but there are more political issues for teams to deal with and some teams are pulling out of Venezuela.

“Some teams are spending probably twice as much money in the Dominican as opposed to Venezuela, but Venezuela is a great source of baseball talent. But teams are pulling out for other reasons, some that aren’t even baseball specific reasons. But there are definitely opportunities for teams to take advantage of the talent in Venezuela.”

Three players that were in the Orioles’ organization last season have already been playing in winter ball games this year in Venezuela including Cesar Izturis, Raul Rivero and Carlos Rojas. Two others, pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and catcher Gabriel Lino, could join them later. All five players are natives of Venezuela.

On the subject of foreign-born players, here is another topic for readers to respond to this weekend. If he is posted by his team in Japan, should the Orioles bid for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish?

Darvish is just 25 and this year in Japan, pitched to an ERA of 1.44 and averaged 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings over 232 innings. He has posted five straight years of sub-2.00 ERAs in Japan and some scouts think he can be an ace in the majors, but there is not a consensus on that.

If he is posted by his Japanese team and that is not certain yet, the major league team that enters the highest bid will then get to negotiate a contract with Darvish. The combined posting fee plus contract are expected to exceed $100 million. If the club does not agree to a contract with Darvish, its posting fee is returned.

The posting fees are done secretly, so it’s not a bidding war. Each team submits a secret bid and highest bid wins the posting rights.

What is your take?: If he is posted, should the Orioles bid on Darvish, even if he could cost more than $100 million in the end?

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