With over 30 percent of major league clubhouses made up of players born outside of the United States, any team that wants lasting success must sign some promising international talent.
Orioles vice president Dan Duquette has said he wants to improve the Orioles international efforts. Signing a player that is making a key contribution like Wei-Yin Chen was a nice first step for him. But the team must also make improvements in signing and developing international amateur players as well.
Recently, I interviewed Duquette about the club's international efforts. Here are my questions and answers from Duquette.
Where does the club stand on the international front?
"We're being aggressive on the international markets. We made a nice acquisition in Chen, and we'd like to make some more like that so we've encouraged our international scouts to be aggressive."
What do you mean by "be aggressive?"
"If they see players they like to make sure they tell us about them and get the video in so we can review their potential value to the team and see if we can get them signed. It's very competitive out there. You have 30 teams trying to do the same thing. We're doing our diligence, and we are working hard. We are in a number of markets that we weren't in a year ago. We have international scouts all over the world that are identifying good talent."
What markets are the Orioles in now that they weren't a year ago?
"We have scouts in Korea. We've been active in the Cuban market. We have some recommendations from Europe."
Have you increased the number of international scouts?
"Yes. We added approximately eight people to our international scouting staff as of the first of the year."
Are these full-time scouts?
"Some are full-time. Four are."
How do you feel about the Dominican program? You know the history. The Orioles just have not produced any Dominican players to have major league success.
"We're taking a look at the Dominican program and ways we can improve that program to get more consistent yield of players for the team, and we're making some progress on that."
What are some ways you can improve that program?
"We're looking at ways we can improve it. In terms of recruiting. In terms of player development. In terms of facility."
Your background is such that international signings have always been important to you, right?
Is it fair to acknowledge that the Orioles need some international upgrades?
"We'll, we're making progress on the international scouting market. We're making good progress in a couple of different markets. Like I said, you saw the first improvement we made when we signed Chen. There will be some more."
I'm talking more specifically the amateur market. Those 16-year-old kids?
"We've signed a few of them. We've signed a few good ones, and they'll come to light in the next year."
When you look at the Baseball America listing of the top international talent and the July 2 date to begin to sign players that just passed, some teams signed some of the top-rated players already, and the Orioles did not. Did you feel like you had a shot at some of those players or still do?
"Well, let me just say this. We're looking for value-based investment opportunities on the international scouting market. OK. You know, we're not what I would call mainstream players on the international market. We're looking for selective opportunities to invest."
Is that a way of saying some of these top-dollar guys don't interest you?
"Like I said, we are looking for value-based investments in the international market. I think the signing of Chen is a good example of that."
Each team now has a limit of spending on international signings. Do you expect to meet your budget limit?
"Well, it's just starting in July. But I can tell you this: We are committed to international talent acquisitions, and we are going to sign some good international players. We already have and you'll see some more."
Have you signed anyone in recent weeks?
"We are working on a couple now that we hope to get signed in the next couple of weeks."
Are Fred Ferreira, Ray Poitevant and David Stockstill your three guys leading the charge there?
But you don't have one man leading the international department, right? That kind of comes back to you?
"Yeah, it's one of my passions. I've had a lot of experience in international recruiting."
Is it still that 30 percent of rosters are made up of international players?
"It's a little more now. I mean the draft is one source of talent. I've said this several times, that we have to be aggressive in a number of markets. We have to be good in a couple."
Are you pleased with your Dominican Academy?
"We're taking a look at the whole Dominican program and looking at ways to improve efficiency."
Would adding a second team in the Dominican Summer League be part of that?
"That's one consideration that's on the table."
How about a team in the Venezuelan Summer League?
"That is on the table as well. A lot of teams have cut back on their Venezuelan program. Because of the politics of the country."
So what is the Orioles' commitment in Venezuela?
"We're signing players from Venezuela. Some we bring to the States, and some we send to the Dominican program. But we're continuing to sign players. We're active in the Venezuelan market."
You mentioned a few minutes ago that one of the new markets the Orioles are in is Korea. Weren't the Orioles banned from scouting Korea?
"I didn't hear that. How are they enforcing that? I don't know. We're active in a number of markets. Just say the Orioles are active around the globe."