Reviewing the latest news from the Orioles

Who needs major league roster moves when a team can stir up its fan base with adjustments to the ballpark's dimensions and an historic day of international signings?

Reaction to the former has been mixed on social media. It's much harder to argue an organization's willingness to spend proficiently in the foreign market after years of resistance. And honestly, the latter is much more important.

The Orioles made a big splash by doing a cannonball into the international pool. They spent the full $6,262,600 in allotted bonus money, according to Koby Perez, the senior director of international scouting. The 2022 signing period runs through Dec. 15, the latest adjustment caused by the pandemic.

Bonuses of $10,000 or less don't count against a club's pool and Perez indicated that a few more players could be added to the organization on these smaller deals. Also, foreign professional players who are at least 25 years old and have spent a minimum of six seasons in a foreign league also are exempt.

Here's the full list of players signed by the Orioles:

Braylin Tavera, OF, Dominican Republic
Leandro Arias, SS, Dominican Republic
César Prieto, 2B, Cuba
Edwin Amparo, SS, Dominican Republic
Jean Mata, OF, Venezuela
José Noguera, C, Venezuela
Cristian Benavides, SS, Venezuela
Ezequiel Bonilla, RHP, Panama
Edrei Campos, SS, Dominican Republic
Elis Cuevas, SS, Dominican Republic
Adrián Delgado, RHP, Venezuela
Aron Estrada, INF, Venezuela
Elias Moscoso, RHP, Venezuela
Andrés Nolaya, C, Venezuela
Jesus Palacios, RHP, Venezuela
Andres Parra, LHP, Venezuela
Fernando Peguero, SS, Dominican Republic
Juan Peña, RHP, Dominican Republic
Raylin Ramos, OF, Dominican Republic
Yirber Ruiz, OF, Dominican Republic
Adriam Santos, SS, Dominican Republic
Thomas Sosa, OF, Dominican Republic
Henry Tejada, RHP, Dominican Republic
Alfredo Velásquez, INF, Venezuela

Tavera's $1.7 million bonus breaks the franchise record set last year by Dominican catcher Samuel Basallo ($1.3 million). He's 16, ranked as the No. 18 international prospect by Baseball America and No. 22 by MLB Pipeline, profiles as a center fielder and has the potential to wield five tools.

"He does everything easily and effortlessly," Perez said. "He was a player who was highly coveted by most of the teams in the league and a lot of it had to do with us offering the opportunity. I think us not having given out these types of bonuses in our history, it makes the player feel special to be the highest-paid international player, so I think that really helped us land Braylin because there was definitely a lot of competition for his services."

Prieto is closest to the majors at 22 and is expected to be assigned to a mid-to-upper affiliate. Highly unusual with international signings. His professional experience is another kind of bonus.

Fans have grown accustomed to hearing the international roll call and wondering whatever happened to these players who seem almost hidden in the Dominican Summer League.

Prieto, who received $650,000, built a 44-game hitting streak in Cuba's Serie Nacional before defecting from the Cuban national team last May while playing in West Palm Beach, Fla. During the 2020-21 season, he slashed .403/.463/.579 with 21 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs and 51 RBIs in 74 games, and won the league's batting title. He drew 31 walks and struck out 11 times.

orioles-fan-yankee-stadium-sidebar.jpg"We're super excited about adding César," Perez said. "He's a high-profile Cuban who has a very good track record of hitting. He's been the most productive hitter in Cuba for the last couple years. We were in a good situation. We scouted him heavily since he was cleared by MLB to be eligible to sign in November. We had the likes of Mike Elias go see him personally, and myself. We spent a lot of time scouting this player, getting to know him, and we just felt he was a very good for us.

"We were fortunate, to be honest, in the timing he came out. You know most of the other teams had committed their pools and we were able to provide a good place for him. Even though the money ... his profile doesn't exactly amount to the money, but that being said, he chose us. He liked the opportunity that the Orioles can offer him, as compared to other teams that were involved. He decided on us. There were other suitors. We're excited that he wants to take his journey with us. The recruiting tool of Brandon (Hyde) and Mike didn't hurt."

Among the other things we learned or had reinforced yesterday:

* The green light that the partnership group gave Elias to spend internationally shines brightly. It wasn't just talk or a recruiting tool to lure him from the Astros front office. Everything he was promised, and what he promised during his introductory news conference, is coming to fruition.

The Orioles dispensed $4 million in bonuses to five players. A jaw-dropping amount if you've been following this franchise.

* Elias' presence in these countries makes a huge difference. Perez is one of the most important hires in club history, but these players and their representatives need to see Elias, too, and he's front and center

Perez used a comparison to University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban visiting a recruit's home and said, "When we talk to these families and agents, they realize that we want the best for their players. We're showing that not only because of the academy that we're building, but our general manager makes a presence in the Dominican Republic. He comes down, he's a scout in heart, so he likes coming down and seeing the players and that really helps. It's a huge recruiting tool when the top baseball ops shot-caller comes down and personally scouts these players.

"Mike is always looking forward to coming and scouting, and I think that's really, really helped us acquire good talent."

Roll Tide.

* The state-of-the-art facility being built in the Dominican is a tremendous recruiting tool.

"The academy is moving, it's looking good," Perez said. "I was there yesterday and you can already see the shapes of the field and a lot of work is being put in. We're happy about that.

"The industry in Latin America is so excited because when you're an agent and you're a player and you see that your player is coming into this situation, it gives you just more confidence in what we're doing and what we're investing. I think it definitely has helped in our recruitment, and going forward, once it gets closer and once it's open, I think it will just increase the interest in us."

* Prieto is expected to participate in a minicamp later this month in Sarasota. Others are scheduled beyond the pitching camp that ended yesterday.

* Prieto is projected more as a second baseman, though he can handle three infield spots, and Perez thinks he should at least be an average defender who makes the routine plays. Some scouts compare him to the Cubs' Nick Madrigal, the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Oregon State University, based on his skill set - on-base, bat-to-ball, walks compared to strikeouts, baseball knowledge.

"I think we would be happy if he turns out to be that type of player," Perez said.

"There's so many people who are excited about this kid."

* The Orioles are serious about mining the talent in Venezuela. They've never signed a Venezuelan amateur who reached the majors with them, the streak continuing after they traded pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to the Red Sox in 2014 for reliever Andrew Miller.

"There's a lot of talent in Venezuela," Perez said. "It's a difficult country to get to right now with the politics, but I go there every month. Geraldo Cabrera, our Latin American supervisor, is there every month, and we have a staff there, which we didn't have in the past. We've been combing that area really, really well, and we think that we're going to get some talent out of there."

* These signings don't happen overnight. Perez noted how some negotiations began three years ago. The Orioles couldn't do much when the new regime first arrived because deals already were struck with the upper-level talent.

"Scouting down here, you've really, really got to know the players right when they come into their teams," Perez said. "Our scouts do a really good job of bringing them to the forefront and us having (sufficient) time to evaluate."

* Basallo would be a high school junior, as Perez pointed out, but playing in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2021 launches him to the Rookie-level Florida Complex League in 2022.

OK, back to the left field fence moving back 26 1/2 feet ...

* Elias is hopeful that the new dimensions assist in signing free agent pitchers, which is noteworthy because the Orioles might become bigger players in that market.

Don't get your Max Scherzer hopes up. Not that big. But they won't necessarily have to reach for the lowest shelf in the market. And their main selling point won't have to center on being the land of opportunity for damaged veterans.

* The rotation could be loaded with left-handers, with John Means a lock and the group of candidates including Keegan Akin, Bruce Zimmermann, Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells. And with prospects DL Hall and Kevin Smith poised to make their debuts this summer. But Elias said it wasn't a consideration.

Won't stop the media from speculating. Little does.

* About 1,000 seats were removed in left field, necessitating an email sent by the club to season ticket holders - the first leaking of news to the public. Those seats will be used in a future charitable event.

* The orange seat designating where Cal Ripken Jr.'s 278th home run ball landed to set the major league record for shortstops will be included in the Camden Yards exhibit celebrating its 30th anniversary. Ripken hit the home run off future teammate Scott Erickson, who celebrated being curt with the media.

* Elias isn't concerned about the area of fence that juts out to the left of the bullpen posing a health risk and notes the similarity to PNC Park in Pittsburgh. But the Orioles aren't thinking of replacing the warehouse with bridges, according to an industry source.

* One of the best Twitter reactions to news of the deeper fence in left field noted how shortstop J.J. Hardy would have scored standing up on Delmon Young's double in the 2014 American League Division Series.

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